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New features for Google Spreadsheets

Google's spreadsheet gets a weird new auto-fill function, and RSS import feature, and a way to stalk other users.

First, the bad news: No, Google is not announcing a business wiki or presentation product at the Office 2.0 conference. However, I did get a demo of a few new features in Google's spreadsheet.

First, there's a new autofill function. If you enter a series of consecutive numbers, it will extend the series. OK, yawn. But, using data provided by the old Google Sets experiment, the spreadsheet will automatically fill in a row or column with items it thinks match your selection if they're not in an obvious sequence. For example, highlight a name of a state, press Ctrl (on a PC) and drag down a few cells, and the spreadsheet will fill in other states. You can also try a state of mind (e.g., "happy") to get other emotions. Or names. The more items you select before you control-drag, the more likely Google is to fill in items you expect, as opposed to wild guesses.

Google Apps product manager Rishi Chandra demos spreadsheet user stalking. Rafe Needleman / CNET

Second, you can now pull in data from other sources, including RSS feeds. (For instructons, see this Google Help page.) This means the Google spreadsheets can now be real-time, for any data that's expressed in an RSS feed. Previously, you could look up certain real-time data, like stock prices, but this is much more flexible.

There's another important feature that launched a few weeks ago: If you're collaborating with someone on a Google spreadsheet, cells that other people are working on are color-coded by user. When someone starts to edit a cell, it will get grayed out so you don't collide with their edits. You can also follow a user as they read and edit a spreadsheet. This is a feature I've been waiting for. It's great for collaboration and training.