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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Upgrade to Excel 2007 or Excel 2010?

I recently received a call from an old colleague. His company was finally upgrading from Excel 2003 and asked if I could send him a book. I figured that I would send him Rev Up to Excel 2010: The Upgraders Guide to Moving from Excel 2003 to Excel 2010.
However, he replied that this would not work since his company is just now upgrading to Excel 2007! I’ve heard a lot of companies who have upgraded to Excel 2007 in the past few months and I don’t understand the logic.
I asked D if I could tell him why I thought this was a bad idea. He said it wouldn’t matter because he didn’t make the decision, some one in I.T. had made the decision to only go to Excel 2007. I pressed on, saying that I understand he did not want my advice, but I was going to give it anyway.
So, here is a recap of the next few minutes of that phone call:
  • Excel 2007 had to ship because Office 2007 was being released. That does not mean that it was ready to be shipped. In the big scheme of things, I consider Excel 2007 to be a giant, three-year-long beta release of Excel 2010. If you upgrade to Excel 2007, you are going to be getting a not-quite-ready-for-primetime product.
  • Excel 2007 is the only version of Excel where you could not customize the interface. If you felt that your adaption to the Ribbon would have been easier if Pivot Tables were on Data instead of Insert and if you thought that Insert Rows, Insert Columns, Insert Cells, and Insert Worksheet should be on Insert instead of Home, you were lost in Excel 2007. Microsoft added back the ability to move groups around in Excel 2010, but you did not have that option in the user interface in Excel 2007.
  • Excel 2007 is the only version of Excel to not have a File menu. Well, the File menu is there, but instead of the word “File”, it has a logo that people don’t think to click on. The File menu is back (and improved) in Excel 2010.
  • The new charting engine in Excel 2007 shipped with hundreds of bugs. Those have been fixed in Excel 2010.
  • If you still print in black and white, the chart Pattern fills were gone in Excel 2007. They are back in Excel 2010.
  • If you like to record macros, the macro recorder for charts was not working in Excel 2007. It is working in Excel 2010.
  • Data visualization purists hated the Excel 2007 Data Bars feature because there was no way to represent zero or negative numbers with a data bar. That’s been fixed in Excel 2010.
  • The “Select Multiple Items” feature in the pivot table filter fields was done, but not done well in Excel 2007. Now, in the light of Excel 2010, you can tell that this was simply pre-work on the way to adding slicers in Excel 2010.
In addition to fixing all of the problems above, Microsoft had time to add amazing new features in Excel 2010:
  • Adding slicers to pivot tables allows for multiple pivot tables to respond to one set of filters. These are great dashboards.
  • You can now publish your Excel workbooks to the web and have people interact with the workbooks in a browser.
  • The free PowerPivot add-in allows for you to build pivot tables using a mix of fields on Sheet1 and Sheet2. You can mash up data from Oracle with data in Excel, even if the Oracle data is 100 million rows. PowerPivot is amazing. The client version is free. But you absolutely need Excel 2010 to take advantage of it.
  • Excel 2010 can take advantage of more on-board RAM than Excel 2007. It does a better job of utilizing multiple CPU’s.
  • Excel 2010 natively supports sparklines; tiny charts that fit in the size of a cell.
  • There is more, but you would have to be a hard-core Exceller to appreciate it: (a) Double-Click the Fill Handle is no longer fooled by blank cells in the adjacent column, (b) You can now fill in the outer row labels in a pivot table in 1 click instead of a whole bunch of steps, (c) Live Preview now works with the various paste options such as Transpose, Paste Formats, and so on. (d) SmartArt offers almost twice as many layouts. (e) Remove Picture Background actually works and works well. (f) There is an Equation Editor. (g) Many of the stats and math functions have more accurate versions.
After going through this list of issues, D was able to go back to the I.T. department and convince them to go to Excel 2010 instead of Excel 2007.
If you find yourself faced with a similar choice; upgrading from any legacy Excel to either Excel 2007 or Excel 2010, I would definitely go with Excel 2010.

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