Updated! Excel Web App leads to healthier snacks for kids




Today’s blog post is brought to you by Roxanne Kenison. Roxanne is a writer on Office.com who writes primarily about Office Web Apps and Office Starter.

 Note: See end of this post for updates on Office Web Apps.


My son starts Kindergarten this fall. I’m excited, but a little sad that our days of co-op preschool are over. Our local community college sponsors a co-op preschool program where parents run the preschool. Each parent works one day per week in the classroom, rotating through a series of jobs. We use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of job assignments.

One parent is assigned as the scheduler. Last year, Timmy’s mom did a great job, updating and redistributing the spreadsheet whenever someone needed to switch days. She e-mailed updates, which was fine, except that preschool correspondence went to my home e-mail, not always accessible from work.

On my preschool workdays I’d leave directly from Microsoft, pick up my son at daycare, and scoot over to preschool. I didn’t always know my job assignment until I arrived in the classroom. Once when this happened, I was assigned to bring snacks. Whoops! There’s food on hand for this situation, and the kids didn’t mind plowing through the supply of Tings that day. But I was embarrassed.

If Excel Web App had been available back then, it would have been easier to view and maintain the schedule. Instead of the preschool’s Tings, the kids might have had fresh fruit and veggies because I would have noticed it was my turn to bring snacks.

Here’s how it could have worked, if we’d had Excel Web App:

· Timmy’s mom sets up the schedule in Excel. Then she uploads it to her SkyDrive. You can use any version of Excel to do this, although in Excel 2010 you can do it without even leaving Excel. For details, see Store a file for Office Web Apps in Windows Live.

· On SkyDrive, the schedule would have looked something like this .

· Halfway into October I see that I’ve got an important meeting at work on a Thursday afternoon the following week. I need to switch my preschool workday with another parent. I send out e-mail asking, “Anybody want to trade their day for my Thursday next week?” and one mom responds, “Sure.”

· We go SkyDrive, click the spreadsheet, and then click Edit in Browser to make the switch. The updated schedule is immediately available to everyone, no e-mail necessary. Whenever someone clicks on the spreadsheet in SkyDrive, they’re looking at the latest version. For details, see Introduction to Excel Web App.

· This makes the scheduler’s job a breeze. Timmy’s mom no longer has to wrangle changes coming from multiple sources. Even if more than one person wants to update the spreadsheet on SkyDrive at the same time, they can.

· Timmy’s mom can focus on more important things, like scheduling special jobs for our last-day-of-school celebration.

I miss our preschool group, but I know there will be other opportunities to coordinate volunteers. If Kindergarten’s on my son’s horizon, I’m pretty sure the PTA is on mine.