What is Microsoft Excel
Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet application developed and sold by Microsoft Corporation. It is a primary tool used for data analysis, financial modeling, and various other tasks that involve managing, organizing, and analyzing data. Excel is part of the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software sold as Office 365 and is used in both personal, professional, and academic settings globally.
History of Excel
Microsoft Excel’s lineage dates back to 1980 when it was first developed by Doug Klunder and Bob Frankston as a spreadsheet program called "Multiplan" for the CP/M operating system. The earlier version never gained significant sales, as the CP/M operating system was not widely used. With the release of Excel on the Windows operating system, with Excel version 2.0 being released in 1987, it gained significant popularity. This version introduced a graphical interface, allowed interaction with cells via a mouse, and gained significant popularity.
Early Development of Excel
The origins of Excel can be traced back to 1980 when Doug Klunder and Bob Frankston, who were working at a small software company called "Software Arts," developed a spreadsheet program known as "VisiCalc" for the Apple II computer. VisiCalc was the first electronic spreadsheet application and was a groundbreaking tool for business and financial calculations.
After developing VisiCalc, Klunder and Frankston began working on a new spreadsheet program called "Multiplan" while working at Microsoft. Multiplan was initially developed for the CP/M operating system, which was a popular platform at the time. Mulitplan faced significant competition from VisiCalc, which had already gained a significant user base as it was released before Multiplan.
While version 1.0 introduced Excel as a spreadsheet application, it was not until version 2.0 that it gained widespread use when it was released for the Windows operating system.
Excel 1.0 (1985):
Excel 1.0 was initially released for the Apple Macintosh platform, making it one of the earliest spreadsheet applications available for Mac users.
Excel 1.0 was developed by Microsoft, with key contributions from Doug Klunder and Bob Frankston. Bob Frankston, who had previously worked on VisiCalc, brought his expertise to the project.
Early Excel Interface: Excel 1.0 featured a graphical user interface (GUI), setting it apart from the earlier text-based spreadsheet programs like VisiCalc. This GUI made it easier for users to interact with the software and visually create and manipulate spreadsheets.
Excel 1.0 Features: While Excel 1.0 may be viewed as being relatively basic compared to versions available today, it offered essential spreadsheet functionality, including the ability to create and edit worksheets, perform calculations, and create simple charts.
Excel 2.0 (1987):
Excel 2.0 for Windows significantly expanded Excel's user base and set the stage for its widespread use as a popular spreadsheet software application. Its graphical interface and enhanced capabilities made it a popular choice among users on the Windows operating system.
Platform: Excel 2.0 was a significant release as it marked Excel's entry into the Windows platform. It was developed for Microsoft Windows 2.0, which was an emerging operating system at the time.
Graphical Interface: Like Excel 1.0, Excel 2.0 also featured a graphical user interface. This version brought the benefits of a GUI to Windows users, making it more accessible and user-friendly.
Performance Improvements: Excel 2.0 introduced performance improvements over its predecessor, making it faster and more responsive. This was crucial for handling larger and more complex spreadsheets.
Expanded Worksheet: Excel 2.0 expanded the number of rows and columns available in a worksheet compared to Excel 1.0. This allowed users to work with larger datasets.
Charting Capabilities: The 1987 version 2.0 of Excel improved charting capabilities, enabling users to create a variety of charts and graphs to visualize data.
Evolution of Versions of Excel
Excel has seen numerous versions and updates over the years, with each new iteration introducing enhanced features and improved functionality. The notable versions include:
- Excel 3.0 (1990): This version introduced the toolbar, making it easier for users to access common functions.
- Excel 5.0 (1993): Excel 5.0 included performance improvements and expanded the number of rows and columns available in a worksheet.
- Excel 97 (1997): The 1997 version featured a more streamlined interface and many new or improved charting capabilities for visualizing data.
- Excel 2000 (2000): Excel 2000 introduced cell comments for reviewing and annotation, and improved data analysis tools.
- Excel 2003 (2003): The 2003 version offered enhanced security and added XML support.
- Excel 2007 (2007): A major overhaul of the user interface, known as the "Ribbon," was introduced in Excel 2007, along with new data visualization features. This ribbon remains in use today.
- Excel 2010 (2010): The 2010 version improved collaboration features and added more advanced conditional formatting options.
- Excel 2013 (2013): Excel 2013 introduced flash fill, which automates data cleanup tasks, and Power Query for data import and transformation.
- Excel 2016 (2016): Improved charting and analysis tools, as well as new data visualization features, were introduced in this version.
- Excel 2019 (2018): Excel 2019 brought new functions and formulas and enhanced Power Pivot and Power Query capabilities.
- Excel for Microsoft 365 (Current version): As part of the Microsoft 365 subscription service, Excel receives regular updates streamed via the online subscription, with new features and improvements. Excel 365 can be accessed as an app or via a browser.
How Microsoft Excel is Used
Microsoft Excel is used in a wide range of industries and professions to collect, organize, sort, filter and manage data. Common uses of Excel include:
- Financial Analysis: Excel is widely used for financial modeling, budgeting, and forecasting.
- Data Analysis: Excel is used for data manipulation, analysis, and visualization.
- Project Management: Excel can be used to create project schedules, track tasks, and manage resources.
- Business Intelligence: Excel is used to create interactive dashboards and reports for data-driven decision-making.
- Academic Research: Researchers and students use Excel for data collection and analysis.
- Inventory Management: Excel is used to track inventory levels and manage stock.
- Data visualization: Excel is used to create charts, graphs, and other visualizations that show relationships between data and trends.
