Grid: The Spreadsheet App of the Future?

Grid represents some of the latest ideas in the iOS creativity space: gone are the antiquated menu commands found in Microsoft Office, replaced by a focus on a clean interface, collaboration, performance, and gestures. Just how far does Grid go? Is Grid the future of spreadsheets and data organization, or is it just a glorified scrapbooking application for iOS? Read on!

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What is Grid?

Grid is an enigma of a product: in some ways, it was introduced as being the future of the spreadsheet. In its current form, however, it does not go toe-to-toe with the latest from Microsoft’s Excel or even Apple’s Numbers.

The app requires users to create an account to access the collaboration features.

The app requires users to create an account to access the collaboration features.

Instead, it’s acts as a way to organize photos, text, and other media on a grid. In that way, it is about data organization, but there does not currently exist a way to add calculations and equations — a requirement met by even the most basic spreadsheet programs.

With that in mind, Grid really is more of a scrapbooking organizational tool.

Design

The design is — as its name would imply — square. Gone are the familiar, warm “squircle” icons that pervade iOS and most apps. It’s somewhat of a shocking change, but it gives the app a definitive identity: you won’t mistake Grid for any other app on your iPad. The emphasis on the square also makes the app feel very professional.

Grid relies on gestures to navigate the user interface.

Grid relies on gestures to navigate the user interface.

For a product so early in its life-cycle, it’s great to see just how solid the design of Grid is. Interacting with documents — again, I hesitate to call these spreadsheets — is simple. Gestures dominate the navigation in this view, allowing for everything from finely tuned control over how many squares you are about to use, to swiping up to select which type of content to place.

It’s a smooth process, but also one that feels expandable: I look forward to seeing what other content and options become available as the app is updated and gains features.

Using Grid

Upon opening Grid for the very first time, you are prompted to sign up. Creating an account for the app is useful for collaboration, though this step can be safely skipped if you don’t plan on sharing your creations or inviting others to help modify documents.

The Grid selection screen allows you to share, edit, and delete documents.

The Grid selection screen allows you to share, edit, and delete documents.

After that, a tutorial begins. The tutorial explains the necessary gestures. However, unlike many other apps, most of the gestures in Grid are discoverable, so you are probably safe to simply skip the tutorial.

Each document is called a Grid, and you can save multiple Grids. After the initial launch, the app shows a screen that allows you to select and edit existing Grids, as well as to create a new one.

Grid accepts text, photos, maps, and contacts as appropriate input. With just those variables under your control, you can create a beautiful way to organize an event, or undertake the creation of a memorable digital scrapbook. Beyond that, though, Grid‘s usefulness is tragically limited: I want the app to be capable of more. It’s user interface is solid, but its feature set is still lacking.

Sharing

Collaboration is touted as being a major feature of Grid. In short, it works. Here’s the catch, though: both parties have to have accounts in Grid. There is no web client, so support is far more limited than it ideally should be.

Grid allows you to invite others to add text, photos, and more, but all collaboration must happen within the app.

Grid allows you to invite others to add text, photos, and more, but all collaboration must happen within the app — there are no export options.

While that situation may not be ideal, there’s a far more important issue: there is currently no way to export finalized Grids. Want to export the scrapbook you created to PDF and email it to your Mac or Windows computer? Sorry, that just isn’t going to happen.

While the lack of a web client is excusable, the lack of any export support is the craziest limitation to the product. The app offers excellent tools for creating an interesting and compelling document, but no way to share that same document.

Luckily, that issue could theoretically be rectified by an update — until that time, Grid just isn’t as useful as it could be.

The Future of the Spreadsheet?

Upon its release, Grid was touted as a solution to the lack of a compelling spreadsheet client on iOS. This message generated considerable excitement — had the developers of Grid just solved what Apple, Microsoft, and countless others seemingly couldn’t?

Grid just isn't yet powerful enough to be considered a true spreadsheet processor -- its strength is still in text and images.

Grid just isn’t yet powerful enough to be considered a true spreadsheet processor — its strength is still in text and images.

Not really, as it turns out. Grid is a faint ghost of a full-blown spreadsheet program. There is no automatic equation support. There is no advanced control of the grid — what you see is what you get.

But what could the future hold? The developers had the foresight to build an app that is expandable, so it does seem as if Grid could easily be updated to fill this niche. Time will tell, though I personally will be watching with great interest.

Conclusion

The potential here is huge. Grid will be huge, if the developers are able to fine-tune it with but a few supplemental updates. It’s already one of the best scrapbooking apps I’ve seen. Perhaps more importantly, Grid could become the de facto spreadsheet app for the iPad.

Because of its low, low price of free, Grid is absolutely worth downloading right now. The current functionality is fun, if somewhat limited, but future updates seem poised to unleash the potential of this idea.


Summary

Grid is the best scrapbooking app available for iOS, but it lacks the features that could propel it to become the future of the spreadsheet.

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