There are dozens of other small changes In Excel 2007. Among the 51 new functions are some to fetch data from OLAP cubes, calculate Bessel functions (for engineers), convert numbers (decimal to binary, hex to octal and so on) and work with complex numbers (calculating the square root or sine of a complex number, for example).
Two new functions, SUMIFS and AVERAGEIFS, let you choose cells that meet multiple conditions without having to use nested functions. Speaking of nesting, should you need it, the number of nesting levels has increased, from seven in Excel 2003 to 64.
The new Name Manager helps you organize and manage your named ranges. Other changes keep Excel's user interface consistent with Word and PowerPoint. SmartArt is shared across Office 2007 applications, and as with Word, it's now easy to save a document to PDF or XPS format, or to a SharePoint library directly from Excel.
If you use PowerPoint to build charts, you'll find that its old graphics tool (MSGraph) has been replaced by Excel's charting and worksheet engine, a long overdue improvement.
You'll have to deal with four new XML-based file formats in Excel 2007 -- .xlsx for standard worksheets, .xlsm for those with macros, plus .xltx and .xltm for templates. Like Word 2007, Excel 2007 offers a compatibility checker and tells you if your workbook contains features that previous versions of Excel won't support. Choose Office button > Prepare > Run Compatibility Checker to launch it.
If you're sharing documents, you'll probably want to save them in Excel 2003 format to maintain compatibility with other users -- at least until the new 2007 file format becomes the standard or you know your recipient has the free patch that lets Office 2003 users read and work with 2007 files.
To set Excel 2007 to save to the 2003 format by default, click on the Office button and then the Excel Options button. In the left panel of the screen that appears, click Save, then locate the "Save workbooks" area on the right. From the "Save files in this format" drop-down list, choose Excel 97-2003 Workbook and click OK.
As we've shown you, Excel 2007 is chock full of new features, some of which may initially drive you crazy. But armed with our cheat sheet and a little elbow grease, you'll be up and running -- and quite possibly loving the new Excel -- in no time.
Preston Gralla is a contributing editor for Computerworld, and the author of more than 35 books, including Windows Vista in a Nutshell. Richard Ericson is the reviews editor for The Office Letter, a weekly newsletter devoted to Microsoft Office tips and tricks.
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