Microsoft Excel 2010 review

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Price when reviewed

Other than this, there’s a host of small tweaks and improvements. The Solver plugin has been recoded with an improved user interface and now includes evolutionary as well as linear and non-linear algorithms. And 33 functions, mainly to do with statistical analysis and finance, have been recoded to remove bugs or to improve accuracy.

Data analysis capabilities have been extended, most notably through the introduction of Sparklines (see video, above) – little line or bar charts that sit in one cell and summarise a small range of data. Compare a standard line chart to a collection of Sparklines based on the same data and you’ll quickly see how much clearer the latter can be.

Other visual improvements abound. Conditional formatting boasts more styles, options and new icon sets. The Slicer controls (see video, below) let you place interactive filters on worksheets to control what data is shown. Charts are easier to edit, and it’s good to see all limits have been removed, giving virtually unlimited data points.

VBA programmability has been boosted with the macro recorder able to deal with the formatting of chart elements, and the addition of the last few missing features that will allow all Excel 4 macros to be recoded into VBA. You can also use Visual Studio to write asynchronous, user-defined functions for use in Excel, or functions that use a High Performance Computing cluster, both of which can dramatically increase the speed of calculation of complex workbooks.

Finally, corporate users will appreciate Excel 2010’s improved collaboration tools. The Office Web Apps and Excel Services on SharePoint mean workbooks display in the browser as you see them in the desktop application, complete with working Slicers. However, working together isn’t as good an experience as it could be: you’re limited in what you can do and can’t see what others are doing until their changes suddenly appear on screen.

Overall, though, Excel 2010 does enough to prove it’s still the gold standard. Sparklines, Slicers and PowerPivot provide visual appeal, but it’s the horde of small improvements, especially in speed and usability, that mark this release out as special.

Reviews of all the applications in Office 2010 will be arriving thick and fast as we approach its release. Click here for our verdict on Word 2010.

Details

Software subcategoryOffice software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported?yes
Operating system Windows XP supported?yes

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