The title pretty much says it all. As far as I’m concerned, Shared Workbooks in Excel can be blamed as the cause of all work-related stresses. They are the worst plague on office life, and that’s saying something. Worse than the finger-pointing arguments, the politics, working with people who like Fox News, and the coffee. Now, I’m not one of those people who go around calling Microsoft an evil corporation or replacing S’s with dollar signs, but if I were, shared workbooks would be the reason. If by now you’re not turned off by A) that this is a post about spreadsheets or B) that I’m a huge curmudgeon, then let me explain a little…
I think it’s safe to say that a majority of Excel users don’t use most of the features. Take Pivot Tables, for example. I use them at work sometimes and I still don’t know what they even are. What are they? Who knows? The one thing I do know about them is that you can’t use them in shared workbooks. What else can’t you use? I’ll let Microsoft explain that:
Blah, blah, blah, WE GET IT! You can’t do anything! But why on earth would any respectable software company release such a crippled beast into the wild? And even if you can get past that, why would you think that your alternate functionalities were reasonable replacements? You remove the ability for me to insert or change hyperlinks, but I can use existing ones? Ooh, la la! Most of what this chart tells me is that if I want to do anything on a shared workbook, I have to unshare it, modify it, then re-share it. That is horrible. You must hate your customers.
By the way, I should mention that I haven’t used any sharing features in OpenOffice or anything Mac-related. They could be fabulous and wonderful, but that doesn’t help me because nobody in the corporate world uses those things.
You want to know the worst part? If you’re still with me, of course you do. The worst part is that the alternative, not sharing the workbook, is just as infuriating! Sure, you can do all the wonderful things to your spreadsheets you’re used to, but just try collaborating on one. If someone else has it open, it will tell you just that…”Someone is editing this. I won’t tell you who, because then you’d be able to ask them to close it and maybe get some work done.” Then it will open it as read-only and force you to save it somewhere else so that later you can come back in and manually merge your changes with those of whoever had it last. Sloppy spreadsheet seconds. Gross.*
Thusly and therefore, in conclusion, shared workbooks suck, but only marginally more than sharing unshared workbooks does. My advice to all you kids out there getting jazzed about data entry is this: use Google Docs. If you work for a company that “likes security,” get them to use Google Apps. Your life will be so much better for it. Thank you for staying with me. My next post will probably be about beer, so there’s that to look forward to.
*Apologies if this actually grosses you out. It’s the best analogy I could come up with on such short notice.