I wanted to kill it. The spreadsheet component of Graphite felt necessary. It felt like the thing that would lift Graphite above the word processor classification into the world of productivity suite software. So, I built it.

And I immediately regretted it.

Microsoft has been working on Excel for decades, and if anyone wants to replicate the functionality built into Excel, they should buckle up and prepare themselves for 20-plus years of catch-up work. Look at Google Sheets. It’s been around since 2012 and people still consider it a “lightweight” alternative to Microsoft Excel. Now, imagine trying to build a decentralized and encrypted alternative to Microsoft or Google. What’s the best one can hope for? A lighterweight version of Google Sheets?

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That thought process locked me up for a while. I had a spreadsheet component. It bounced between multiple different Javascript frameworks, sometimes including basic formula support, sometimes not. It was there, it was encrypted, and it was decentralized. But it wasn’t very usable. And it wasn’t going to be very usable if I kept looking at it as an alternative or a replacement or a lightweight version to existing software.

Thanks to encouragement from the Graphite community, I started reconsidering Graphite Sheets. What could it be? What was its potential, and how could it fit into the Graphite ecosystem without having to compete with Microsoft or Google? The answer, it turns out, was simple.

Spreadsheets were the first visual representation of databases. Something a non-programmer could use to manage tons of data on her own. They’ve grown into so much more since then, but at its core, Spreadsheets are a repository for data to be contained, manipulated, and used elsewhere.

Graphite Sheets can do that without having to match all the functionality of Microsoft and Google. But Graphite Sheets can do more than that as well. Because we’re working from the ground-up, Graphite Sheets can be so many things. For enterprise customers like newsrooms, it can be the data center of the newsroom. Accessible by all who need to dump data and charts into a story. For businesses, it can be the read-only, encrypted access point for Microsoft Excel files. For the everyday user, it can be what spreadsheets were originally—a database for end-users.

But it can also power a lot more. Keep what you want encrypted, but if you choose to decrypt and make some data public, that data can become your own personal API endpoint. Use it to power other apps. Use it as the literal database for another app. Use it to trigger activities elsewhere. The options are nearly limitless.

There’s a world of opportunity waiting beneath the surface of Graphite Sheets. It just took a recommitment to the product. Starting today, Graphite Sheets will be built on top of Handsontable Pro, the best Javascript-based spreadsheet framework on the market. The list above, while manageable, still isn’t a short list. There is work to be done, but that work will now be done in earnest and outside the shadow of Microsoft and Google. That work will enable a whole new type of work for users—the kind where each person owns their spreadsheet data and can rest assured that their data is encrypted by default.

I hope you’ll follow along as Graphite Sheets is extended and built for a new, decentralized world.