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Where are all the (online) spreadsheets?

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Jason Chan
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Spreadsheets may be the most decentralized and unorganized files in the world. For personal use, spreadsheets live in all kinds of different folders. At work they live on different people’s desktop, shared folders, email, slack, Dropbox, so on and so forth. On the internet they literally are everywhere: in threads, blogs, embedded websites, emails, Google drive, Github repositories, and anywhere else you can think of.

Some spreadsheets are even converted into long form posts on the internet. Lists of things for example are often converted into blog posts consisting of several paragraphs listing each item.

There are some applications that do a good job of allowing their users to share their spreadsheet files via a share link. Google sheets does a good job of this, but again, there isn’t really a place for you to browse through various Google Sheets others have built. My favorite test of this is if you Google “best colleges spreadsheet” you get a bunch of blogs on how to build your own college spreadsheet. But if you google “best colleges Github” you get saved spreadsheets of top colleges programmers have saved down (usually in CSV).

For a software program and filetype as ubiquitous as a spreadsheet, why isn’t there a more centralized location for these files? Compare it to computer code, which is mainly stored on Github, and spreadsheets seem so disorganized and outdated. There’s a lot of benefit to storing all of humankind’s spreadsheets in one place, which you can learn from software programs. When people have access to other people’s work, it creates a positive flywheel for more creation and often times, invention. In software you spend way less energy reinventing something someone else has already created: instead you clone what someone else has built, and you build on top of it to make it better.

One reason for the lack of an online spreadsheet repository is the hesitation for users to share their spreadsheet. For one, spreadsheets often contain sensitive information that you wouldn’t want out in the public.

Other times people think spreadsheets are just too bespoke and specific to their use case that they don’t think others can find use out of it. If you browse through a few communities on Reddit you’d quickly realize that couldn’t be further from the truth—the threads are filled with redundant questions and answers.

Long story short, there really isn’t one place that stores all of the spreadsheets online.