Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Office 2007: First Impressions: Excel 2007

Correct me if I am wrong, but I do believe that Excel is one application that is often used in business circles. To take such a program to a next level is definitely a challenge. How often are open source spreadsheets like Gnumeric or OpenOffice.org Calc not compared to Excel. Calc had exactly the same size in terms of rows and colums and serious efforts are made to make sure Excel sheets can be imported flawlessly. And now Microsoft is moving Excel forward.

It is also one of the ‘ribbonized’ applications. The worksheet size has increased to 16.385 by 1.048.576. Wow. More than one million rows… This should be enough to calculate my life’s savings.

I am beginning to get a liking to the Microsoft Office Online feature. When you want to open a new spreadsheet it is definitely useful to browse throught the categories and the various offered templates. Both home users and business users will find something of their liking.

The ribbon is more complex than under Word. It is both the former menu with various categories of functions, where the ribbon shows what is possible. The naming of the standard menu is logical: Insert, Page Layout, Formulas, Data, Review and View. I am seeing lot’s of functions for the first time and I guess that is exactly the purpose of the ribbon. You can link Excel to a SQL server. Maybe it was possible before, but I didn’t know that.

One feature I like is the WYSIWYG mode. You can change the header, the footer and the content of your worksheet in this mode instead of only checking how it will look on paper. Maybe it is only a small thing, but I know already for sure that editing a series of reports in 2007 will be a whole lot easier with this.

If you are not so expert under Excel you will like the tooltip screens. On the laptop it takes about a second for them to appear. Slow enough for the experienced users, fast enough for someone who is browsing the functions to see whether they are useful. If you are not an expert yet this feature will help you to the next level.

In short, I look forward to using Excel in the workplace (where I will have to use it most). Microsoft did a great job on the interface and the accessibiltiy of functions. At the same time I do hope that the OpenOffice.org team will sit down and start rethinking their project. Up to now they have tried to imitate Microsoft Office as much as possible. That made sense but it doesn’t anymore. It will make sense to come with an even more intuitive menustructure that sets OpenOffice.org apart.

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