What is the most useless feature in Excel? [poll]

Posted on February 12th, 2010 in Charts and Graphs - 40 comments

What do you think is the most useless feature in MS Excel?

I know there are a ton of cool, extremely useful features in excel. But it also comes with a few really un-necessary features.

For me, the most useless feature seems to be a 3D surface chart. I have tried to figure why this is used, but no success. It seems like a chart that I would never use.

Surface Charts in Excel - What is the use?

The other feature that I almost never used is “spreadsheet background images”.

What about you? what do you think is the most useless feature in Excel?

PS: Did I say I love excel, oh it is such a darling.

PPS: You have a fun weekend

Written by Chandoo
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40 Responses to “What is the most useless feature in Excel? [poll]”

  1. Vipul says:

    Hey Chandoo, I agree surface charts are rarely used, but I had used them a while ago.. This was for a two variable sensitivity/scenario analysis.. x and z axis being the 2 variable and sensitive inputs with the result/output on the y axis.. The chart was surely helpful in depicting my point of view, but not super ultra effective though..

  2. Finnur says:

    I'd say every 3d chart is useless to me. They look awful.

    • Dan ' says:

      I agree. The “Welcome to Excel 2013” even says “We added 3D pie charts back when we thought 3D charts were cool”

  3. Stružák says:

    I've never understood why there is a possibility to INSERT a CLIP ART in an Excel workbook. OK, I can imagine using Clip Arts in PowerPoint presentations, but in a spreadsheet application? No way...

  4. sam says:

    Data->Form in the manner it is currently implemented....

  5. Tom says:

    4 me it is the Lookup function behind the right click. Who uses this technologie instead of google or other search engines?
    Does somebody uses this 'feature'?

  6. Hui... says:

    The insert Clip Art is a great way to quickly add Company Logo's etc to Excel Pages, Charts etc

  7. Gregor Erbach says:

    The single-line box for editing formulas. Formulas can get pretty complex, and it would be great to have a editor that formats and indents the formula in a human-readable way, like you have it for any programming language. Sometimes I spend ages trying to find a syntax error in a complex Excel formula.

    And while we're at it, in order to add comments to your formulas, you have to resort to the hack of using the N() function - not very elegant.

  8. Gerald Higgins says:

    I can see the possible usefulness of the 3d surface chart. I don't think I've ever actually used one, but I've always had this idea in my head that I COULD use it to model a 3d surface, such as a range of hills, if I had the time and skill.

    I think some of the other standard charts are even more useless, for example the pyramid and cone charts.

    I'm not going to say much about pie charts here - I know lots of people use them, even when they shouldn't, so I guess for that reason they are not completely useless.

  9. David says:

    I'm actually using the background in an odd way right now.

    We need a map of Kentucky counties where the counties are shapes and our budget is $0. So I'm using a county map as a background and using the free form shape to trace each county.

    It sounds ugly but it actually doesn't look traced.

  10. Jakob says:

    The most useless feature in Excel in my opinion more like a bug in my eyes... when double-clicking the border of the selcted cells, the last cell in a table/row/column is selected. What is the point besides confusing and irritating the inaccurate mouse-user? Does anyone know how to turn this bug of?

  11. Nimesh says:

    Close and Exit menus are the most useless features I think.
    Who uses that? Everyone either uses shortcut (Ctrl+F4, Alt+F4) or closed it from the [x] button in Title Bar/Control Bar.

  12. Scott says:

    I have to agree with Tom's comments regarding the Look Up function. I can't see much use at all for this.

  13. TomD says:

    For me the "CONCATENATE(_)" function is the most useless. Why would anyone type out this function when all they need to do is use "&" between arguments...
    Does Microsoft really think we can't remember what "&" means?

  14. Jon Peltier says:

    Jakob -
     
    That feature you don't like is a useful navigation tool, to help get around large tables.
     
    how about the ribbon? Nobody has mentioned that yet. But without the menus and toolbars, I guess it's a little useful, just not as much as what it replaced.
     
    What's really useless is most 3D charts, particularly pie, bar and columns (especially with cone or pyramid shaped bars), and the 3d line chart - what were they thinking? 3D surface charts do have a place, if used very carefully.

  15. sixseven says:

    Here's your answer:
    Office Button --> Send --> Internet Fax

    Jon, I hated the ribbon until I realized I could use the mouse scroll wheel to zip between tabs.

  16. how2excel says:

    Most useless feature in Excel is surely the =ROMAN function. Why on earth would you use Roman numerals in a Spreadsheet?

  17. Like Jon and other, any 3D charts seems pretty useless to me.

  18. noone says:

    @Gregor Erbach

    It is not a "single-line box for editing formulas".
    If the formula is long it will be wrapped to several lines.
    To see it click on the arrows in the far right of the formula field (or drag the border below).

    But more important - you can linebreak within a formula with Alt+Enter it to make formulas readable, for example:

    =IF(A1>B1;
    "A1 is bigger than B1";
    "A1 is equal or smaller than B1")

    I would have to agree with you though that it would be splendid to have an "editor that formats and indents the formula in a human-readable way, like you have it for any programming language". I too spend a lot of time in complex formulas, even though I made it on lots and lots of rows with Alt+Enter.

    I also agree that it would be great to be able to comment without using N().

    Does anyone know of any addons or additional programs for formula-editing with commenting?

  19. Jeff Weir says:

    I hate the "Location where connections are used in this workbook" box in the dialog box you get when you select data/connections (in Excel 2007). Even when you select a connection from the top part of the box, you still have to click on the message "click here to see where the connections are used" to see any info about it. Waste of a click.

    I also loathe the fact that when you are editing a range in one of excel's ref edit boxes, and if you want to move within the dialog box to amend a bit of a formula, but forget to push f2, it shoves in a reference to a cell on the worksheet.

