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By Jen Morrison
Excel is a tool that businesses have been using since way back when Microsoft Office was first released; many businesses consider it absolutely critical for their success. But that very necessity can make it challenging to upgrade to a new version of Excel, because small differences can cause large problems when rolled out over a large corporate scale. Individual home users don’t have that problem, but might consider sticking with their old version of Excel just because they’re used to it.
Both the corporate and the home user are making a big mistake — Excel 2010 has some incredibly powerful new tools that turn it into much more than a simple spreadsheet. Here are 5 strong reasons to upgrade to the newest version of Excel 2010:
Up until Office 2010, there was a distinct difference in the way it felt to change a spreadsheet’s information (i.e. what data was in what cell), and the way it felt to manipulate the spreadsheet as a file (i.e. print, copy, or share it.) The in-document changes were immediately visible, relatively easy to find and execute, and well-documented; the meta-document tools were basically the opposite of all that.
Backstage views rewrite that script and make the file-manipulation tools not only easy to find and use, but more importantly they provide an immediate visual summary of what each tool does, from print previews that show you exactly what your document will look like when it comes out of the printer (including showing you if your printer will staple the papers together or print double-sided) to file sharing tools that show you exactly where your files are going in a visual and intuitive fashion. What you see is what you get — in-document and out.
Users of Office 2007 either loved or hated the ribbon — the tab-specific buttons that popped into being whenever a particular tab was highlighted. It allowed for many more buttons to be available for clicking, but it also did away with the previously-standard set of buttons that incorporated all of the most-used functions of Excel into a single set of always-present icons. For 2010, Office has added the ability to minimize the ribbon — but far more importantly, users can now easily customize the ribbon, even creating entirely new ribbons that can mimic the feel of the old-school static buttons from pre-2007 versions of Excel.
The best part? The tool that allows you to import and export ribbon settings for easy duplication of an excellent setup across your business — or from your PC to your spouse’s.
The Slicer is a new tool unique to Excel 2010 that essentially provides you with a list of all of the entries in a given column and allows you to hide (or show) all of the rows that have the selected entry in that column. The end result is that very large tables can easily be trimmed down to view just the data relevant to a given entry without having to perform massive Sorts and then undo them to get your table back to the way it belongs. It sounds simple — and it is — but it’s also very, very useful and powerful.
Sparklines are a new graphical option that gives users the ability to add small, one-cell charts in the middle of a spreadsheet. Imagine reading a chart of, for example, sales per day over a week — and then, without having to flip pages, seeing a small visual representation of each row in that chart as it’s final column. It makes mentally assessing and processing data trends incredibly easy and intuitive.
Excel has always prided itself on it’s massive mathematical functionality, and 2010 is no exception. The spreadsheet has added a few new mathematical functions on this release, but they have also gone back over dozens of older functions and made changes that not only improve mathematical accuracy, but allow for a wider range of input and output as well. They’ve also dramatically upgraded the Solver, a plugin that allows you to determine the optimal value of a cell based on a variety of inputs. All told, the average home user might never notice, but a big business will see significant benefits to the upgrades in Excel 2010’s basic functionality.
Taken individually, each of the changes that Office 2010 brings with it is a good reason to upgrade — as a collective, from the WYSISYG Backstage file manipulator to the invisible-but-critical basic functionality upgrade, Excel 2010 is more than worth the time and energy it takes to make the switch.