Whatever else we need to say about Excel 2013, the obvious changes brought about by Office 2013 hold true. The visual changes I mentioned previously in Word are maintained here, including the “Touch Mode” option in the default Quick Access toolbar. Coauthoring (though not simultaneous editing) is possible using SkyDrive and the built in Sharing menu. All the same touches that make this newest Office a cohesive family of applications are present. Excel has a lot of unique functions that will be far more important to users than just collaboration and such, however.
The new Flash Fill feature will likely be of interest to just about anybody using this program. Excel now keeps track of what is present in your spreadsheet already and tries to help out when it sees you filling in data using a pattern it sees in place elsewhere. The pattern analysis is quite accurate and will save a great deal of time in breaking fields apart or copying chains of information. To Flash Fill the column you’re working on, just select this option from the pull down Fill button on the Home ribbon.
The other huge feature that can’t be overlooked is the Quick Analysis tool. When data is selected in an Excel spreadsheet, an icon for Quick Analysis appears in the lower right corner of the selection. This expands into a selection box that will offer suggested functions relating to the data being selected.
Suggestions fall under the headings Formatting, Charts, Totals, Tables, and Sparklines. Their functions are fairly obvious based on the names. Formatting will do anything from color in cells based on their relation to the total set to adding icons or data bars to the cells themselves. Charts will suggest the most applicable chart types. Totals will handle…totaling things. The most important addition is probably the Tables tab, though. This makes Pivot Tables far simpler to create and will generally save huge amounts of effort in building visual representations of raw data.
In each case of Quick Analysis, you get to see what you’re getting into. Holding your mouse over the option you are interested in will preview the change to your sheet. I find that this can be a handy quick check for data entry errors as well, since anything ridiculously out of the proper range will stand out immediately and there is practically no effort needed to open the menu.
Essentially, the focus of Excel 2013 is increased accessibility. Its data analysis options are far more accessible than has ever been the case before and much of the process has been streamlined to take place through the instantly available Quick Analysis menu. Knowing that whole columns of data are likely to appear automatically when copying data thanks to the Flash Fill feature will certainly be a relief to many as well.
While there has been no significant change to the underlying functions of the program, as far as I can tell, it is a notable step forward from Excel 2010. The collaboration features need a bit more work, but given Microsoft’s push to the Cloud we can be certain that simultaneous editing is just around the corner.