Monday, February 13, 2012

Excel Apps for Android: Docs

The final stop in our tour of apps that give you access to your spreadsheets on a tablet is Docs. Google Docs. *shakes martini*

Unlike previous apps I've posted about, Docs requires a connection to the Internet. As lovely as it is to have files in the cloud, not everyone has a 3G plan with their tablet or the ability to consistently connect to a wifi signal. I feel like that this automatically puts Docs at a disadvantage for classroom purposes. But hey, let's see what we can see. After all, Android is a Google platform---perhaps Docs makes the most of things while being in its native habitat. Docs is a free download from the Android market.

I uploaded a file similar to one shown in the Zero Effect post, just as I did when testing previous apps (OfficeSuite, QuickOffice, and Documents to Go). Remember, there is a worksheet named "Grades" that is supposed to be hidden, embedded formulas and conditional formatting, and two graphs. Here is what the file looks like when first opened with Docs on the tablet:

Not too bad. Formatting looks like it might be okay. We've lost the graphs, but the hidden worksheet doesn't show. Editing is a bit clunky, compared to the other apps---you can't just click in a cell and fill it. You have to choose to edit a row or column and then save that work.

And after adding information?

Nothing happens. Conditional formatting is lost. Formulas don't work. The numbers are clear, but overall, this is really not impressive. So let's move on and see what happens when we use Docs to view a completed spreadsheet:

Like the others, this isn't too bad. With a fully loaded spreadsheet, the formulas and conditional formatting are applied. But no graphs---and no way to build them. That's so not cool. And, if you bypass the app and try to use Google Docs in your tablet's browser, you are no better off. Everything is just the same as the app.

On the good side of the balance sheet, all of the "offline" apps reviewed in previous posts can pull from Google Docs. So, if you want to store your spreadsheets in the cloud, but have the functionality of a better app, you really can have the best of both worlds.

So, what have we learned? First of all, you get what you pay for. The more expensive the app, the more robust it is when it comes to using your spreadsheets on a tablet.

Secondly, keep your expectations low. You're not going to be doing fancy-dancy data analysis with any of these. No data dashboard'ing. No (overly) complicated formulas.

Even though seamless integration between PC and tablet isn't a current possibility when it comes to spreadsheets, I don't know that it would hold me back in the classroom. Even if data analysis is limited, data collection might be facilitated. All that "anecdotal" evidence from conversations with students or observations of activities might be more easily captured. I'd love to see more qualitative data be used when evaluating student efforts. I, for one, welcome our new tablet overlords. We just need the apps to catch up a bit.

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