Key Features of Microsoft Excel
Microsoft Excel includes many capabilities, such as:
- Formulas and Functions: Excel provides a range of built-in functions for performing calculations and data analysis.
- Charts and Graphs: Excel users can create various types of charts and graphs to visualize data.
- Data Validation: Excel allows for data input validation to ensure data accuracy.
- PivotTables: PivotTables are used to summarize data and provide analysis.
- Conditional Formatting: Users can highlight data based on specific criteria, such as having negative numbers appear in red, and positive numbers appear in black.
- Data Import and Export: Excel supports importing and exporting data from various file formats.
- Collaboration: Multiple users can collaborate on a workbook simultaneously, and comments and track changes are available for reviewing and editing.
Excel on Different Platforms
Microsoft Excel is available on various platforms, including Windows and macOS. Excel for Windows and Excel for macOS provide nearly identical functionality.
In addition to desktop versions, Microsoft offers an online version of Excel known as Excel Online. Excel Online, released alongside other Office Online apps, allows users to access and edit Excel spreadsheets in a web browser. While it offers many features found in the desktop version, there may be some limitations in terms of advanced functionality and add-ins.
Excel for Macintosh
Microsoft entered into a partnership with Apple to develop software for the newly introduced Macintosh computer. As part of this collaboration, Microsoft released a new version of Multiplan for the Macintosh platform. This version was named "Excel" and was first released in 1985.
Excel for Macintosh was a significant step in the evolution of Excel. It provided a graphical user interface (GUI) that set it apart from the earlier text-based spreadsheet programs like VisiCalc. This GUI made it easier for users to interact with the software.
Excel for Windows
While Excel for Macintosh gained popularity among Mac users, the emerging Windows platform was also gaining popularity and in 1987, Microsoft released Excel 2.0 for Windows, marking the first Windows version of Excel. This introduced Excel to a broader audience as Windows became more widely used in businesses.
Excel 2.0 for Windows brought several important features and improvements, including faster performance and enhanced charting capabilities. The transition from Multiplan to Excel was a significant one, as Excel used the graphical user interface found in both Macintosh and Windows computers.
There are several options for purchasing or licensing Excel.
Stand-Alone Purchase of Excel
Historically, Microsoft has offered stand-alone versions of Excel, which could be purchased with a one-time payment. Users can buy a specific version of Excel and install it on their computer and use it perpetually without additional payments. This method allows users to own and use that version indefinitely, although ongoing feature updates and improvements require the purchase or license of a new version.
Microsoft 365 Subscription for Excel
Microsoft has also introduced the Microsoft 365 (formerly known as Office 365) subscription service, which includes Excel along with other Office applications. With a Microsoft 365 subscription, users pay a recurring fee either monthly or annually to access and use Excel and other Office apps. This subscription model provides continuous updates of the latest features and security patches, as well as improvements as long as their subscription is active. This ensures that users always have access to the most up-to-date version of Excel. Office 365 versions of Excel also include Cloud Integration. The cloud storage known as OneDrive allows users to save and sync their Excel files across multiple devices.
Free Version of Excel
Microsoft offers a free web-based version of Excel known as "Excel Online" that is accessible through a web browser and provides basic spreadsheet functionality. It is often used for viewing and performing basic editing of documents online. The free version lacks many of the features of the desktop version, and is intended to provide a convenient method to view Excel files for those who need to access data but do not have the Excel software application.
Excel Licensing options
The shift from stand-alone purchases to subscription-based licensing with Microsoft 365 represents a significant change in how Microsoft licenses Excel and other Office applications. This transition provides a lower initial cost for users, but they lose access to the software if they do not renew their subscription. As a public company, Microsoft followed many other software firms in offering a subscription because it provides Predictable Revenue. For Microsoft, subscription-based licensing ensures a more predictable and consistent stream of revenue, as users pay on an ongoing basis. It also further integrates users into the Microsoft ecosystem, as they store files on Microsoft’s cloud drive service, OneDrive. Users do the get the benefit of immediate updates and consistently having the latest version, and software can be installed on multiple computers on which the user may sign-in.
Academic versions of Excel for Students and Teachers
Microsoft offers a lower cost version of Microsoft Excel and the entire Microsoft Office suite for students and academic institutions. This version is commonly referred to as "Microsoft Office 365 Education" or "Microsoft 365 for Education."
Microsoft 365 Education, including Excel, is available to eligible students, teachers, and staff at educational institutions worldwide. These institutions include schools, colleges, and universities.
Microsoft 365 Education includes the full suite of Microsoft Office applications, including Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and others.
The academic version of Microsoft Excel and other Office apps in Microsoft 365 Education is essentially the same as the commercial version in terms of features and functionality. It offers the same powerful spreadsheet capabilities.
Eligibility for Microsoft 365 Education is limited to educators and students at educational institutions. Students, teachers, and staff generally need to use their institution's email address to obtain the software, or if licensing is done by the school, individuals must thn sign up through their educational institution's portal to access Office 365.
In many cases, eligible students and educators can use Microsoft 365 Education for free or at a significantly discounted rate compared to the commercial version.
Microsoft 365 Education generally includes cloud-based services like OneDrive for file storage and collaboration, as well as online versions of the Office applications, including Excel Online. The entire applications are access entirely through the web browser.
Because it is cloud-based, software-as-a-service, subscribers to Microsoft 365 Education receive regular software updates and access to the latest features and security updates.
Live training courses are available to learn Excel. This included in-person Excel courses, as well as live online Excel classes and in-depth Excel bootcamps. There are many cities where Excel training is available.
Many books have been written about Excel. American Graphics Institute has been hired to write and create the official Microsoft academic curriculum for Excel.
Addition information about Excel is available at the Microsoft Office website