As well as introducing an offline mode, the new version offers contextual help and a range of new formulas. One simple change which is likely to appeal to a lot of people is that text will automatically flow from one cell to the next if the adjacent cell is empty, rather than automatically wrapping. (Microsoft’s rival Excel handles overflowing text in a similar way.)
The addition of offline mode is welcome, though it should be treated with caution; Docs already has offline support but I’ve found that syncing back to the online version can be unpredictably slow. Being able to launch separate filtered views of data makes sense when you’re collaborating with others.
To switch to the new version, you need to tick the ‘Try the new Google Sheets’ box under ‘Editing’ in Google Drive settings.
As the switch page warns you, a number of options haven’t yet been moved to the ‘new’ version, including spell check and protected sheets. Google is also killing off a number of features permanently, including the ‘Solve’ option which tries to predict optimum outcomes given a set of inputs.
Verdict? They’re all welcome improvements, but Sheets still doesn’t match Excel for features. That said, for basic operations, it’s still a very viable solution.
New Google Sheets: faster, more powerful, and works offline [Google Enterprise Blog]