Retirement, History, and Google Spreadsheets

I’m working hard on our Retirement website and upcoming retirement blog project called “Retire USA” and wound up having a heck of a time with some data conversions, so I want to outline that process here in case others have the same troubles.

Process ONE – copying records from a Google Docs Spreadsheet to an Open Office “ODS” format spreadsheet:   This sure seemed non-trivial unless I missed something or had data glitches buried in the sheets.   I could NOT complete direct cut and pastes from Google docs to my Open Office “ODS” spreadsheet so….

What DID WORK was this:

1.  Save Google spreadsheet in CSV format within Google Docs

2.  Import that CSV sheet to Open Office and save in ODS format.

3.  Cut and paste between the two Open Office spreadsheets.   IMPORTANT:  When pasting, select ONLY the upper left cell as if you are going to paste everything into that single cell.

 Process TWO – Merge two cells into a new single cell containing contents of BOTH original cells.     In my case I wanted a new combined field name.

Update – review the “DATA/Text to Columns” and the related “Concatenate” functions within Open Office.

Again, I’m not an expert so there may be easy ways to do it, but this did not seem to work directly in Google Docs spreadsheet.    Merge cells is an option, but it only preserved ONE of the cells.    However in Open Office you can celect “Merge Cells” and it should immediately prompt you to include contents of BOTH cells.   Unfortunately I had to merge about 8000 cells and since there seemed to be no bulk process I created a keystroke macro and did them (pretty quickly) manually because I was not clever enough to get a macro that would run this process by itself.

FYI note that you may want to keep your old fields (cells) as well as have the new combined field.   In that case simply make copies of the columns so you have extra ones to combine.

The reason I needed this was to create a CityCategory field name that will work well with our Retirement website.   One painful alternative to this little merge routine would have been to type the extra word into five thousand records!

Bhatia’s battle to give you free software … Game ON!?

Over at Webguild I noted a really interesting quote from Sabeer Bhatia, co-founder of HotMail, who suggested very recently that shrinkwrapped software is dead and everybody is going to go online for their office and other applications by 2010.    Consistent with this hypothesis and blustering claim, Bhatia has just launched a new online suite of MS office-like tools.   

Sridhar over at Zoho blogs is really taking Bhatia to task for suggesting that the new product, Instacoll, might capture 1% of the market.   Of course Zoho is not exactly a fan of Instacoll which is a very direct competitor to their offerings, but Sridhar’s point is that venture capital people don’t want companies to shoot for 1% of a market – they want it all.

Frankly, I’m not convinced by any of these points.  People are stubborn with changes.  So first, I think Microsoft will keep plugging along and shrinkwrap will die a slow, not quick, death.   Microsoft’s version of online office tools will be in the best position to win in this game because if they do it cleverly they will slowly transition a huge customer base from Word and Excel and Access over to the online environments and find ways to make money during and after the transition.    

Second, only Microsoft and Google with maybe Yahoo as a distant runner up shot, are likely to capture the online document market.   Why will people choose Instacall or Zoho when they can go with the big guys?    Assume you have three free parties and you are invited to all of them.   They all have a nice dinner for you with similar food, and all are just around the block.   One is at my house, the other at your friend’s house,  and the other at Bratt Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s place.    You are going to Brangelinas, just like you are going to use Google docs.    1% of the office market?   Maybe, but what are you having for dinner again?