A Windows utility called “eXpresso” allows a number of people to collaborate on the same spreadsheet, online at the same time. Now that businesses have employees scattered across the world, such collaboration can be very useful.

You can do the same thing with “Google Docs” (Docs.Google.com), which lets workers collaborate on a Google version of a spreadsheet.  But people who are used to Microsoft’s Excel, by far the most popular spreadsheet, would likely not want to learn a new system. You can also collaborate with others using the spreadsheet contained in Microsoft Office Live , but in that case, each participant would have to downloadExpressothe whole spreadsheet to his or her computer. The collaboration could not be in real time as any changes would have to be uploaded and then the spreadsheet downloaded again by others in the group.

The use of eXpresso online is free if there will be no more than five spreadsheets  at any one time. You need only go to the website, www.eXpressoCorp.com , and register to begin. All spreadsheets are kept behind firewalls and have other security measures to keep them from prying eyes. Templates are available online for quickly setting up spreadsheets for expense reports, mortgage amortization, etc.

A professional version costs $79 a year to subscribe and provides a plug-in utility that lets you use eXpresso offline. This is handy for creating graphs and adding Excel’s advanced features.  You, as the administrator, can set limits on what each participant may enter or do with any spreadsheet. You can assign some cells in a sheet to be available to only one person; this is only true of the professional version.

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