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Spreadsheets on a canvas

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AJ Nandi
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The endless canvas of classic spreadsheets is one of the reasons people love that medium. You can simply type anywhere. But it becomes hard to manage the interface when you can’t easily hide details during more complex work. Spreadsheets on a canvas allow you to have a spreadsheet, move it around on the screen, and not have it constrained to the classic spreadsheet grid.

One of the biggest challenges of building a spreadsheet on a canvas is preserving the layout of the canvas while also allowing for spreadsheets to continue indefinitely — that endless canvas feel. The challenge seen here:

Another example of the challenge, where preserving the “dashboard” style of no overlaps would be really useful. Dashboards. Classic dashboards feel too static for something like a spreadsheet and we’re going for something inbetween.

One approach is to preserve space between grids when adding rows below, as demonstrated in Apple's Numbers.

For this to work, multiple grids in a column need to move in unison.

Another approach is to allow the grid to grow until a collision, but to make it scrollable so that it still feels endless. Ultimately, the goal is to find a solution that preserves the canvas layout while also allowing for endless spreadsheets.

We ultimately ended up going with the collision aware design. It works really well for a number of the dynamic sheets that we’ve built.

Try some of these dynamic templates out here!