Excel 12: worry not

Thanks to Francis for pointing me to the free online demo. It’s certainly worth a look if you’re interested in the imminent Office release.

The login process is a bit frustrating. First of all (and in retrospect I should have predicted it), the demo wasn’t compatible with Firefox, so I had to switch to IE. Thereafter, it was an unintuitive log on process, but I finally got there.

The demo itself is a Citrix-based browser application, which works really well—no downloads necessary apart from Citrix itself. A remote connection launches a server-side application: Excel, Word, Outlook, whatever you’re interested in.

Excel itself has some new functionality, but the majority of the stuff under the bonnet does the same as its predecessors. However there are two significant changes:

The intuition is a funny one. The grouping of features and tasks seems more logical, but given that it’s different from what we’re used to, it doesn’t immediately come across as being intuitive. In Excel of today, the fact that the Find feature is on the Edit menu is bizarre, until you realise that it shares a pop-up with the Replace function. I can’t immediately find its equivalent in Excel 12.

If you click Alt, the pop-up shortcuts are a bit freaky, I have to say, but potentially useful. Oh, and I’m happy about one bug that they’ve fixed. In the Alignment tab of the Formatting pop-up, the Vertical dropdown used to have an element (Top) missing from the top of the list, and you needed to scroll up to get to it. Scroll no longer.

In summary, it’s nice, but I don’t see this as a step-change from a functionality perspective. Which is probably a good thing. They’ve taken this opportunity to invest significantly in the user experience, and to polish some of the features that previously had limitations.

I won’t be rushing to upgrade, but I’m confident that when I do, it won’t be a whole new world.

As for the other applications, Word and PowerPoint look like they’ve had similar make-overs to Excel, while Outlook merely seems to have an extra entry on the main menu (Business Contact Manager). Oddly, when you launch an email, it gets a ribbon treatment, maybe because of its tie-in to Word.

The demo’s certainly worth checking out.


One Response to “Excel 12: worry not”

  1. Francis on November 21st, 2006 22:14

    Sounds like you have only scratched the surface. There are so many improvements it’ll take months to uncover them all. Did you checkout the graphs? the new Pivot table interface? The ability to view Excel sheets entirely in a browser with no activeX or Java applets? The intellisense? The ability to do “what if” modeling with a set of data? Oh it’s the bomb baby.

    And what about those fonts? Love it.

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