A Quick Look at Coda, a New Type of Spreadsheet App

As you might imagine, any news related to spreadsheet innovation gets our attention.

Today a new service called Coda launched that aspires to blend the “flexibility of documents, the power of spreadsheets, and the utility of applications into a single new canvas”.  Coda “lets you make a doc as powerful as an app.”

The company is led by Shishir Mehrotra, formerly VP of product at Google's YouTube. In a Medium post, he notes:

“In my last role at YouTube, we had hundreds of pre-built tools at our disposal. But we preferred to run our thousand-person organization off a handful of documents and spreadsheets. Some folks found that crazy, but I personally found it awesome.
The documents and spreadsheets we built were as unique and creative as our team. We used them to manage simultaneous feature releases across hundreds of devices, and even invent our own performance review system. They weren’t easy to build — a misplaced dollar sign in a spreadsheet would set us back a week. But they were better than pre-packaged tools because they were built for us and our own way of doing things.
I noticed the same thing happening at other companies. I’d ask friends what tools they used at work… they’d admit documents and spreadsheets were running the show.”

We founded Tiller on a similar insight about how people preferred  the power and flexibility of a spreadsheet to run their businesses and lives, even in this era of colorful apps and chatty chatbots.

The Coda product pages makes the point that docs and sheets still run the world. But Tech Crunch notes Coda's hope is that it can be "flexible enough to stitch together the problems that span all those kinds of products into a single flow — sheets, docs, and other kinds of places where people collaborate and store information.”

In a detailed profile on The Verge, writer Casey Newton notes:

In Coda documents, rows and columns are named objects, making formulas both easier to read and write. Your formulas no longer have to refer to “A1:F7”; instead you just type the name of the column.
Excel and other older documents also required formulas to be placed inside of tables. In Coda they can be placed anywhere: hit the “=” sign, and you can bring in data from anywhere else in your document. You might include a summary section in your document that includes a written account of your progress, with embedded formulas that update key numbers automatically as you make progress."

We look forward to testing Coda. It will especially be interesting to compare to Airtable, another favorite "reinvention" of the spreadsheet. 

In the meantime, you'll find us plugging away in Google Sheets, still the command center at the center of our digital lives.