  20. Patricia says:

    I definitely vote for the pyramid and cone charts. I also think Word Art in Excel is pretty useless.

  21. iesmatauw says:

    =bahttext(x) and the diagonal border in the cell

  22. Hui... says:

    @Patricia, Word Art is used by thousands of people.
    Mostly School Children submitting tacky looking projects.

  23. mike says:

    Chandoo, I've seen some pretty useful applications of 3D charts is utility consumption analysis. I can send an example if you wish. The radar chart is far more useless than the 3D charts.

  24. Cloud02 says:

    @TomD

    I have encountered once where using "&" was not a possibility because of too many cells or length or something similar and i had to use concatenate.
    3d charts are the most useless imo. along with =bahttext(x)

  25. Phil says:

    @iesmatauw: Yep, although I have posted something about bahttext, I have not understood why it is still there... Is there such a big audience in Thailand? Is it because parts of Excel have been programmed in Thailand this is Microsoft's way to say thank you? Please do not misunderstand me, it might be useful for some people, but I see no use in it.

    @Finnur: I would not agree with you because if you use a 3D-chart in a Pivot-chart you can have some quick insights in data (e. g. some interesting outliers)

    besides the Bahttext-function I would join Chandoo in saying 3D-surface is what I will maybe never understand (maybe it's because I'm not that statistic guy 😉 )

  26. greg says:

    As a bio-scientist 3 D plots are quite useful to model the effects of different variables in a moderately complex system. There is a whole industry built up around 'statistical design of experiments' which is a fancy way of forcing an experimenter into constructing multiple studies, each becoming more exacting. Each study is an exercise in measuring the effect that a variable has on the system. Often, the maximum or minimum area exemplified by the 3-d plot is carried to the next experiment, but with the new experiment your new design focuses only on the data boundary created by the previous experiment.
    Now someone please explain a good use of 'cone' plots. Other than some 1980's Madonna graphic of her lingerie usage.

  27. Anil says:

    Merge Cells has always been more of a pain than a benefit.

    My humble opinion....

  28. chip says:

    I'd agree that it's the bahttext() function. I'm surprised it took so long to show up in the list. The rumor is something like the Excel development team liked to order food from a Thai restaurant and they needed to convert to that. Sounds a bit specious since they'd have to pay in American dollars anyway, and it's not like they could read the resulting text to the person on the phone. My opinion is that it's just a lame Easter egg jammed in when Gates had forbidden all such expressions of fun due to the consumer complaints of product bloat.

  29. Chandoo says:

    @All.. going by the comments, excel must be one of the very well crafted softwares. There is very little fat.

  30. DFF says:

    How2excel -
    "Most useless feature in Excel is surely the =ROMAN function. Why on earth would you use Roman numerals in a Spreadsheet?"

    Are you forgetting Super Bowl Betting pools?!

  31. Chris says:

    I just made a version of our weekly labor utilization report in roman numerals. To two decimals.

    Our Company was founded on April 1 many years ago. April Fool's stunts are a matter of pride.

  32. Terry says:

    Re: 3D surface charts - I use them to plot magnetic flux densities in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Suites. Contour Charts are indispensable to some scientific projects and research.

  33. Rachel says:

    @TomD - I use concatenate all the time, it's one of the most useful functions i've learnt recently.

  34. Vera says:

    My favored two are:

    Merge cells feature under format. Years back the default was Center Across Selection, and Merge was buried somewhere down under. About 6-7 years back if I am correct, some smart asses at Microsoft said, let's put the Merge visible on the menu, because it is such a "useful" feature (what morons). In my English the word merge=to bring together, to join, combine, unite things. In Microsoft English, merge means to join the space of more cells, keep the info ONLY from the upper left cell and lose, drop the info from the subsequent cells in the selection. Merge does that vertically and horizontally. But if you use Merge, you can kiss good bye other really useful features like, no more Sorting in the area of the merged cell, and problems inserting cells. As long as the Merge doesn’t keep the info from all cells in selection, you can achieve the same thing horizontally using Center Across Selection and vertically just put your info in the cell in the middle of the column.

    2nd useless feature is function “Type”. Over the years they changed this function, probably starting with Excel 2000 or 2003 they changed it to return if a cell has a number, text, logical, error or array. You can get that info using other functions. I remember that before Excel 2000, the function it was supposed to return 4 if a cell has a formula. Wow, that was so useful, I could use that in so many other formulas, but, the damn thing never worked, Microsoft knew about the bug, they couldn’t fix it for years and version of Office and in the end they just dropped it, a very constructive solution.

  35. mike mcneal says:

    3-D charts can be used in manufacturing to show the edge contours of products made, based on measurement data. It's very handy in verifying before/after improvement actions on a product. We've used them to locate abnormal variations in a shape/contour, visually. We find them handy.

  36. SpreadSheetNinja says:

    The date picker, Tought i hear they removed it after Office 2007, but who uses those anyway.

    A completely useless feature that they should remove from older Versions of microsoft Office.

    I mean seriusly who needs a date picker on a Excel sheet when you can easely make a VBA enabled Excel sheet function.

    Security bonus it will scare Your boss when Your Excel sheet asks for permission to run vba code that might contain virus.

    Not to mention its so easy to program said date picker they removed 🙂

    Hopefully nobody will notice the irony here 🙂

  37. Rob B says:

    The most useles function in Excel 2010 is Help.
    Those idiots in Microsoft have destroyed what was a really useful procedure in the old days.
    First they changed it to HTML from the old HLP text file. How did that help.
    Then they changed it to something that supposedly looks like a browser window.
    All that work to screw upsomething useful!!
    No wonder Google is doing so well - at least one can find answers to excel questions with it!

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