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Coda looks to replace Google docs and Excel as an all-in-one solution

By midian182 ยท 9 replies
Oct 20, 2017
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  1. “In a world full of applications, why do documents and spreadsheets seem to run everything?” That’s the question posed by Coda, a startup that’s spent the last three years secretly developing "a document so powerful you can build apps in it."

    Like a combination of Google docs and Excel, the company’s document editor not only allows collaboration between different users, but also has the flexibility to add complex tables and spreadsheets. It’s even possible to integrate other services into a document; entering “GoogleDirections” into a formula, for example, will add a Google Map complete with directions.

    “We built it so everyone can work together, in their own way, off the same data. We engineered it like a programming platform and built a new formula language. The goal was to enable these documents to grow with people’s creativity. One of our early users referred to it as “Minecraft for docs,” writes company co-founder Shishir Mehrotra, a former VP of Product at YouTube.

    Getting people to move away from Excel, Google Docs, and Word won’t be easy, but Mehrotra says Coda works well alongside these long-used programs, and its flexible nature could convince some to make the leap—providing they're happy to learn Coda’s formula language.

    It seems that Silicon Valley investors are confident that Coda will be a success. Two rounds of fundraising have seen it raise $60 million from the likes of Greylock, General Catalyst, Khosla Ventures, NEA, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. Moreover, LinkedIn’s cofounder and executive chairman Reid Hoffman sits on Coda’s board.

    There's plenty of work to be done before the product is ready. The full Coda experience is still only available on desktop; the mobile web version is currently read only. If you want to try Coda for yourself, you can request to join the beta at coda.io. No word yet on when we can expect to see a final release.

    Permalink to story.

  2. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 12,294   +1,371

    With open source version like Libre and OpenOffice, it's hard to see yet another implementation gaining traction in the market - - especially as a purchased product.

    From the write up presented here however, it does look to fit the business collaboration niche. It will be interesting to see how and where documents are stored and managed with consideration for security.
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  3. GregonMaui

    GregonMaui TS Enthusiast Posts: 83   +22

    To see the usefulness of this concept simply look back at the reason why MSOfiice, Libre, OpenOffice, Googledocs, et., all have separate components for spreadsheets, word processing etc. It was simply to fit in the 640k memory footprint and to fit on a floppy drive. Yah! pretty ancient. Amazing software vendors still go with this.

    The idea of a product that can combine usable functionality like text editing for word processing, editing for code editors, tables, spreadsheets, note taking, maps -- Awesome! One can easily come up with additional all-in-one ideas to show usefulness. How about calendars so you can create a condo reservation system? How about queries to pull your financial data from websites and create a performance tracker?

    I for one, am excited and many cheers to the team!
    Reehahs likes this.
  4. vincentyu

    vincentyu TS Enthusiast Posts: 23   +8

    The idea is not entirely new: ever heard of the word OLE(Object Linking and Embedding) which is ancient MSOffice tech in the 90's. They added embedding of new stuff like Google map and stuff, plus collaboration.
  5. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,013   +525

    Sounds like LaTeX with an updated UI and some additional updates to it's mathematic's processing. It will be interesting to see if it takes off, but I'm hoping they let you go in and edit the document markup line-by-line if the user so desires.
  6. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,562   +264

    No, the reason is that these are very different tasks. It's difficult to create a single UI which would do all of them well and would be simple enough for everyday use, and most people don't need the overlap.

    Coda looks like a nice application platform, and in that respect could fine fans amongst coders and so have various specialised apps created in it. However, I'd wait and see if it brings anything of use for normal users.
    Reehahs likes this.
  7. Humza

    Humza TS Maniac Posts: 137   +100

    As far as personal use is concerned, the adoption rate mostly depends on how simple and easy to use it is. It may eventually even have a passionate user base. But corporations are very picky on these things and their employees' productivity is good enough using established products (that are constantly evolving as well) and the momentum is already there, so its going to be a tough sell for these.
  8. GregonMaui

    GregonMaui TS Enthusiast Posts: 83   +22

    There is truly nothing new under the sun, almost all "new" ideas are evolutions on older ones. The trouble with the older products like OLE is that perhaps they were ahead of their time and not fully and well integrated. Some also had a user interface paradigm of over-complexitization ( I like that totally made up word). It will take someone who drills the technology down to something that is clean, elegant and simple to gain significant traction.
  9. GregonMaui

    GregonMaui TS Enthusiast Posts: 83   +22

    While I respect your premise, I disagree with it. After all Bold is bold whether in a word processor or spreadsheet, a table still has columns and rows, an address is an address, etc.

    The very concepts between Evernote, Onenote, etc. push the envelope toward an inclusive "all-in-one" approach (too bad they don't add-in tables and numerical abilities, I bet they will). I particularly like iWork Numbers where you can add multiple tables per sheet, add in graphics, images, text documents, shapes, etc. Each Object has its own "interface", so example, a text box is a mini-word processor. (Let's hope the flush out and complete the concept.).

    The paradigm you mention is where the user chooses the "best" application for a predefined function, often with base tasks like formula entry, text editing, formatting etc, all having different looks. I believe that the future is migrating towards best "apps", where the user can select the best video processor, text editor, form filler, etc embedded as objects within one environment with common functions and interface components.
  10. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,562   +264

    This is what I said. The problem is purely a UI one. The applications are different enough that if you take a small subset (such as a note app uses) you can make things work out, but if you want full functionality, the differences are so major that it's hard to make a single UI that's of any use. Spreadsheets are about calculating stuff, and so formulae and table management are at the forefront. Documents are about organising and passing information, so page layout, formatting, navigation (table of content, etc.), word count etc. are an important part, while they are completely useless for standard spreadsheet use.

    As I said, it's technically possible to use a single engine, I just don't see the huge benefit of it or see it as the reason for the separation. There are a lot of minor similarities between any types of applications, which is why an OS is able to provide basic UI services, and it's possible to create even more advanced toolkits. This has been done for dozens of years. But merging different applications into one conceptual application just because you might want to embed some stuff from one in another isn't, IMO, a good reason to do that. The joint conceptualisation is a lot more problematic than the technical aspect.

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