The Wisdom of No Escape

There are so many functions and values delivered by Excel that it is not something I could or plan to escape from soon :slight_smile:. Having said that, Coda delivers lots of spreadsheet functionality, that because its delivered in the context of a Doc, makes it a lot more valuable for so many use cases than Excel.

So, rather than escaping Excel I would suggest adding easy embed support (already in the Suggestion Box with many votes) and develop a Pack to sync to Excel Tables. There are many use cases where this two way sync will be a valuable addition to Coda and the millions of users like me that have Office 365.

Aside: Microsoft is building its own component doc solution with the advent of the Fluid Framework that will no doubt leverage Excel ranges, sheets and workbooks in many innovative ways. The Fluid PM at MS Build 2020 mentioned they have 185 member team on that project so far.

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Hey David! Its been over 2 years since I escaped and I haven’t looked back. In fact now, whereas Excel used to get me exxcited, it is now dread when I am sent a spreadsheet and have to start digging through those ‘archaic’ formulas =vlookup(a7:g30,k193:z391)!

Earnestly, can you give some good use cases where excel beats Coda? The few times I’ve opened it up is when I need to do some disparate math next to each other … but even that could be accomplished with canvas formulas.

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Thanks for the comment @David.Greenwood! An Excel/Office 365 Pack is a great idea (and is on our backlog). I definitely still use Excel/Google Sheets for certain use cases (e.g. one-off data analysis). Wrote a bit more in this thread about this topic which may be of interest to you: Row and Column Analysis

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Backlog is great news! Thanks for the article, very helpful

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Hi Joseph,

It seems a lot has gone on in Excel in the last 2 years especially because of the new Excel Calc Engine and Dynamic Arrays, Custom Functions, JS Add-ins, new Office Scripts, advances in Power Query, etc.

As I am new to Coda (and keen), I am looking to replicate some Excel models and see what comparative
use cases limits it has so I’ll get back to your question when I have more to offer.

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The dynamic arrays in Excel are pretty powerful, and quite similar to how formulas work in a table in Coda. The spill range on the new functions is a little weird getting used to if you are used to traditional cell references. The other trick thing with the spill range is that if you happen to have a value in range of cells where the formula is supposed to “spill,” it prevents the formula from spilling down.

This is where I think novice to intermediate Excel users might face some issues because if you don’t structure the table right and/or prevent other users from messing up the table (perhaps through locking cells), it will be difficult to deploy the tool to your team for collaboration.

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I think it is misleading to compare Excel and Coda. There is some overlap, where it comes to list handling in Excel. Excel is just a completely different tool as far as flexibility goes. I would never even attempt to do a balance sheet and income statement in Coda, or some financial planning.

When it comes to list handling, yes. Coda has a lot more flexibility. But that aspect of Coda is better compared to Access, than to Excel.

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I agree @Piet_Strydom.

I have tried to replicate some Excel Models in Coda and in some cases it is simply not possible, and with the current row focused addressability it is cumbersome to address/work with cells dynamically.

Having said that, my original point was about the critical importance of leveraging and integrating Excel ranges, tables, sheets, etc. and focusing on the flexibility, strengths and differentiation that Coda has and needs to build out.

The coming Microsoft Fluid Framework is designed to do just that with the new " Docs" and its web based version of Excel, etc. See recent fluid video summary

I am using both Coda and Notion. (If I had found Coda first, I might not have gone to Notion at all.)

But whichever one of Coda, Notion and Fluid provides meaningful integration with traditional documents will have a massive advantage. But I don’t even want to think about the complexity that would be involved.

Fluid could be interesting, but seems to be pure vapourware at the moment. And with MS’s recent track record on Windows 10 updates, the changes and backtracking on OneNote, the various versions of all their products, I unfortunately do not hold out much hope for Fluid.

And just in general - I love these new tools, but in the major organisations that I have worked with, people still send out spreadsheets, have them collated, and then posted onto Sharepoint, or Box…

I am not sure how one goes about improving uptake…

@David.Greenwood @Piet_Strydom I’m pretty surprised to hear that one’d have problems with doing a balance sheet of financial planning in Coda.

It takes some effort to start thinking the Coda way (in organized records and not simple two-dimensional sheets with freeform cells), but in the end you’ll be gratified with a solid model, and not something that is a table simply because with all the cell formatting it looks like a table.

There are some shortcomings in display: e.g. Coda doesn’t look as compact, and you cannot organize records horizontally (i.e. have a transposed table where properties go top to bottom and entries go left to right) without compromising your model. But I hope those get addressed eventually.

I have nearly 150 rows in my current balance sheet… Now you want me to turn that on its side, display it in less than optimal sizing, so that I can be “gratified with a solid model” ?

It’s good to be positive about a product, but too much optimism can be just as damaging as being pessimistic. Excel is jut better at some things, than what Coda is. Doesn’t make Coda bad.

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I don’t want anyone do anything :slight_smile: I’m only saying that quite often the frustration for Coda comes out of misunderstanding its approach to data design. It’s much closer to databases (think Access, SQL, Airtable lastly) than spreadsheets. It’s venturing into software engineering territory sometimes (or maybe that’s just me). That’s my idea from hanging around for more than a year in this community and with Coda in general.

And yes, for some uses spreadsheets are often a much better choice. Fewer constraints, easier to get from zero to problem solved.

P.S. I’ve been working as a Coda expert for hire on some of the most complicated financial docs. Think of the setup where each row not just contained what could be a simple cell’s value in Excel, but it also had a table where each row described each of those other rows and how they should be calculated. A super easy feat in spreadsheets became a very complicated setup in Coda. Yet the client wanted it done specifically in Coda because he believed in the tech and how in the long run it would be better than running those calculations in spreadsheets.

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