Microsoft is not perfect. What company is?
But it does follow up its talk about improving its applications with action. It makes changes, often based on customer feedback, as part of an ongoing iterative process.
This can be seen in the recent updates made to Excel for the web – for people who like to work in a browser.
It’s worth keeping an eye out for new features and functionality. Microsoft appears keen to make working in a workbook, and finding your way around it, faster and easier for improved productivity and efficiency.
These little time-saving updates could make all the difference to a professional assistant with many tasks on the go.
You may have noticed that Excel for the web now offers more customisation in the way your documents look and feel.
With the custom colour palette, you can explore and choose from a vast range of shades and tones in the ‘more colours’ dialogue box. Click to pick a colour. Change the shade by moving your cursor around and see how it looks in the preview box.
You can also put in RGB or hex values directly to select a specific colour match. This is especially useful if you do brand work with your company or clients.
The cell styles gallery helps to provide consistent formatting of data. This makes it easier for people to read and take in. Match up fonts, number formats, and cell borders and shading with more ease.
If you like to present neatly and precisely, it’s a feature you’ll enjoy using.
And that’s also true for the function that allows you to easily create, change or remove borders and gridlines. Select the action from the drop-down menu and away you go.
This feature is useful if you want to highlight data or set one set of data apart from another.
A Different Kind of Minibar
You may also have seen that Excel on the web has a new mini toolbar. This gives you fast access to the most popular formatting commands and it pops up like magic with a single right-click.
It’s one of those time-savers you probably won’t even think about. However, just imagine all those seconds saved over a year from using the feature and the time it gives back to you.
Topping the Tables
If you’re an Excel user, you are probably familiar with Tables.
For the web (and desktop) version, Microsoft added some updates earlier in the year around design and styling options, renaming tables, adding a ‘total’ row for a quick calculation, and formatting any data as a table.
Now, you will also see improvements to the PivotTable functions in Excel for the web.
I love a great PivotTable and putting one together has become easier with these changes.
You can create your own layout style or pick from a ‘Recommended’ table in the sidebar. Select your fields, move fields around or use a new PivotTable ribbon to adjust settings or change the way the whole thing looks and feels.
For example, you can choose where you place sub-totals, put fields from rows in a separate column or single column. There’s also a neat right-click access to change things in a specific column with ease.
Complete the job by selecting a style for your PivotTable.
If you’ve never used or are a little rusty with PivotTables, my online course about how to create excellent spreadsheets will show you the way. It also includes practical tips for features like autofill, autosum, table formatting, conditional formatting and charts.
Sorting it Out in Style
If you use Excel for data analysis, the likelihood is sorting functions are going to be your best friend.
In the web version, it’s now possible to sort by cell colour, font colour and conditional formatting icon. That’s on top of being able to sort by cell value, of course.
The updates also include a feature that allows you to sort by more than one column.
This will help you to work with data and ‘interrogate’ the figures in different ways, to build a clearer picture of what’s happening with the numbers.
In Excel for the web, it’s now also possible to directly select and interact with chart elements when formatting a chart.
You work from the format task pane and, as you make your selections, you can see how that changes the look and style of the chart. It’s like a preview.
Non-data chart elements can also be taken out of the chart using the delete and backspace keys. Intuitive and interactive.
No Limits with Delimiters
Finally, there’s a neat function for Excel for the web which allows you to split the text into columns.
This could be really useful if you receive data that needs a bit of organising so it’s in the best format to work with.
For example, let’s say you have an Excel document that contains a list of addresses. Each address is squeezed into a single cell. House number or name, street name, town or city, county, postcode (and possibly country). All in one cell.
What you want is to have each element of the address in different but adjacent cells.
Instead of having to do that with the fiddly moving of copy, or intricate cut and paste, you can now use delimiters.
Each address is converted and spread into five (or six, if including country) cells:
1. House number or name
2. Street name
3. Town or city
So much easier to work with the information in this format. For mail merge, for postcode analysis, for understanding the geographical spread and mix of a list.
Address lists are not the only thing you can use this text to column feature for.
It can be for words and phrases, too. Have a play and see how you might use it in your work.
These are just some of the updates users of Excel for the web are now able to enjoy.
If you are one of them – and productivity and efficiency are important to you – then it’s worth checking out these improvements.
Every tweak is designed to make your life simpler and easier. Every minute you save in completing a task gives you a minute back. That all adds up over time.
And best of all, you get to choose what to do with that extra gained time. Put more focus on delivering more wow for your boss or client, take on an extra project or reward yourself with a break.