The Best and Worst Features of Excel 2013

by David H. Ringstrom, CPA

During live webcasts my first poll question is always “What version of Excel are you using?” My informal tracking method has shown that presently a majority of users are still using Excel 2010, but at least among webinar attendees Excel 2013 is starting to catch up. Microsoft expects to release Excel 2016 later this year, so a new version of Excel may be on your horizon. I recently put together a one-hour webcast that explains what I consider the 10 best (and 3 worst) features in Excel 2013, which will also carry forward to Excel 2016. In this article I’ll give you a preview of some of the topics in my webinar.


Charting Transformed

Creating charts in Excel 2010 and earlier can be a maddening experience. The Layout tab in Excel 2007 and 2010 is populated with a whole sequence of buttons that contain multi-tiered menus. You’re expected to maintain chart titles, axes, and other aspects by picking through a sea of options. Charting has been completely reimagined in Excel 2013. Three new tool buttons appear when you click on a chart. Most of the functionality on the Layout tab has moved to these three controls, with multiple layers of options that you can drill into.


Feature jump starts

If the words Pivot Table, Conditional Formatting, or Sparklines make you go “Huh?” then Excel 2013 has your back. Select any range of data and click the new Quick Analysis icon to see what your data would look like by way of any of these features. This democratizes features many users are unaware of or unsure how to use.


Worst feature

Excel 2013 has an animation feature that frustrates long-term spreadsheet users to no end. Let’s say that cell A1 contains a value that is referenced by formulas in cells A2 through A10. When you change cell A1, cells A2:A10 will all flip to signify a change in value. To disable this feature you must go to the Ease of Access center within the Windows Control Panel. Choose Use the Computer Without a Display, click the checkbox to Turn Off All Unnecessary Animations, and then click OK.
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