Google Blogoscoped

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Google Spreadsheets Adds Import Functions, Auto-Fill

Google Spreadsheets just got a bit more powerful. There are four new cell functions to automatically import external data: importXml, importData, importHtml and googleReader.

For instance, importXML has two parameters, URL and an XPath query. Entering =importXML("", "//a/@href”) into a Google Spreadsheets cell and hitting return will load all links from the link blog in the subsequent cells. (I’m not sure if this data is automatically updated or if it’s a one-time fill, though it seems to be auto-updating.) A similar feature had been around in online spreadsheets competitor EditGrid, and so far set EditGrid apart from Spreadsheets in that regard.

Another new feature in Spreadsheets is auto-filling of cells. Enter “Monday” and “Tuesday” in two cells, select them, and click the blue dot on the cell edge to drag it over subsequent cells. They will now read “Wednesday”, “Thursday” and so on. You might know this from other spreadsheet applications, but what’s more, if you hold down Ctrl when you perform this auto-fill, Google will poll data from Google Sets to automatically complete almost anything (at least that’s the theory).

I think auto-filling based on Google Sets is a really cool idea, though during my tests that feature was very unstable, didn’t show a load bar (so you won’t know if there’s something still being polled from Google Sets), and mostly didn’t work at all... or returned results much less relevant than what Google Sets returns, incidentally.

Google seems to be in a real hurry to get these feature updates out the door; the announcement post contains broken links, and the help files are somewhat sparse and hastily formatted, and contain errors. (For instance, the screenshot showing the auto-filling for “Monday - Tuesday - Wednesday” continues with “Monday - Tuesday - Wednesday” again instead of showing what is actually filled, “Thursday - Friday - Saturday”.)

And sigh, that’s inconsistent: the functions for importing are called importRSS, importHTML and importData, but googleReader instead of the more obvious “importFeed” (as that’s what it does). I hope the Google OS programming framework doesn’t go the way of PHP, a language which puts a burden on programmers because its naming rules and parameter order changes from function to function.

[Thanks Luka!]


Blog  |  Forum     more >> Archive | Feed | Google's blogs | About


This site unofficially covers Google™ and more with some rights reserved. Join our forum!