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By Bonnie Bills |

Office 2010 for Business: Focus on Excel

lynda.com has been rolling out training on Office 2010, which launched to business customers earlier this month. I’ve been talking to our Office 2010 authors about their experiences with the latest version of Microsoft Office. Today’s Q&A features Bob Flisser, author of Excel 2010 New Features.

Q: In your opinion, what’s the most interesting new feature in Excel 2010?

A: Since Excel was already a mature application, I couldn’t imagine how Microsoft could improve it for 2010. Now that I’ve been using it for a while, I’d have to say the most interesting–which to me means fun–new feature is Sparklines. (Yes, I said a spreadsheet program is fun.)

Let’s say each row on your worksheet lists a product you sell, and each column shows the amount of a different month’s sales. With a couple of clicks, you can insert a tiny trend line or bar graph contained inside a cell at the end of each row, showing how sales of the product rose or fell over the months. If there are 20 rows, there are 20 miniature charts. With a couple more clicks, you can apply formatting that brings out exactly the information you need.

Q: A lot of businesses and individuals are using Excel 2003 or an older version, and when they upgrade they will be faced with a very different interface. What can you tell these people about the fluent user interface in Excel 2007 and Excel 2010?

A: A lot of users were thrown when they first encountered the new tabbed ribbon bar in Excel 2007 as well as most of the other 2007 applications. I was one of them. But Microsoft refined the workspace in 2010. One result is that you can now customize the ribbon, making it easier to find the commands you use most often. Right-click almost anywhere on the ribbon and select Customize the Ribbon from the pop-up menu.

Also, unlike the 2007 version, it’s easier to find all the file management commands that were under the File menu in the older versions. The File tab is the first one in the list (it’s green in Excel, blue in Word and orange in PowerPoint); click it to enter Backstage View. This is not only where you can save and open files, it’s also where you find collaboration features that are more tightly integrated than they were before.

Q: Speaking of collaboration, what can you tell us about the Excel 2010 Web App? (Note: the Office Web Apps are still in development, though a preview is currently available through Windows Live.)

A: The Excel Web App is a handy extension of the program that makes sharing documents a lot easier than before, though it isn’t meant to be a substitute for the full program. There may be times when you need to share your worksheets with other people in real time, or want to eliminate the confusion of multiple versions being e-mailed around. Or maybe you’re at a public computer or borrowing someone’s that doesn’t have Excel loaded. As long as you have Internet access, you have some of Excel’s common features available.

Whether you use the Web App through a free, public service like Microsoft SkyDrive or a paid service like a SharePoint portal, you can keep your worksheets private or make them publicly accessible. People seeing the Web App for the first time might be surprised to see that the ribbon bar has only a Home tab, but Microsoft plans to add more tabs and more functionality in the future.

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