The new features of Microsoft Excel 2010 are by far the most impressive seen since its advent. Many other spreadsheet programmes have used the same or similar interface but never quite come to the level of functionality which Excel does. And, after releasing the Microsoft 2010 version (and soon 2012), MS Excel is likely to remain at the top of the spreadsheet application league table.
What has Microsoft done for us? The programmers at Microsoft have listened to their audience. The people at Microsoft performed a major study on uses of all its applications. Instead of only seeking advice from businesses and major companies from around the world, the folks at Microsoft went to the average users to ask them what issues and features were missing in their use of the interface. As an aside, Bill Gates had hoped to improve the use of the programmes for home use because parents and children were not communicating upon arrival at home. As many of us would know, parents would be likely to switch on the tele and the kids were at home playing with their online games, not a genuine recipe for family unity. ;)
After listening to their audience, Microsoft introduced the ribbon interface beginning with 2007, with large enough to read icons and an easy placement of all their tools under subcategories which are easy to understand. And, although there is about a fortnight of re-learning to be done by the average user, my delegates seem to agree this interface is much easier to use than in prior versions (sorry 2003 users). Along with these new characteristics, the file tab on Excel is easier to find as it reads file instead of the Microsoft Icon. Additionally the old 'tools, options' menus which no one seem to use unless they considered themselves to be a Microsoft guru combine the page setup, the print preview and the viewing of the printout on the same page, meaning a user will not need to use three different menus to simply print out their spreadsheet information.
Moving to the specific options for MS Excel, the new charting features are simply a level above any prior version. Charts are brighter, stylish and provide a view which adds visual features only seen before in editions of MS PowerPoint. In addition, Microsoft has added charting features which can be viewed in the cells themselves. How smart was this? When enquiring my users of their need for immediate data information, these 'cell charts' give the user and their audience what they need most, an immediate clarity of dataset information. This new set of charting features was derived from an old feature, 'conditional formatting'. In prior versions, this feature was a high, medium and low basic colouration unit; helpful, but not very customisable. Today, the same feature includes data bars, colour scales and icon sets (my particular favourite). And, each of these features may be used together or separately as one requires.
The developers at Microsoft did not stop there. Due to the need for database tools in Microsoft Excel, (as many folks do not use MS Access on a regular basis), they added a 'format as table' feature which creates database tables right on the spreadsheet. No more worries about sorting and filtering as these items are now embedded in the new table feature. Additionally, the table expands as you need. For example, if you have January's numbers typed on the sheet, when you are ready to add February's numbers, the table will expand and add the sorting and filtering for this column as well. Pretty fabulous for those of us hooked on Excel.
Finally, the newest Microsoft Excel feature not seen in other versions are the 'sparklines'. I do not know much about the term, but I can see what it does; it adds trendlines directly into a cell. These trendlines can be a line, a bar chart or for you fans of football, a win/loss feature based on positive and negative numbers. These features are linked to the datasets allowing users to manage tasks, datasets, completion dates and so on as information is entered. If you have not tried this feature yet, go to the Insert tab and try them out. The response we have seen from this new feature outweighs all the other items mentioned thus far.
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