First Impressions of Excel 2010
As you may have heard, the next version of Microsoft's venerable Office suite recently entered "technical preview," or public beta. While Excel 2007 introduced some dramatic changes, Excel 2010 seems to offer mostly refinements and only a few wholesale changes. Thus Excel 2007 users should have an easy time transitioning to Excel 2010, but anyone still using Excel 2003 or earlier will need to make the transition to the Ribbon-based user interface. Fortunately, this interactive guide from Microsoft will ease your pain .
- The big Office button in the left-hand corner has been replaced with a small green button, as shown in Figure 1. The resulting menu has also been reworked, as shown in Figure 2.
- The Ribbon itself remains mostly unchanged, other than to introduce new Excel features and a new background look. However, you can now rework the Ribbon to suit your needs. This means you can add custom tabs or turn off any of the existing tabs, which allows you to customize Excel 2010 to meet your needs. Don't worry: it's easy to reset the Ribbon to its default state when necessary.
- The Info tab shown in Figure 2 gives you a great deal of information about your document. Interestingly, the Info tab in Word 2010 lists the total editing time for the document, but Excel's Info tab does not.
Figure 2: The new Info tab provides statistics about your document.
- Sparklines, shown in Figure 3, are in-cell charts that provide a new way to visualize data. Excel 2003 and 2007 users can implement this feature via a free third-party add-in .
- The Slicer is a new filtering feature provides a visual interface for filtering pivot table and other database data. Instead of using the traditional drop-down lists to limit the data shown in a pivot table, the new Slicer gives you a graphical mechanism to filter the data shown in your pivot table. Bill Jelen, aka Mr. Excel has created a three-minute video that demonstrates this feature .
- Excel 2010 has a Screenshot/Screen Clipping feature that will help make it easier to document your spreadsheets by simplifying the screen capture process.
- You'll have the ability to block users from opening or saving Excel files in certain data formats.
- As shown in Figure 4, the Print command in Excel 2010 has been reworked to merge print preview and page setup choices into the print process.
Figure 4: Print, Preview, and certain Page Setup Elements have been merged into a single screen
- If your computer reboots while you have an Excel document open, Excel 2010 automatically launches itself at start-up, and attempts to automatically recover the documents you were working on.
- A new feature currently known as Project Gemini will reportedly allow Excel users to analyze millions of records from a SQL Server database in Excel. This feature was not included in the technical preview.
- The right-click menu for worksheet cells contains new paste options, as shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5: New icons eliminate the need to go to the Paste Special dialog box for common tasks.
- A new feature automatically saves a copy of your unsaved documents for up to 4 days. The caveat is that Excel has to create an AutoRecover copy first. However, if you inadvertently close without saving a document that you've been working on for 10 minutes or more, you may just be able to recover your work.
- There are certainly other new features in Excel 2010, but the aforementioned list shows the items that have caught my attention thus far. You can learn more by following these blogs:
- Microsoft Excel Team Blog 
- Microsoft Office 2010 Engineering 
David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at email@example.com  or follow him on Twitter . David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, and presents webcasts for several CPE providers, including AccountingWEB partner CPE Link .