Excel 2010 in Microsoft Office 2010 Suite

The Microsoft Office 2010 Suite includes MS Excel 2010 application across all editions.

From Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 to Office Professional Plus 2010, Excel, along with Word, PowerPoint, and relative newcomer OneNote, is one of the Office apps that users will have installed regardless of what Office upgrade or new Office software package they buy. How much Excel actually gets used by those users depends a lot on just who uses that computer.

Most computer users are familiar with Microsoft Excel, even if the vast majority only make use of its most basic features. Technical support professionals from around the world can tell stories of watching as employees that they support using a calculator to add up a column of numbers in an Excel spreadsheet so that they can type the answer into the appropriate cell.

Fortunately, for most users, Excel has outgrown those days when its only utility to most was getting numbers lined up in rows and columns. Today, experts use Excel for so many complex functions that the big news of the Excel 2007 upgrade was that the spreadsheet could support even larger sizes of spreadsheets, up to 16,384 columns and over 1 million rows!

What does Microsoft Excel 2010 bring to the table for computer owners and businesses today? More usability, more functionality, and more speed and power.

Excel 2010 in Microsoft Office 2010 SuiteLike Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel 2007 was delivered with the new Ribbon interface. While the main purpose of the Ribbon in MS Word was helping users discover and use functions that might be useful, most users of Excel already knew what the program could do.

While a MS Word user might never even wonder if the word processor could do a three-column layout that wraps around a centered image, users of Excel need specific functions in order to perform the calculations they need.

And while certain features may have been hidden from obvious view, an accountant building a spreadsheet knew before he even looked that the function to create an amortization table, or calculate the present value of money, or the future value of money, based on certain variables, was there in Excel. All they had to do was go find it.

While the Ribbon interface may not have exposed any, “I didn’t know I could do that,” features to spreadsheet users, it did make using those features much easier. The Ribbon decreased the number of clicks required to access virtually any function, graph, or sorting feature.

The real power of the Ribbon interface for Excel users, however, was the ability to make customizations. That way, a user who relies on Excel for its financial calculations and features can have those front and center, while another user whose primary requirement of Excel is generating meaningful statistics from large amounts of raw data, can have the statistical formulas positioned just one click away.

For users who did not upgrade to Office 2007, the redesigned Ribbon interface will be the biggest change in the new Excel version. However, users upgrading from Excel 2007, will notice some nice touches that have made the Ribbon even easier to read and use.

Under the hood, Excel gets more power and higher performance. Excel 2010 supports 64-bit environments. Microsoft claims that “strategic” improvements in Excel 2007’s multi-threaded architecture will bring even more benefit from increasingly common multicore processors. While no hard ceiling has been provided by Microsoft, the company states that Excel 2010 can handle file sizes larger than the previous 2-gigabyte limit.

Excel 2010 in Microsoft Office 2010 Suite

The biggest new feature in Excel 2010 that is getting a lot of buzz and promotion is something called Sparklines. Sparklines are small charts that fit inside of a single cell.

At first blush, this seems to be a rather meaningless feature, but a closer look reveals the ability to present data that has more impact and power than ever before. What may be the most overlooked power of Sparklines is the ability to subtly include an extra bit of data that provides a level of explanation and detail that is seldom reviewed in certain quarters (Senior Management, for example?)

Consider for example, this typical spreadsheet being used in a meeting with upper management. Somewhere during the presentation, the Executive Senior Vice President (or is it Senior Executive Vice President) of whatever, suddenly asks if these department sales numbers are higher than last year.

The presenter may or may not have this data. It might be in an index, or even on a later page, but the reality is that whatever the presenter says or whatever page or chart he directs everyone’s attention to next, only a small yes/no, higher/lower, Excel 2010 in Microsoft Office 2010 Suitenumber is likely to be absorbed and retained by attendees.

Expanding the current table to include more data is one option, but everyone knows that only so much can be absorbed at once, and large tables and complicated graphs tend to make people’s eyes glaze over.

Now, consider the same chart using Sparklines.

In this case, Sparklines were inserted for each department showing the historical sales numbers. These small charts add very little data, size, or complexity to the table. The value of these Sparkline charts is that now, when the same question is asked, although now there might not be a need to even ask the question, it becomes easier to convey more complicated answers such as, “The numbers for Patio & Garden are lower this year, however, they are still up considerably over the last few …”

The Sparklines make it more likely that more than “No” gets through to the audience.

Excel 2010 PivotCharts and PivotTables

Excel’s other flashy feature upgrades come from improvements to PivotCharts and PivotTables. While both have been in Excel in some form since Office 2003, new tools and add-ins make them both easier to user and easier to understand so that their power can be harnessed by more users.

Chief among these tools is The Slicer feature which allows PivotTables to be dynamically segmented via an easier to follow graphical interface.

Many of Excel 2010’s newest features revolve around Microsoft’s strategy to increase how users can work together as well as access documents from anywhere, as a means to blunt Google’s continuing efforts in this area. In this arena, Excel adds the “Excel Web App” which allows multiple users to edit the same spreadsheet simultaneously.

Excel also gains better integration with Microsoft SharePoint via SharePoint Server 2010 and Excel Services. Finally, like all of the Office 2010 applications a mobile version for cellphones. Excel Mobile 2010 will make spreadsheet data not only readable on your smartphone, but also provide both the ability to edit and create graphs from the data.

Power users and corporate users implementing Excel 2010 mobile and collaboration features are likely the only users to really notice much of a difference between Excel 2007 and Excel 2010. But, users coming from Excel 2003 and earlier will be in for a treat, and since Excel comes with every version of Office 2010, chances are good that most users will just take Excel along for the upgrade ride anyway.


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