The idea of using a spreadsheet to keep track of your industry contacts—when you met, what scene you read, their mailing address, or what a workshop cost—is hardly new; keeping track with an online spreadsheet, however, is a revolutionary concept offering hitherto unforeseen possibilities. Does my geeky enthusiasm cause me to overstate? Perhaps, but with the June release of Google Spreadsheets, Google's kick-in-the-pants competitor to Microsoft's reigning spreadsheet champ, Excel, a few enticing possibilities become clear. How so?
1. It's free.
2. There's no software to install on your computer.
3. It can be accessed from any computer because it stays online.
4. You can invite others to view or edit your spreadsheets.
5. Did I mention it's free?
For an actor, the ability to track which industry professionals you've met has obvious merits. Having all the information you deem important at your fingertips saves you from thumbing through years of old datebooks and might even make you feel more prepared for future auditions.
There are a couple of things you need to know to get Google Spreadsheets up and running. First, you must have a Gmail account to access it. Gmail is Google's free email client, a competitor to Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail. I like Gmail because it uses Google's excellent search technology to look through old emails, but I also love the company's stated contention that you shouldn't throw away old emails—just archive them on its servers. You can search for what you want by entering any word you recall contained within the email. If you've ever deleted an email and realized much later that it contained some morsel of information you needed, the wisdom of this philosophy becomes abundantly clear. Because Gmail currently gives me about 2.7 gigabytes of space, significantly more than the competition, I know I have a long way to go—probably years—before I run out of email space.
Once you have your Gmail account, type www.spreadsheets.google.com into your browser window; it will open into a spreadsheet that is automatically linked to your new email.
Like Gmail, Google Spreadsheets is stored on the company's servers, so you never have to worry about losing your information if your computer crashes; you also never have to worry about transferring these files when you buy a new computer, because they don't "live" on your hard drive. Don't have regular Internet access? Don't want to work online? You can download and save a copy of the work created in Google Spreadsheets to your computer in several formats, including ones you're probably familiar with: XLS or CSV, the file extensions usually associated with spreadsheets, although you'll have to have software, such as Excel, that can recognize and open these files. Also, if you've created a spreadsheet on your computer, it's a snap to upload it into Google Spreadsheets.
One of the features of Google Spreadsheets that thrills me is the ability to easily share your spreadsheet with others. You can easily choose to let someone else view your information, or you can give him or her permission to edit and add to it; try this with Excel and you'll be endlessly emailing files back and forth. Invite a friend to edit your Google spreadsheet, on the other hand, and watch as their changes appear before your very eyes. Sharing updates of casting director addresses, phone numbers, and other vital information with a friend or group of friends has never been this easy.
For more details on how Google Spreadsheets works, take a tour at www.google.com/googlespreadsheets/ tour1.html.