A JotSpot For Excel

JotSpot is revolutionizing do-it-yourself. The company’s new application, JotSpot Tracker, can turn spreadsheets into collaborative, interactive Web applications.

The beta release from JotSpot is a Web-based service that lets people post interactive spreadsheets that others can view and edit. Like JotSpotLive, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company’s earlier release, JotSpot Tracker is based on wiki software.

Wikis are collaborative Web sites that allow many users to edit and change the content, all the while keeping track of the changes.

JotSpot CEO Joe Kraus said that Tracker is part of a new wave of do-it-yourself applications similar to the desktop publishing revolution of the 1980s.

“Powerful things happen when you give normal people the ability to do things that only experts could do before,” he said.

Kraus pointed out that many people use Excel spreadsheets to track and organize information that doesn’t require calculation for lack of a better application. He said that, along with business tasks, such as scheduling or expense reports, Tracker could be used to plan weddings or other social events, log nutrition or fitness goals or publish an organization’s meeting schedule.

The advantage of the wiki-like Tracker over a desktop-based spreadsheet, he said, is that the latter must be shared by e-mailing or mailing it to others, then consolidating changes or information others provide.

JotSpot Tracker users can embed other types of files, such as calendars and maps, into their trackers, while applying rules for sharing and access. Each spreadsheet row becomes a separate wiki page, so users can add information that doesn’t fit in cells, as well as attach related documents or images.

Tracker provides a dynamic view of data attached to the spreadsheet. For example, a “maps” view automatically plots addresses in the spreadsheet on a Google map. Jotspot will offer developers an API to plug other Web data sources into Tracker.

Tracker is the first step in a new direction for JotSpot. The company plans to release a series of wiki-based collaborative applications this year. As with Tracker, they’ll offer a template people can use to quickly get going with specific tasks.

Kraus originally conceived JotSpot as a more open-ended platform on which users could create applications. But he found people didn’t have tolerance for much more than pasting their information into a template.

“We want to define the applications as something you can do in five seconds,” Kraus said. “In building these prepackaged applications, our object was to take what people want to use wikis for but not make them build it themselves. People like to customize from a starting point and not necessarily from a blank screen.”

The hosted Tracker service became available in a beta on Monday in two versions, a free personal plan that allows the creation of two Trackers with five users each, or a $9.95 Pro plan with unlimited use.

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