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Like Word, Excel was one of the Office 2007 applications to benefit from the ribbon interface. As such the transition from it to Excel 2010 is nothing like as dramatic. Anyone transitioning from Excel 2003, however, will find Excel 2010 a very different beast indeed. And, as we pointed out earlier, though it’ll take a little while to get used to the Ribbon, once you do you won’t want to go back. This is particularly true of Excel, since it puts at your fingertips so many of the items once buried beneath several menus.
Excel 2010 also brings a number of performance enhancements. If you’re a particularly demanding user and find yourself bumping against the Excel file size limit on a regular basis then the virtually unlimited 64-bit version will keep you happy, as will further performance enhancements and exploitation of multicore processors to speed rendering graphics and loading large worksheets.
These improvements, when combined with the multi-core enhancements made to the maths engine in Office 2007, give Excel a useful turn of speed and ensure it properly exploits our modern, powerful desktop PCs. Now all Microsoft need do is put the GPU to some number crunching use, though those in academia and other well-endowed organisations can take advantage of High Performance Computing (HPC) cluster processing to off-load processing tasks to other PCs.
Back on planet earth, regular users benefit from a couple of new features: Sparklines & Slicers. We’ll start with Sparklines, which is a neat little way of representing trends within a cell. Options include line, column and win/loss and though their effectiveness depends greatly on the range of data and size of the cell, it’s a nice way to represent a trend in the simplest possible manner.
Slicers are rather more powerful and exceedingly useful. They’re only available when using PivotTables or PivotCharts, and allow you interactively filter the results to see what you want. So, for example, if you’ve got your annual sales in a PivotChart, you can insert a slicer and see only the results for January, February and May, or only look at sales in a particular category of product. They’re incredibly easy to use and great for quickly drilling down through data, and can be given a little style to make them suitable for presentation, too.
Beyond these two headline features there are a few other features worthy of note. You can now record macros for chart elements, while improvements to the functions library see the addition of 50 new functions and greater accuracy overall. Excel also benefits from the Backstage View in similar respects to the Word application, making it a good deal easier to the print spread sheets and graphics directly from Excel – something that’s always been tricky in the past.
After the complete sea-change of the previous iteration, Excel 2010 is simply another step in the road. They are important steps, though, particularly where performance and scalability are concerned. We’re also exceedingly enamoured with Slicers, which are an absolutely joy for anyone who likes to tinker with their data.
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