Under the Radar Part 1: Five new features in Excel 2010

By David H. Ringstrom

I have to admit, I was underwhelmed when Office 2010 was released. You’d think that an Excel expert would like nothing more than a shiny new version of Excel, but my initial experience with the new user interface in Excel 2007 left me feeling chastened.
Granted, after about two weeks, and with the use of this transition tool from Microsoft I was humming along with Excel 2007. There’s also a set of tools available to help with the transition to Office 2010.
At any rate, I installed the beta of Office 2010 last year, but didn’t initially see much allure in Excel 2010. However, once I started using Excel 2010 regularly a couple months ago, I started noticing subtle, but significant improvements that the average user might not notice. In this first of a two-part series I’ll discuss five of my favorites that I call Under the Radar features. This series also heralds the start of a new feature on AccountingWEB, where I’ll be writing articles about Excel, but also demonstrating the techniques in an accompanying video.
1. In Excel 2010, you’re free to tinker with the ribbon to your hearts delight. Customizing the Excel 2007 interface was limited to the Quick Access Toolbar, but if you get more than about eight icons on it, it became unusable because you’d lose track of which icon did what. If you have Excel 2010 and, like me, were frustrated because there’s not a Pivot Table icon on the Data tab, simply add one, as shown in Figure 1. Even better, I’ve added over a dozen frequently used commands to my Home tab so that I spend far less time traipsing through the tabs. To get started, right-click on the ribbon and choose Customize the Ribbon.
Figure 1: Excel 2010 allows you to add or remove sections of the ribbon.
2. The File menu is back. Office 2007 apps all have a round logo in the top left-hand corner known as the Office button. The Office button functions like a File menu, but it’s clunky to describe. I’m glad I can say “click on File” again, instead of “click that round button up in the left-hand corner.”
3. The Recently Used File list has a new Recent Places list, too, as shown in Figure 2. This makes it easy to get to frequently used files and folders. Even better, these lists are scrollable. Choose File, Options, and, in the Advanced section, change the Show This Number of Recent Documents setting to 50, and you’ll always have anything you recently worked on at your fingertips.
Figure 2: The Recent Folders list is a helpful addition in Excel 2010.
4. Excel 2007 introduced the ability to pin items to the Recent Items menu, but pinned items would move down on the list as you opened other files. In Excel 2010, pinned files, or folders, for that matter, always remain at the top of the list, as shown in Figure 2.
5. Ever open a blank spreadsheet, noodle around, and then close without saving, and have one of those “D'oh! I should have saved that!” moments? Excel 2010 minimizes those by automatically archiving files, as shown in Figure 3. To access copies of unsaved files, choose File, Info, Manage Versions, and then Recover Unsaved Workbooks.
Figure 3: Excel 2010 often saves a temporary copy of a workbook when you choose Don’t Save.
Intrigued by what’s new in Excel 2010? You can download a free 60 day trial from Microsoft. If you’re already using Excel 2010, please post your own favorite Excel 2010 features in the comments section below.
About the author:
David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm. Contact David at david@acctadv.com, and consider attending one of his Excel training webcasts presented by AccountingWEB partner CPE Link.
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