23 May 2010

Updating Google Spreadsheets over slow mobile networks

It's 2005.  I live in Bangalore.  I tell a friend that I am thinking of buying a PDA, or some device that has PDA functionality.

"A PDA?  Why do you need a PDA?  It's all so old-fashioned!" he says.

"Well, there are certain things that I wanna do when I don't have a computer.  A device like PDA would be useful."

"Like what?"

"Keeping track of my bike's mileage, for example."

"Use Excel dude.  Why would you buy a PDA for something an Excel sheet on your computer can do?"

"No no, I won't remember to update the sheet then.  I should be able to do it on-the-go."
Yep, ability to access and update my data on-the-go has been and still is important for me.

I have been owning a motorcycle for about 5 years now, and one of the things I really care about is keeping track of the fuel efficiency of the bike.  I create a spreadsheet that looks like this.  Mileage column would be automatically calculated by a formula.

Of late, I get nervous if my data is not on cloud.  Any data that is only available in a device that I own is at risk.  And I try to avoid it as much as possible.  Naturally, I created a Google Docs spreadsheet and started keeping track of the bike's mileage.

Now for the on-the-go update part.  Sure, I can open the sheet on my phone and update it.  But opening and updating a spreadsheet on a 2G mobile network is painfully slow.  So I went around and created a form for this sheet.  Whenever I fill petrol or run out of petrol, I pull up this form on my phone and enter the details.

Since it's a very simple HTML form with very little JavaScript, it loads fast even on a slow, congested network.  Saving the data is quite easy too, since all it has to send to the server is a few bytes.


  1. In a low bandwidth environment, you can always use List View. View-->List View or by changing ccc in the URL to LV. Otherwise the form is a cool way to do it too.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Ronald. List view is what we get by default when we open a Google Docs spreadsheet from a mobile phone. That itself feels heavy for my usage, that's why I started using forms.