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Socialtext to distribute wiki spreadsheet tool

Software maker teams up on WikiCalc, created by Dan Bricklin, co-developer of first spreadsheet program for PCs.

Social software company Socialtext will redistribute and co-develop WikiCalc, an online collaborative spreadsheet created by PC software pioneer Dan Bricklin.

In addition, the company announced on Friday that next month it will release an open-source edition of its wiki-based collaboration software.

WikiCalc is a an open-source, browser-based collaboration tool that combines spreadsheet functionality with wikis, software for joint creation of Web pages whose content can be edited by users. Its inventor, Bricklin, co-developed VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet program available for the PC. WikiCalc, available under the open-source General Public License, is now in beta testing.

The software is one of several hosted Web applications that mimic the capabilities of traditional destkop applications. On Tuesday, Google launched a Web-based spreadsheet program, called Google Spreadsheets, which is designed to allow users to read and simultaneously edit information while engaging in an "in-document" chat. The program takes aim at Microsoft's desktop-based Excel spreadsheet tool.

In a blog entry on Friday, Socialtext CEO Ross Mayfield said the company has partnered with Bricklin to exclusively distribute and co-develop WikiCalc.

Mayfield said that Socialtext plans to soon release a version of WikiCalc that is a "more liberal and commercial-friendly distribution."

Socialtext is one of several companies looking to take Web technologies, such as wikis and blogs, and apply them to corporate applications.

Mayfield said WikiCalc will help people avoid "e-mail volleyball," which happens when users try to share spreadsheets today.

"Spreadsheets, like other killer PC apps, were not designed for a networked world...Work is social; information can be linked; and data comes in feeds. Today, it isn't the problems of productivity kept personal, but the opportunity to build computing that is social," he wrote in the blog.