What’s New in Excel 2013Luis Federico Peña
Throughout the years, the Microsoft team has made a tradition of bringing new ways, possibilities and improvement on the speed of their applications. The latest versions of Excel have been getting better each time they come out. That’s the case of Microsot Office 2013, and specially, Excel 2013.
Almost everyone will find something to appreciate in Excel 2013. It’s more functional and easy to use. Some of them are small and may rarely be used. Others, though, are very advanced and require expert knowledge. Knowing the main features will help you understand better how to work in this new software. In this article I have compiled the new features that come in this version of this powerful spreadsheet program. Here we go…
Interface Look and Feel
There isn’t much of a change to the interface of Excel 2013 compared to its predecessor, Excel 2010, but it’s difficult not to notice the capitalization of the Ribbon. Even though this can be changed to be capital and lower cases, it certainly makes it easy to distinguish the names of the menus. One important thing in this is that they decided to use a bright white in the Ribbon. Anyway, it can be modified in the Options panel. It’s a mmater of time but users to adapt to this change.
The Start Screen
The Start Screen is new to 2013, and is the first thing you’ll notice when you open Excel 2013. Whilst you can disable this, it’s quite handy for quickly accessing your files, especially if you use the pin feature. It’s also a quick way to get to templates – these are handy if you’re needing some inspiration – and getting to the Skydrive.
Another key feature is the changed start up page. When you first open Excel 2013, provided templates will display which are useful for design work or other jobs using Excel 2013 or its spreadsheets.
Some of the new licencing options mean you can have one licence which opens your Office across different devices and will save your preferences, which is pretty cool. You can save your documents in the SkyDrive for portability across devices.
With Excel 2013, you can also share documents and have people working on the same document and the same time using Skycloud and the Excel WebApp. Note that you still can’t work on the same worksheet at the same time if you are working on a local version of the file in your Skydrive. This is necessary to protect the files against conflicting changes.
The biggest change you’ll notice in Excel 2013 is that it is now compatible with touch devices as well as the entire Office 2013 suite of products. For touch devices, there are enlarged spaces between commands and icons. Running Excel 2013 on touch screens is even easy for people with large fingers.
The Flash Fill
Perhaps the closest thing to magic Excel users will ever see in a workbook is Flash Fill. This feature anticipates formatting and data requirements by recognizing patterns so it can finish what you start. This tool allows you, literatly, to perform operations and finish tasks in a matter of seconds, instead of several hours. It’s exactly as I say.
When using Excel for data entry or data analysis, the user traditionally spends a lot of time taking database dumps and then manipulating the data into usable information. Some of the common challenges users face with such tasks is usually around standardising the data – for example, inserting hyphens at specific places in the data, separating a long string of characters into separate columns based on separators, etc. Smart macros, functions and manipulation using text-to-columns has been historically used to achieve this, however with the new Flash Fill feature; Excel actually learns from what you do with the data and accordingly, fill the rest of the column for you.
Excel has always had some fantastic data analysis features, but this version has made these more accessible to users with the new Quick Analysis feature. Just highlight some data, and click on the little icon at the bottom right hand side and instantly you will have a context box with a summary of the most useful tool you might need. This will offer you several options to very quickly analyze your data; Conditional Formatting, Charts, Totals, Tables and Sparklines.
You can also get an instant preview of the selected option so you can immediately see if that’s how you want your analysis to look.
Chart Recommendations & Customizations
Identifying the best chart to depict your data in Excel can be quite challenging and time consuming, as it’s often a matter of trial and error. The new Chart Recommendations feature in Excel makes this process much easier by recommending some chart representations which could suit well for the data selected. Despite some times we need to tweek the chart a little bit, the majority of times, the recommendation works fine.
The best thing is, that even having to make minor changes to the graph, this tool ALWAYS saves you time.
See in the example below, the Recommended Chart feature has quite accurately recommended a column or pie chart for the data selected.
Once you have selected the chart you think is best for your data representation, customising it to deliver maximum information and getting it to look just right can be a little fiddly at times. I’ve found the new Chart Elements to be very useful. It provides instant access to all the most useful customisations with a single right click on the chart. This also works well for touch screen users – in fact Excel 2013 has been designed to make working with touch screen in general a lot easier.
Lastly, Excel 2013 has a new, simple and cool way to format the data labels. This new feature has all the great data label formatting aspects in Excel into a single focused pane rather than the ribbon – where it was quite easy to get lost.
I could go on and on even further about all the new features of Excel 2013, but the points I have listed above are the ones I think that most users who use Excel for the purpose of Financial Modelling and Analysis will find the most useful. There are a few other new things worth a quick mention, however:
• Single window per worksheet allows the users to work on multiple spreadsheets with ease, especially when they have multiple monitors connected to their computer.
• New web-based functions help in building links to web services, read XML content and provide great add-ons for developers and advanced Excel users to connect with online content
• You can create relationships between tables for enhanced data analysis without having to consolidate all the information into a single table and create pivot charts
• Slicers, previously only available for pivot tables are now available in Excel tables as well.
• PowerPivot is now a built-in feature of Excel 2013, which is a fantastic new business intelligence tool.
The new Excel 2013 has many interesting improvements over the 2010 version. For most part though, the enhancements are primarily towards easing the access to data analysis features already present in Excel 2010 – this is of course mainly to accommodate for touch screen users.
As an advanced Excel user with good command over Pivot charts, macros, functions and charting, there may be little that this new version has to offer in terms of features – but for people who may not be as good with these features, Excel 2013 makes life a lot easier in this regard. The adaptability to touch screen and the cloud computing are welcome additions to this release for everyone and so are some of the features with regards to linking tables from various sources and enhancements to pivots and charts.
In my opinion, if you are looking at cloud computing as the future of your organization, moving to Excel 2013 is a natural choice. Also if you use the new data analysis and representation functions extensively, this new release can justify the investment. For all other cases, there is no pressing reason to move towards this new release in haste, and Excel 2007 or 2010 will serve your purposes perfectly adequately for the time being.