Excel 2010 beta is out today. For those who read my review of Excel 2007, I mentioned that the chances of my being able to try out Excel 2010 anytime soon weren’t very high. Excel 2010, I thought at that time, and considering how Excel 2007 turned out, would simply be too big a resource hog to work with the hardware that my pc runs on. In that case I would have to give my faithful old pc or Excel 2010, either one of them, a pass.
You can imagine my joy and excitement when I ran a fresh minted install of the public beta and realized that Excel 2010 rocks – not only does it beat Excel 2007 hands down in the looks department, it gets close to Excel 2003 in terms of performance.
First reaction to Excel 2010
“This thing is built for performance”. Like Barrack Obama being awarded the Nobel even before he had a chance to earn it (thanks due to his predecessor), Excel 2010 will win many over (me included) simply because it undoes a great deal of “bloat” that had crept into the 2007 version. Mine is an old pc and I could tell even without a performance test that the Microsoft team has taken the feedback about the sluggish performance of Excel 2007 seriously. Excel 2007 looked gorgeous but where it gained in looks and ‘discoverability’ of features, it gave away in performance. Excel 2010 tries to reclaim the lost ground. I could see the improvement in rendering time simply by switching between two spreadsheets, one in Excel 2010 and the other in 2007. The later was a resource hog – something that neither me nor my pc ever truly got used to.
I am not sure where the punch comes from (less graphic clutter, code enhancements) but in some of the initial tests, Excel 2010 comes up with performance levels close to Excel 2003 leaving Excel 2007 far far behind. (I’ll share my findings in the next few posts) The improvements in performance and response times, in many scenarios, are surprisingly large – and when I say large I am not talking in % terms (say a 10% here and a 30% there) – they are of a different magnitude altogether. On one hand its nice to know that such power has been unlocked but on the other I wonder what prevented it from being the case in Excel 2007.
Improvements in performance and rendering aside, there are a few well thought out changes that have been introduced. Let’s have a look, shall we.
Excel 2010 introduces a new feature called the slicer. Think of a slicer as a ‘remote control’ for a pivot table. A silcer serves the same purpose as the field drop-downs in a pivot table – just that the slicers can float around freely anywhere in the workbook.
A slicer shows the list of items within a particular field in a box. When you click one or more items in a slicer, the pivot table will filter itself based on the selection one has made. Each field in the pivot table can have its own slicer. To insert a slicer all you have to do is to click on the ‘Insert’ tab on the ribbon and then click on the ‘Slicer’ button.
Once you have created a slicer, you can start slicing the pivot table simply by clicking the various items within the slicers. Watch this space as we cover this exciting feature in greater detail.
Another useful addition is the sparklines. Sparklines are minature charts that fit inside a cell. Sparklines are fun to make and equally useful when you simply want to show the trend.
Excel 2010 introduces sparklines in three different chart forms – the bar, the line and the win-loss. Your excel dashboards will never look the same once you get used sparklines.
The Ribbon is More Customizable
For those who were a bit flummoxed by the ribbon in Excel 2007, there’s less reason to be so. The ribbon is a lot more customizable in Excel 2010. You can turn on (and off) the various parts of the ribbon and add your own custom shortcuts.
The entire menu that was accessible under the windows icon in the earlier version has now been given a separate tab of its own in the ribbon under ‘File’ reverting back to what it was in Excel 2003.
When you click on it, you are presented with a well laid out window which you can use to publish the workbook to sharepoint, access advanced options and the other usual options.
Excel 2010 also introduces the copy paste helpers. Depending on the context, helper options appear when you right click and paste. So a different set of shortcuts will appear when you paste cells versus when you paste and image.
Another feature introduced in Excel 2010 is ‘protected viewing’. According to the MSDN blog, “While in this mode, Excel runs in a ‘sandbox’ which means that you are now better isolated from any malicious code that could be contained within the file. In the past, you had to decide if you trusted the author/origin of the document before viewing the contents. Now, with Protected View, you can make a more informed decision before exposing your computer to potential vulnerabilities.” In Excel 2007, when opening files over the internet, you had to make the choice of either opening it (without knowing the contents) or ignoring it (no use).
The protected view feature in Excel 2010 lets you open and view the file without having to expose your computer to its contents. If you find that the file is from a trusted source, you can enable and grant access to the file to your computer later. Learn more about this feature here.
The Macro Recorder Records Shape Movements
If you recorded changes to a shape object in Excel 2007, the macros turned out to be blank. Excel 2010 fixes that. But then that’s more of a bug fix than any real improvement.
Image Editing gets better
Although I did not spend too much time here, the image editor has a few more options such ‘Picture Layout’ and ‘Remove Background Option’.
Charts Get Back on Track
Double clicking works! This was one change that really made me cry tears of joy. One can now create a chart and then be able to modify its various part simply by double clicking on the elements. Double clicking opens up the respective dialog boxes as used to happen with good old Excel 2003. No more frustrated searching for the right option or trying to remember where everything was located on the ribbon. The dialog box aren’t the same as 2003 but then I feel happy by the very fact that they have come back home that I can live with them even if they have dirty feet and a few fleas on them
A light bit of a change in how Pivot Charts tie up with the pivot table. While Excel 2007 has its pivot chart filter pane, excel 2010 let the pivot table field list govern the structure. The chart filters have again been incorporated in within the chart area. You can’t move the filters around as one could do in Excel 2003 but its still an improvement (though marginal) over the previous version – altough it could have been improved further.
The initial euphoria aside, Excel 2010 does not break new ground in the field of computation. It adds a few nifty features that are well thought out but not pathbreaking. Excel 2010 is definitely better than its predecessor partly because its fixes some issues (that disappointed frequent users) and partly because it reverts back to its roots in Excel 2003. In essence – Excel 2010 is what Excel 2007 should have been. But then … pardon me using a cliché … better late then never.