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John Walkenbach’s


Top 10 Reasons to Upgrade to Excel 2010 If you're already using Excel 2007, you might think that Excel 2010 is similar enough that it's not worth upgrading. For some people, that's probably true. But if you're the type who likes to get the most out of your software, you should definitely consider upgrading to Excel 2010. Here's a list of 10 new features in Excel 2010 that might help you make the upgrade decision.

1. Customizable Ribbon

4. Backstage View

One of the most common complaints about Excel 2007 is the inability to customize the Ribbon. In Excel 2007, user interface customizations are limited to the Quick Access Toolbar. Apparently, Microsoft heard the complaints, and Excel 2010 allows you to customize the Ribbon to make it easier to use.

Remember that big "Office" button in Excel 2007? Apparently, many users mistook it for a logo and didn't realize that's what you click when you want to do something with your file. Microsoft wised up, and replaced that Office button with a new tab: File. Click the File tab and you're transported to a new Backstage screen. This screen is your one-stop shopping source for everything you need to do with files. You can open them, create a new one, print them, check them for problems, convert them to PDF, and more. For the most part, Backstage View is nicely implemented, and it's a major improvement over that Office button.

2. Sparkline Graphics One of the new features in Excel 2010 is Sparkline graphics. A Sparkline is a small chart displayed in a single cell that allows you to quickly spot time-based trends or variations in data. Because they are so compact, Sparklines are often used in a group. Although Sparklines look like miniature charts (and can sometimes take the place of a chart), this feature is completely separate from the charting feature. For example, charts are placed on a worksheet’s draw layer, and a single chart can display several series of data. A Sparkline is displayed inside a cell and displays only one series of data. You can create three types of Sparklines: line, column, and win/loss.

3. Paste Preview When you copy a range of cells, Excel offers a number of ways to paste the information in a new location. For example, you can paste values only, formats only, formulas and formatting, as a linked image, and so on. A new feature in Excel 2010 lets you preview how the paste operation will look before you commit to it. In other words, no more surprises that result in clicking Undo and trying again.

5. Worksheet Function Enhancements For many years, Microsoft has been getting flack from technical users because some of the advanced worksheet functions weren't accurate, or were lacking in a few areas. Microsoft responded by adding a boatload of new functions that replace some of the old ones in the statistical, mathematics, and financial categories (but the old ones are still available for compatibility purposes). The typical user will find one new function that might be useful: AGGREGATE. This function is capable of performing a variety of summary operations with options to ignore hidden cells and error values.


6. Slicers

9. Better Security

If you use pivot tables, you'll like the new Slicer feature. As you may know, pivot tables are very interactive. When you have a pivot table that summarizes a large amount of data, you might want to filter the table to show only certain data. For example, if you're viewing sales information by state, you might want to limit the view to only a few states. You can do this type of filtering with a pivot table, but the process is not exactly intuitive— especially for non-technical types. After creating a pivot table, you can insert one or more Slicers that contain clickable buttons. Click a button, and the pivot table is filtered to show only the data for that button. Even complete novices will quickly understand how to filter a pivot table.

An Excel workbook can include malicious code that infects other workbooks and makes changes to your system. Excel 2010 attempts to protect you from these types of problems with its new "protected view" mode. Protected view kicks in when you open a file that was downloaded from the Web, or that arrived via an email attachment. In addition, Excel uses protected mode for workbooks that fail validation. Protected view mode keeps the workbook separate from other workbooks that are open, and provides a "read-only" way of viewing the workbook's contents. You can examine the worksheets, but you can't interact with it or make any changes unless you decide that the workbook is trustworthy. Then, it's a simple matter to enable editing and (optionally) enable macros. Automatic protected view mode is enabled by default, but if you find it annoying, you can turn it off in the Trust Center Settings dialog box.

7. 64-Bit Support When you buy Office 2010, you actually get two versions: a 32-bit version and a 64-bit version. By default, the 32-bit version is installed. But if you have the need to work with massive workbooks, you might want to install the 64-bit version. You will need to be running a 64-bit version of Windows, of course. Excel will take advantage of the extra addressable memory, and allow you to create large workbooks that are simply impossible using the 32bit version. By the way, you can't install both the 32-bit and the 64-bit version on a system. You need to choose one or the other.

8. Image Editing Enhancements One of the most surprising set of features in Excel 2010 has nothing to do with numbers—image editing. When you import an image into a worksheet, you can easily perform a variety of "artistic" enhancements. For example, you can make a photo look like it was drawn with a pencil. In addition, you can use the background removal feature to isolate the main subject and remove extraneous portions of the photo. Excel 2010 isn't Photoshop, but I'm pretty impressed with what it can do with photos and graphics.

10. Other Stuff But wait, there's more! Excel 2010 has lots of other minor changes that you may not notice immediately, but are sure to make using Excel easier, including:  Chart formatting enhancements  Improvements to the handy data bar conditional formatting feature  New Equation Editor interface  Updated version of Solver for advanced numerical problem solving  New VBA tools that previously required the old XML macro system

About the Author John Walkenbach has written hundreds of articles and created the award-winning Power Utility Pak. His 50plus books include the bestselling Excel Bible as well as several titles in the Mr. Spreadsheet’s Bookshelf series. Visit his popular Spreadsheet Page at

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If you're already using Excel 2007, you might think that Excel 2010 is similar enough that it's not worth upgrading. For some people, that's...