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Sunday, November 13th, 2005, 5:26 pm

Web-based Spreadsheet

FOR several years I have retained one spreadsheet on my Palm handheld. This was, in fact, a crude timesheet which was needed for work. Several months ago I decided to migrate everything to OpenOffice and access that spreadsheet using SSH from virtually any connected Linux box. This sounded reasonable at first, but frequent updates made this rather impractical and cumbersome.

Later on, I decided to export all data from OpenOffice as plain HTML tables and then repeatedly modify the HTML files on my Web server. This was rather time-consuming, so I sought alternatives which I knew existed.

I wound up using a Web-based spreadsheet application that is very light and retains all data as comma-separated values (thus no database needed). That powerful tool was Open Source, as always.

phpWebSheet has powerful and advanced (from a Web-based point-of-view) features such as tabular copy-and-paste, Wiki-styled formatting, and support for formulas/functions. In my perception, it is yet another winning application for PHP. There are many similar free applications at freshmeat.net, but I only investigated two which appeared better-suited for the purpose and rather mature too.

Palm TungstenSpreadsheets are of course password-protected, but can still be accessed rapidly from everywhere at any time. All in all, the transition was a rewarding one. I sometimes wonder if I should have just stuck to the Palm PDA rather than make a progressive 3-step transition (as outlined above).

Spreadsheets have been on my Palm for years, virtually seconds away at pocket’s distance. Nonetheless, Being a Web technologies fanatic, I am always enthusiastic about ‘Webward’ transitions. On that same batch of installations, I set up phpshell which enables me to obtain shell access to my shared Web server. I can even see what the administrators are up to. This does not require a cron job hack as I once described.

Access to so many free packages (roughly a dozen of them on my domain already) is why I love Linux and the GNU ideaology.

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