Review: Microsoft Excel for Mac 2011

If you want to manage data with Excel, that task has just become much more interesting, but besides that, Excel 2011 has a vast array of new and improved features. From PivotTables over conditional formatting to graphing data and protecting spreadsheets: Excel 2011 is a number-cruncher’s dream come true.

Managing data with Excel 2011 has just become more powerful. Not only can you format a table to your liking with a large number of pre-defined ‘themes’ but you can also filter and sort your data and analyse it. THere’s a completely new PivotTable functionality that even I found easy to use. The PivotTable feature makes excellent use of a HUD type window panel, which allows you to analyse your data basically by dragging around cell ranges inside the HUD.

The Excel 2011 PivotTable Builder HUD

Your data gets updated dynamically, in real time. PivotTables really allow you to quickly change your view on your data. Filtering lists is another pleasure to use. There are a number of built-in filters to choose from, but of course you can define your own. Filters work on any type of data, including on cells that contain conditional formatting.

Conditional formatting is my personal favourite. The functionality existed in Excel 2008 and even in Apple’s Numbers ’09. But with what Microsoft is offering in Excel 2011 those conditional formatting features turn pale in comparison. I always understood conditional formatting to enable me to quickly see trends or values that oscillate between specific values. All of that was impossible to easily visualise with Numbers and Excel 2008.

COnditional formatting in Excel 2011 can have many different looks; here are a couple.

In Excel 2011, I can set up conditional rules that do all of that and more. I can see trends, patterns, scales, data oscillation between three values, and more. And I can show the cells that comply with my rule not just by changing colour of text or background, but with small trend lines, icons, symbols, etc. In one word: conditional formatting rocks.

Closely related to conditional formatting is the ability to colour cells and values and I am very happy to report that Excel 2011 has finally ditched the pre-defined and very limited table holding the colours you can use; Excel 2011 uses all possible colours your system can handle. The result is quite dramatic, visually. For example, Excel 2011 allows you to create graphs that do double duty as eye candy — and for which you previously needed to make a trip to Illustrator or some dedicated data graphing application such as DeltaGraph.

Designing beautiful charts is a piece of cake...

More than in any other Office application, I imagine many power users will be happy to know that macros are back, either by recording them or writing them from scratch. And in enterprise environments Excel 2011 shines because of its permissions system that enables you to enforce policies for opening and modifying workbooks.

The Excel 2011 permissions system is in my opinion granular enough to please even the most stringent requirements.

Except for these new features, Excel 2011 also integrates with Sharepoint and SkyDrive. Mac users will especially also like the interface that has become a joy to look at and a pleasure to use. Many things you’ll want to do with numbers and figures in Excel 2011 are made more simple because of the excellent support of the interface. Well before Office 2011 was released, I read a preview that warned of Excel 2011’s slow scroll speed — I didn’t have the ‘luxury’ of testing with over 10,000 rows but with 1900 rows, the scrolling went just fine.

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