• CI in the Journal
  • Favorite Online Spreadsheet Service

    by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

    Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, editor of Computerized Investing, reveals his favorite online spreadsheet service, Zoho. While not as robust as software-based spreadsheet programs such as those from OpenOffice and Microsoft, you can access online spreadsheets from any computer and, if you choose, share and collaborate with others. For more on online spreadsheet programs, see the First Quarter 2011 Computerized Investing feature, available to CI subscribers at www.computerizedinvesting.com.


    Zoho offers an extensive collection of online applications, many of them geared toward small business owners. The site offers several productivity apps similar to those found in Google Docs, including Sheet, its online spreadsheet application.

    Zoho is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems and supports a number of browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. Be sure to have Java Script enabled.

    You first need to register at Zoho.com (www.zoho.com), which is free. If you already have a Google, Yahoo!, or Facebook account, you can use this login information to sign up with Zoho. With free registration you get one gigabyte of free storage on the Zoho “cloud.” Upgrading to more storage is $36 a year for five gigabytes of disk space and $180 a year for 15 gigabytes.

    Once you have logged in, go to the Zoho Sheet section to begin creating and using online spreadsheets (sheet.zoho.com).


    With Zoho you can import from a variety of spreadsheet formats, including Excel (.xls and .xlsx), OpenOffice Calc (.sxc) and comma-separated values (.csv). When importing spreadsheets we created in Excel, we did not experience any troubles; all of the embedded functions carried over to the Zoho spreadsheet, and we only needed to make some minor formatting changes.


    Zoho offers an extensive collection of functions for an online spreadsheet service—built-in pivot tables, conditional formatting support, built-in macro recording, one million maximum cells, and more. You can also link spreadsheets to several external stock and financial data sources, although we found it to be more labor-intensive than some other services we have used.

    The functions you can use with Zoho Sheet spreadsheets are listed at this page: sheet.zoho.com/functions.

    You can integrate external data sources into your Zoho spreadsheets using the Link External Data feature. In this way, you can import CSV-formatted data from sources such as Yahoo! Finance.


    Zoho allows you to share your files with a select group of people or make them public for everyone on the Internet. When you create a group for sharing a document, you can invite an unlimited number of people. You can also specify whether others can only view the document or whether they can also edit the document. Unfortunately, with a free subscription to Zoho you cannot track the changes made to a document.

    Online Excel Viewer

    One unique and useful feature Zoho offers is its Online Excel Viewer. If you are trying to view a copy of a spreadsheet file, but don’t have a spreadsheet program installed on your computer, this utility allows you to view and manipulate the spreadsheet using Zoho Sheet.


    When printing spreadsheets with Zoho, you have no options beyond your standard printer options. Having the ability to repeat columns, which is available with Google Docs, would be useful.

    Bottom Line

    For those looking to perform higher-level spreadsheet analysis, Zoho is about the most robust online spreadsheet application available. However, be prepared to spend some time sifting through the site’s forums and FAQs if you get stuck on a certain feature.

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    Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter @CI_Editor.

    Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and the senior financial analyst at AAII and former editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


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