14. September 2022

Launching Scratchpad: GRID as an end-to-end data tool

GRID is on a mission to become the numbers tool for a new generation.

This week marks a big milestone for us. Up until now, GRID has been a companion tool for your spreadsheets - a secondary tool providing a way for users of Google Sheets and Excel to build and securely share engaging web-based narratives and user interfaces on top of data and models from traditional spreadsheet software.

A few weeks ago, we silently launched connectivity to the first data source other than spreadsheets (and CSVs) - Notion databases. Since then, we've added a way to connect directly to web files and Airtable.

Introducing: GRID Scratchpad

At the beginning of this year, I wrote a post detailing our vision for GRID's transformation from secondary to primary tool, focusing on modern teams doing daily data work. I referred to our goal as a collaborative notebook for non-data scientists. 

Today, we're taking a big step toward realizing this vision by adding what we see as a spreadsheet "scratchpad" to the GRID editor. This new feature allows for in-product entry and editing of data and formulas, without uploading or connecting a pre-existing spreadsheet or database. That's right - now you can edit data directly in GRID, quickly type or paste in the numbers you need, and use them to create interactive visualizations in literal minutes. 


The primary objective of Scratchpad is to provide a place to:

  • Enter small amounts of data

  • Drop in data copied from other spreadsheets, tables, or the web

  • Combine and transform data coming in from other sources

In other words, Scratchpad isn't meant to be a fully-featured editor for spreadsheet modeling, but rather a way to solve common tasks associated with ad-hoc data analysis and reporting. We want to help users accomplish these tasks quickly and easily, and come away feeling empowered.

In fact, we remain just as dedicated to providing a fantastic experience on top of traditional spreadsheets such as Google Sheets and Excel files as before. That's where serious spreadsheet editing and modeling will continue to happen.

Behind the scenes: the "back of the spreadsheet"

A surprising amount of spreadsheet work isn't as substantial as you might think. Through analysis of several corpora of real-world spreadsheets that we did early on, we found that about 80 percent of spreadsheets have fewer than 10,000 cells with content and about 40 percent have fewer than 1,000 cells. Most spreadsheets only make use of simple calculations. In fact, 43 percent of spreadsheets contain no formulas at all!

So, while the world probably doesn't see a lot of literal "back of the envelope" calculations anymore, that mode of working hasn't gone anywhere. Scratchpad - and soon even the GRID document surface itself - will be a great place for this to happen.

behind envelop

A place to combine, transform, and narrate data

Scratchpad provides a key place for transforming and combining data that comes in from other sources. We're thinking about instances where you'd:

  • Combine data from two web sources in a single chart, as in this example on Oil Prices vs. Inflation.

  • Show an aggregate view of records from a Notion database and embed it back in a Notion page, like we've done with this Golf Statistics tracker.

  • Report on data coming from Airtable bases on a single page with narrative and interactive projections. A Quarterly Sales Report is ideal.

Having used Scratchpad for a lot of my work since early summer, I can see what a truly pivotal development it is - not only for GRID as a product but also for GRID as a business. We're making confident strides toward fulfilling the vision we defined earlier this year, and I for one can't wait to see what comes next. 

This article has also been published on Medium

Hjalmar Gislason


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