As you may new, the newest version of Excel is out for a while. I have been using it since last 6 months and enjoying it. Today, lets understand 10 things in 2013 that wowed me (and probably you too).
Imagine Flash (the super hero, not browser add-in) is using Excel to extract the middle names of all his villains. Now, flash being flash, do you think he will slowly type out the middle names one at a time? Of course, he can learn Excel formulas and do it in one stroke. But he is too busy running around & saving earth. So, obviously he would use Flash Fill.
Flash Fill works almost like magic. It looks at what you are typing and sees if there is any pattern in it (based on adjacent columns etc.) and then suggests a fill down option. See this demo.
Bonus Tip: Press CTRL+E to activate flash fill.
Built-in Data Model
The top 3 reasons why analysts & managers spend so much time with Excel:
- Searching for that mysterious flight simulator Easter egg (#)
- Formatting worksheets
- Trying to link up multiple tables of data using VLOOKUP, Copy Paste and black magic.
Fortunately Excel 2013 makes #3 a breeze, thanks to built-in data model. Using Excel 2013 data model, you can link multiple tables with each other (one to one or one to many relationships) and generate powerful Pivot reports & charts with few clicks. Now you have more time to search for flight simulator.
These days everybody boasts of a massive spreadsheet. But almost no one needs all the data at same time. We are always filtering data for latest quarter, 6 months starting Mother’s day or 8 weeks from November 1st etc. Of course, you can use auto-filter and select all the dates. But it is a pain.
Thanks to Timelines, filtering for dates is a breeze. You can add timelines for any date column in a pivot table / pivot chart. I am sure your clients & bosses will love it.
Depending on your work, you may love or hate it. Quick analysis is a new button that appears when you select a bunch of data. Using this, you can do a lot of quick analysis tasks like adding conditional formatting, charts, sparklines or turning your data in to tables (or pivots). To be frank, I find this a bit of annoyance as my analysis work is never quick!
But I am sure there are tons of people who would find this very useful.
Excellent color scheme
The default color scheme of Excel 2013 is bold, creative and well contrasted. It is a far cry from Excel 2003’s color scheme (which is boring, glaring & poorly contrasted). Now, if you insert a default chart (or table, pivot etc.) from your data, you need to do very little clean up work. It is ready to go!!!
Distinct Counts & more in your Pivot
If you are really quiet, you can hear an analyst in your company screaming with joy once they realize that in Excel 2013, you can get distinct count of values in pivot reports!!!
That is right, using Excel 2013 pivot reports, you can find out distinct counts. No extra formulas or no arrays or no VBA. More power to you 🙂
In Excel 2013, there are many new formulas and improvements. My favorite new formulas are,
- Web formulas – WEBSERVICE(), FILTERXML() and ENCODEURL() (an example on these formulas)
- Information formulas – ISFORMULA(), FORMULATEXT(), SHEET() and SHEETS()
- Logical – XOR(), IFNA(), BITXOR(), BITOR(), BITAND() etc.
In Excel 2013, there are massive changes in charting. Now you can create combination charts, add secondary axis, set up smart data labels, format the chart or switch styles with ease. Microsoft revamped the default formats too so that when you make a chart from data, it is ready for presentation (with out too many tweaks).
Some of favorite charting features are,
- Recommended charts feature that tells you which charts go well with your data.
- A screen where you can change the chart type for each series easily.
- Common chart customizations are a click away (screenshots 1, 2 & 3)
- Ability to create scatter plots based on a variety of input data layouts (Jon Peltier’s article on this).
That said not everything is rosy with 2013 charting. For example, I do not like that we have to go thru sidebar pane to customize charts (formatting etc.) instead of dialog box.
One of the slickest things you will notice in Excel 2013 is the animation that you see when you move selection, do calculations or create charts. While this may be annoying to some, I find one good use for it. When you use charts coupled to interactive elements (like form controls, slicers etc.) they look sexier, thanks to Animation. See this demo to understand what I mean.
Power to you
Excel 2013 Professional Plus versions comes bundled with Power Pivot & Power View, 2 excellent features for powerful data analysis & visualization. You can think of these as full fledged BI solutions sitting right in your computer. The only glitch, Microsoft decided to give these features only Professional Plus users. I know it is annoying that home, office, professional level licenses cannot use Power Pivot even if they want to pay extra. What a pity!!!
Related: What is PowerPivot & How to use it?
3 things that are not so impressive
The whole cloud thing:
While it is understandable that Microsoft wants us all to purchase shiny new Surface tablets and use spreadsheets on the go, it seems like a bad idea. It annoys me that when I want to save a file, the first option I see is Chandoo’s sky drive. The process of saving files to sky drive and later viewing them in browsers is very slow and often results in errors or warnings. Instead, for desktop versions, why not make My computer as first preference?!?
Sharing & Social features:
Share to Facebook?!? seriously! Why would anyone want to share their spreadsheets on twitter or facebook? Do we really want facebook to know our annual budget & appraisal ratings (so that they can show us ads that say – Buy our scissors and cut your budget in half )?
Power Pivot is not for masses:
Microsoft positioned Power Pivot as BI for masses, offered it for free in Excel 2010. Then in Excel 2013, they went ahead and implemented a licensing policy that looks just as complicated as my lawyer’s invoice. Why would a for-profit company like MS want to not offer powerful tools like Power Pivot to masses for a fee? Why sell it only to corporate customers thru volume licensing program? beats me.
Despite these minor annoyances, I think Excel 2013 is a well designed, solid & powerful software ready to make more people awesome in their work. With features like tablet compatibility, data model, slicers & timelines, improved UI & color schemes it has quickly become my first choice when I want to use a spreadsheet (I run Excel 2010 & 2013 on same computer).
Are you using Excel 2013, what do you like about it?
Are you using Excel 2013? How do you like it? Which features are best according to you? Please share your thoughts and views using comments.