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  • I want to organize text in columns and rows.
  • I want to be able to set a fixed width for the columns.
  • The rows should expand (indefinitely) to fit the text vertically.
  • I want to be able to change row and column order, ideally I want to drag and drop single or multiple columns or rows to anywhere else in the document.
  • Very basic formatting options (italics, bold, text color, font size) are nice but not required.
  • It would be nice if the document could be exported to CSV or some other common tabular format and can import from there, but again this is not a must have.

Basically I want something that looks like this:

enter image description here

I am currently using Excel, but pasting text with newlines into a cell copies each new line into a new cell. I want all text to go into the same cell, no matter what kind of characters it contains. Basically I want every cell to behave like it was its own text document. Also, Excel cells have a maximum height of 409. I want there to be no limit on height. There are other things that irritate me about Excel, most having to do with functionality I don't need and that it isn't designed for text but for data.

I have used HTML, but having to type and view in different applications (e.g. text editor and browser) or different application windows is a hassle, and while re-ordering table rows works well, reordering columns is near to impossible without going mad.

I neither want Windows text editor with cells nor Text editor with tile view.

Solutions can be online / browserbased or standalone. I'm on OS X, but do recommend Windows or Linux solutions for the benefit of other users. Just make sure you mention the platform(s).

  • 2
    Just one clarification, if Excel does most of what you want. Have you tried Paste Special and picked unformatted text as the past type? – O T Coder Sep 28 '16 at 2:32
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    @OTCoder Yes, that works, but it shows me that Excel does not understand a cell as a textarea and that it wasn't designed for text. For example, if you export an Excel spreadsheet that contains newlines in cells to .csv, Excel makes not difference between these newlines and those that begin a new row of data, so that text with newlines gets broken into separate rows when you open an exported csv again. You can use a macro to quote the columns (support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/291296), but basically you are forcing Excel to do things it wasn't designed for and it feels cumbersome. – user26831 Sep 28 '16 at 7:02
  • I can resemble that remark. Many is the times that I have bashed, crumpled, forced or otherwise abused an app like Excel to do things that it wasn't really designed for. Years ago, I can remember the delight shown when I helped a mainframe data control supervisor move from Lotus 1-2-3 to Volkswriter then WordPerfect for his formatted activity reports. He didin't know anything except 1-2-3, if the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails. – O T Coder Sep 28 '16 at 21:04
  • What about MS Word? – Eric Shain Apr 26 '17 at 15:13
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You can use tables in Microsoft Word or Libreoffice Writer. You can easily set a column width and pasted text don flow to rows bellow. I managed to make a cell span for 15 pages without problem.

If you have problems with the page boundaries for the table, you can set the editor in web view mode.

  • There is no doubt that if the OP has Microsoft Office this is the correct answer. Tables in Word work really well. – Eric Shain Jan 23 '18 at 17:36
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Microsoft OneNote has table support and is easy to use with the ability to put text (and tables) pretty much anywhere on an infinite "page". Don't think there is a Linux version but Windows and Mac plus all main mobile platforms are supported. Columns will auto-resize up to a certain width but you can easily drag to a fixed width and you can create template pages that can be reused. Formatting is simple but reasonably comprehensive.

Beyond that, most solutions fall into some form of text markup area. TiddlyWiki for example supports an easy table markup and is clever enough to enable you to create tables automatically from separate articles (think cards). Not the easiest thing to get your head around to begin with but I've used it in the past to produce a weekly/monthly project reporting tool with tables for things like progress, risks and issues and so on. A TiddlyWiki can be a single HTML file so is highly portable but there are server versions too. Mobile platforms also supported.

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You could consider using pySpread. Which is a python based spreadsheet.

  • Free, Gratis & Open Source
  • Cross Platform Lunux & Windows - OS-X reportedly works but is not officially supported
  • Lacks Execels odd limits.
  • Full Unicode support
  • Embed anything in cells
  • Multiline text may need treble quotes
  • Lonts of import and export capabilities:
    • CSV import and export
    • PDF and SVG export
    • SVG import*
    • XLS import and export, XLSX import*
    • ODS import*
  • Charts for visualizing data
  • Python code in cells and in macros
  • Python objects as cell results
  • Video playback in cells*
  • Code completion*
  • Spell checker*
  • GIT-able pysu save file format
  • GPG based save file signatures that prevent foreign code execution*
  • Access to all Python modules from within cells. These modules allow for example matrix operations via numpy or fixed point decimal numbers for business calculations via decimal.
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NeoOffice, an office suite for Mac has a spreadsheet package included. I used it in the past and it works well. I don't know if it does all you want though. There is a free trial from the NeoOffice web site. The whole suite sells for $15 I think. More if you get it from App Store. The suite is basically an app like OpenOffice but specifically for a Mac. I've been very pleased with the package although I've never used the powerpoint replacement.

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