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Vanishing Excel Features and How to Handle Them

Oct 31st 2017
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Excel users that subscribe to Microsoft's Office 365 platform have the benefit of being on the vanguard of new features that are being added in Excel, yet there's a rough edge to being on the front lines of advances in Excel; certain features are vanishing.

In this article I'll describe the phenomenon and show you how to add these features back…for now at least.

First, let me help you determine if you're even subject to vanishing features in Excel:

  • If you're using Excel 2013 and earlier, your version of Excel isn't subject to change
  • If you're using a perpetual license for Excel 2016, your version of Excel isn't subject to change.
  • If you're using an Office 365 version of Excel 2016, your version of Excel may not have changed yet, but could soon if Microsoft pushes out a new Excel build to your computer. Figure 1 shows how to determine if you're using Office 365.

Vanishing 1

Figure 1: Steps 1 through 3 show how to identify an Office 365 version of Excel 2016.

The commands that have vanished from Excel 2016 are contained within Excel's Review menu:

  • Share Workbook
  • Protect and Share Workbook
  • Track Changes

Figure 2 contrasts the new version of the Review menu with perpetually licensed Excel 2016 as well as earlier versions of Excel.

Vanishing 2

Figure 2: The Share and Track Changes features have vanished from the latest builds of Office 365/Excel 2016.

In Microsoft's parlance, the missing features have been deprecated, which depending upon the dictionary you choose can be defined as something to be averted, expressed disproval of, or depreciated. No matter the terminology, it can be bewildering and frustrating to find commands you've utilized for years or decades to simply vanish one fine day.

Fortunately, there is a work around if you find yourself affected by these commands that have vanished, as shown in Figure 3:

  1. Click the arrow at the end of your Quick Access Toolbar.
  1. Choose More Commands.
  1. Choose Commands Not in the Ribbon.
  1. Double-click on any of these commands that you'd like to be able to use:
  • Share Workbook (Legacy)
  • Protect Sharing (Legacy)
  • Track Changes (Legacy)
  1. Click OK to save your changes.

Vanishing 3

Figure 3: You can add the legacy Share Workbook and Track Changes commands to your Quick Access Toolbar.

Any icons you chose will now be available by way of your Quick Access Toolbar. The Commands Not in the Ribbon is a curious mash-up of Excel features that didn't make the cut to be included in the menu interface, as well as a graveyard of sorts for features that have been dropped from a given version of Excel. A couple of my favorites include:

  • The Full Screen command that vanished in Excel 2013: choose Toggle Full Screen from the Commands Not in the Ribbon section to restore this feature.
  • The classic print preview that vanished in Excel 2010: choose Print Preview Full Screen from the Commands Not in the Ribbon section to restore this feature.

It's conceivable that Microsoft could do some housecleaning in Excel at some point to eliminate these features. However, given that dozens of legacy worksheet functions still exist in Excel for backwards compatibility you may still have some runway left regarding activities you presently undertake that involve sharing workbooks or tracking changes.

The reason that these features have been deprecated is that Microsoft recently overhauled workbook sharing in favor of a cloud-based solution that utilizes Microsoft's OneDrive service. Previously, users all had to have access to a given workbook in a single location to share access to a file. Figure 4 shows how to utilize the new sharing feature.

Vanishing 4

Figure 4: Sharing workbooks is now accomplished via the cloud, which should make for seamless collaboration.

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