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The best of both worlds: Xcellery makes Excel collaborative

Xcellery is a new utility enabling multiple people to work on the same Excel file at the same time.

As I said in a recent post, Webware relies on Google Spreadsheets as our groupware application for tracking which Web services we want to write about. But because it is sorely lacking in the features department, I always have my eye out for alternatives offering more Excel-ish features as well as the killer collaboration function that makes Google's Spreadsheets so useful.

Xcellery's Web control panel. Simple. CNET Networks

One new alternative: Xcellery, a service that turns ordinary Excel spreadsheets into shareable documents. With Xcellery, multiple people can have the same spreadsheet open at the same time. Everybody's changes get recorded and shared since the system tracks things at the spreadsheet's cell level. (If two people try to save over each other's edits to the same cell, a conflict warning pops up, and the user gets to decide whose edit to keep.)

This isn't a real-time service, like Google or EditGrid. You won't see other people's edits popping into a sheet that you are working on. But every time you hit the Save button, the document is reloaded with the most recent changes from the sheet's other users.

It's Excel, but with new tools. CNET Networks

To use Xcellery, you create new files on the site's Web page. The site launches Excel for you. You'll get a scary macro warning the first time you use the product, but after that, it's mostly seamless. Xcellery doesn't save some data, like charts and window layouts, but Xcellery founder Reto Laemmler told me his team is working on a version that works in real time, like Google, and that will save screen layout modifications and graphics.

Xcellery also has a Web-based spreadsheet editor if you don't want to fire up Excel to work on your files. But if you want a Web spreadsheet, you can do better. (See our write-up on EditGrid.)

Like Collanos, a collaboration tool I covered earlier today, I consider Xcellery to be a bit too new to adopt in the real world. But also like Collanos, I really like the direction that Xcellery is going. Both of these products challenge pure Web applications by offering both the collaboration tools that could only work over the Internet and the rich features and fast speeds we get from our desktop apps.

Xcellery, and more than 40 other Web products for business, will be shown at the Under the Radar: Office 2.0 conference (click here for Under the Radar's official blog) on March 23 in Mountain View, Calif. I'll be moderating presentations all day. If you'd like to come see the start-ups, and maybe grab a free Webware T-shirt, use this link for a discounted conference pass.