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Excel 2013 Preview


Microsoft recently released the consumer preview of Microsoft Office 2013. The preview is available free of charge at: http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/en [1] 

This is part two of a series of articles describing some of the changes and new features in Office 2013.

Microsoft Excel 2013 includes the traditional ribbon style interface of the 2007/2010 versions of Excel, with some exciting improvements – especially when it comes to how you save and share documents. Check out the article on Word 2013 [2] to see some of the existing save and sharing features in Office 2013. Let’s get to it!

The default screen when you open Excel 2013 is the new template window, which lets you search both local and online templates to create new documents. If you select an online template, it will automatically download and open for you. This window also shows you recent documents you’ve opened for quick access to them. This new starting location is really great for the novice users and for someone looking for a quick starting point to create a spreadsheet.

The most dramatic change (and helpful) is the quick analysis tool which lets you do a wide variety of functions by just highlighting some data in your spreadsheet. The types of things you can do are not new to Excel, but the ease of access and the quick preview showing you what the function will look like is.

One option under the quick analysis tool is formatting, which lets you format the information a variety of ways. For the example above, hovering over data bars fills the cell with a bar showing the percent of the column maximum value that value is. In the example, you can quickly see which orders had the highest price and total. Included in this option set is a greater than tool which is fantastic for highlighting only information of a certain number or higher. For instance, if you wanted to only highlight orders over $500.00 that required special delivery insurance.

The totals section in quick analysis will let you do things such as running total, sum, average, count, % total and the preview for the option selected will automatically appear on the next row of collumn in your spreadsheet. The example above shows the % of total in bold black text on the right.

The charts tool lets you create smart charts, which will display graphs of your information in an easy to understand format. The best part of these new charts is when you change a variable the chart will redraw in a very fluid manner to show you the effect the change has had on the other values. This is great for visualizing in meetings how a 1% change in profit could effect the bottom line.

Excel 2013 also offers the same SkyDrive integration and default saving I mentioned in the Word 2013 article. to see the example document I’ve talked about in the SkyDrive cloud click here [3].

Does Excel 2013 have any problems? Oddly enough the current implementation of SkyDrive does not allow multiple users to edit a document at the same time. You receive instead a warning advising you the file is locked. The positive of this method is you won’t accidentally edit a spreadsheet someone else has open, but the downside is the spreadsheet can’t be opened at multiple computers at the same time. This feature of other cloud based documents is useful, and we’re hoping Microsoft fixes this oversight shortly.

Is Excel worth the upgrade? It really depends how often you work with data. If you want some really powerful tools to quickly analyze information along with the ability to save and share documents in the cloud then the answer is yes.

Keep an eye out for the third in this series of articles on Office 2013 where I discuss Powerpoint 2013.