Although Microsoft Excel for PC is one of the most powerful spreadsheets available, its Web version lags behind a little. Because of that, some of us prefer its competitor, Google Sheets, when working on collaborative data.
However, Microsoft’s Engineers are aware of this; that’s why they’re always updating and improving Excel for the Web. So users who take advantage of the free web app can rejoice. They aren’t getting left behind when it comes to updates.
Let’s look at nine updates to Online Excel that will help you improve your spreadsheet productivity.
1. Display & Hide Formulas
This new feature, called Show Formulas, is an excellent way to audit your spreadsheet if you’re experiencing an unexpected error in your data. By clicking on the button under Formulas > Show Formulas, you can see the breakdown of each cell.
This is particularly useful if you’re using a series of formulas in different cells. You can also use it to verify if the data you’re viewing is a variable or a value extracted from pre-existing information.
2. Resizing Tables
Tables are an excellent way of organizing a huge amount of data into easily identifiable chunks. For example, instead of writing =sum(A1:C78), you can simply use =sum(TableName) to add all the values in a data set.
Previously, once you’ve made a table, you cannot change the rows and columns related to it. But this new feature, which can be found under Table Design > Resize Table when you have a table selected, allows you to edit the dataset even after creating the table.
This is an excellent addition to the table function, as we can now simply edit them when we add or subtract data. Previously, you had to delete the table designation then create a new one when you need to change the covered cells.
3. Converting Text to Columns
The Text to Columns Wizard is one of the most powerful and efficient tools in Microsoft Excel. It can help you convert data strings to useful information, assigning each value separated with a tab, semicolon, comma, space, or any other custom symbol, their own column.
This is particularly useful if you downloaded data, like form entries, and then convert it into useful and distinct values. Instead of manually converting them, you can use this feature to do it for you automatically—potentially saving you minutes, if not hours, of work.
4. The LET Function
If you plan to use the same function or functions inside your formula multiple times, the LET feature can help you save effort and avoid errors by naming these functions as variables.
For example, in the formula:
you will notice that we used the syntax FILTER(A2:D8;A2:A8=F1) twice. So instead of using writing the FILTER formula twice, we can instead write this:
If you want to change the scope of your filter function, you only need to edit the first section of the LET command, and the changes you made will reflect in the entire formula. This is perfect, especially if you’re using multiple IF commands to distill data.
5. Setting Your Regional Options
Sometimes, you have to change your regional options depending on your location and the data you’re working with. For example, you might be a digital nomad in South East Asia working on a project based in Northern Europe.
Understandably, you would want your data formats to reflect what you’re working on. Since you’re using Web-based Excel, your Windows 10 Regional Setting might not take effect.
To change the current one displayed, head on to Home > Number Format > More Number Formats…
Then under Category, go ahead and choose Date. Under the Local (location) dropdown menu, choose the location that best fits you and put a tick-mark on the Set this locale as the preferred regional format box. Press OK.
Once set, your browser will refresh, and then your spreadsheet’s format will reflect the new one you chose.
6. Simplified Ribbons
While many love the new command ribbon Microsoft introduced in 2007; it does take away some space from your spreadsheet. With the prevalence of smartphones, tablets, and other smaller screen devices, screen real estate becomes an issue.
To view more cells in your spreadsheet, press the up arrow on the lower right of the ribbon. You will get a simplified ribbon that saves space while retaining usability and functionality.
With the increasing prevalence of touchscreens, not just on mobile devices but on laptops as well, Microsoft introduced the touch-based context menu on Excel. By making the most common commands available at your fingertips, you can now efficiently use your touchscreen device with the spreadsheet app.
If you’re working with a team, you can now leave comments directly on a cell or groups of cells. By simply right-clicking on the section you want to comment on and selecting New Comment, you can now have conversations, leave notes and instructions, or even write love letters quickly and easily.
Cells with notes will have a purple mark on their upper right-hand corner. By hovering your cursor on it, you’ll be able to view the comments attached to the cells and even reply directly on it.
Now that we’ve gone over comments, Microsoft included this nifty feature where you can mention colleagues in the comment box or even assign it to them.
Instead of emailing your co-worker everything you wanted to be changed on the spreadsheet, all you have to do is ensure they have access to the same file and then mentioning them in the comments section by typing @ and then the first few letters of their name. Matching profiles will come out, and all you have to do is to choose the right one.
You can even take this one step further and assign the comment as a task. When you @mention someone in the comments, the check box Assign to @Mention will come out. By putting a tick-mark on this option, the person will receive an email notifying them of the assignment. They’ll also see that the task is assigned to them in the comment.
This feature ensures that no team member will miss an important task, even if you’re only using the Web version of Excel.
Staying Updated on Productivity
Microsoft Excel for the Web is constantly being updated. This lets them stay ahead of the competition, as Google Sheets is also getting more and more powerful.
Whether you prefer Excel or Sheets, the ultimate winner in this rivalry between the two software giants is us, the end-users. We get a more powerful web app that could one day rival the desktop software—and it’s free!
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