The big picture …

Before I carry on digging into the details of the new and improved features in Excel 12, I wanted to make sure everyone had a good sense for the work we’ve done in this version.  When we were planning Excel 12, we spent a significant amount of time talking to a wide variety of customers.  One theme that emerged clearly was that customers wanted to see continued innovation and improvement in the core aspects of spreadsheeting – working with data, formatting & printing, writing formulas, charting, etc.  Another theme that we heard was that customers wanted to use spreadsheets in ways that they currently couldn’t (with more data, on the server, etc.).  We used this feedback as the impetus to take a hard look at all of the essential parts of spreadsheets – from the core architecture to the experience of working with data to the experience of sharing information – and to identify new directions we could take over time.   

What follows is the resultant list of areas where we have done work in Excel 12 (many in conjunction with other Office teams).  In Excel 12, we have:

  • Added more rows and columns and increased limits throughout the product (see the last two posts for details)
  • Revamped the conditional formatting UI to make it faster and easier to use while adding new types of data visualizations
  • Added new functions based on top customer requests, improved formula editing, and implemented features to speed up calculations on modern hardware
  • Added new features to make working with tables of data easier and less error-prone (sorting, filtering, formatting, removing duplicates, referencing, editing)
  • Made it far easier to create the printed output you want with improvements to Excel’s printing and layout capabilities
  • Made huge improvements to our charting engine for great-looking charts in Excel and across Office
  • Reworked the chart UI to make creating and working with charts much simpler and easier
  • Added new formatting capabilities and improved styles to make creating professional-looking documents fast and easy
  • Made PivotTables easier to create, easier to read, more powerful, and great for working with SQL Server Analysis Services data
  • Created a new class of functions that return data directly from SQL Server Analysis Services
  • Made connecting to external data more straightforward and added connection management capabilities to the product
  • Created an all-new “Excel services” server technology to enable sharing, controlling, and re-using Excel workbooks on centrally managed servers
  • Integrated the new Office UI into Excel … as you may have already read about, Excel (along with the other core Office client applications) has a new user interface (which you can read about here)
  • Added new XML-based File Formats … Excel (along with the other core Office applications) has added new XML-based file formats (which you can read about here)

This isn’t a complete list, and I will get into more detail (with screenshots) in each area as I write more, but hopefully this gives you a better idea of the amount of work that’s going into this release.  We’re really proud of the work, and we look forward to sharing the details with you.  Next week, I will spend some time discussing the investments we have made in the area of conditional formatting.