Excel is a popular spreadsheet application and is, along with Word and PowerPoint, one of the major programs in Microsoft's productivity suite called Microsoft Office. In fact Excel can be thought of as the primary Office application as it was considered back in 1993 as the 'killer application' for the personal computer. It was in that same year that Word and PowerPoint were bundled with Excel into Office and the graphical user interfaces of the two programs were re-designed to conform to Excel. The latest version called Excel 2007 has many improvements that are generally deemed advantageous to beginners as well as experienced users.
- The Ribbon Interface. The biggest change that Microsoft implemented in all of its major Office applications is the replacement of the familiar structure of toolbars and menus with the Ribbon Interface. This new grouping of commands and functions is officially known as Fluent User Interface. Its implementation aims to put the commands and menu icons up front and make them readily accessible to the user. This change is seen to turn the learning curve for Office applications into a gentler slope. Veteran users however who have mastered the older versions may initially have to adjust their techniques as some commands and functions have been regrouped and relocated. But by and large this new regrouping can shorten the procedures done in these applications. What used to involve a run through a series of drop down menus and pop-up windows can now be accomplished with fewer mouse clicks. The Ribbon interface works as a set of tabs with each containing several groupings of relevant commands. When you move the mouse scroll wheel on the Ribbon, it will cycle through the various tabs. A tab can be minimized by double clicking on its label.
- New command groupings. In Excel 2007 the Home tab contains font number and cell formatting, alignment, search and filtering, clipboard, and styles commands. These are the most commonly used commands and a beginner will probably get a head start by simply exploring the commands in this tab. The Insert tab contains mostly tools for making charts and they contain their own contextual tabs for editing. The Formulas tab contains data management tools for named cells and auditing for errors. The Data tab has more advances filtering and sorting functions and contains linking tools for connecting to other worksheets and importing data.
- Other improvements. Excel 2007 worksheets are larger than those in older versions. They now have 16,384 columns and 1,048,576 rows. Older versions only had 256 columns and 65,536 rows. This doubles Excel's memory management from 1 gigabyte to 2 gigabytes. The 2007 version can also take advantage of new hardware standard of dual processors. One new excellent feature is Live Preview and this is in the 2007 versions of Word and PowerPoint as well. This allows users to see the effect of any changes they intend to do on the worksheet before it is applied. An add-in feature which you can download from the official site is the ability to save a worksheet in portable document format (.pdf).
Although Excel 2007 and its associated Office programs were released in conjunction with Microsoft's new Vista operating system, this application can be installed in a system running on Windows XP with the Service Pack 2.