Easy Excel spreadsheet adds up to equality for all at $309

Easy Excel spreadsheet adds up to equality for all at $309

The yellow spreadsheet tracks office supply purchases. The PivotTable, right, shows that Ellen spent the most on diskettes. Excel 2000 makes this analysis simple.

By Michael Cheek

GCN staff

Editor's note: This review is part of a series about programs within the recently released major office suites: Corel WordPerfect Office 2000, Lotus SmartSuite Millennium Edition 9.5 and Microsoft Office 2000.

Are you like me and use a spreadsheet application more as a table organizer than a calculator? Microsoft Excel does both jobs well.

An accountant friend who uses Excel as well as Lotus 1-2-3 dislikes Excel's insistence on inputting an equal sign at the beginning of each formula. Lotus 1-2-3 and other spreadsheets assume if a user types 12 + 5, the 12 should be added to the 5 and the cell should show 17 inside. But Excel does not make that assumption. The cell keeps showing 12 + 5 unless the user enters = 12 + 5.

For an everyday user like me, however, Excel is still the easiest spreadsheet with access to the complex calculation features needed by accountants.

Among the components of Office 2000, Excel has changed the least. Microsoft provides reviewer guides to the suite's changes, and the Excel section has the fewest pages. But Excel did not need a lot of fixing.

Box Score '''''

Excel 2000

Spreadsheet in Microsoft Office 2000

Microsoft Corp.;

Redmond, Wash.;

tel. 425-882-8080


Cost: $309 for Office 2000 Premium Edition

+Excellent organizational and analysis tools

'Pesky equal sign required for formulas

Real-life requirements:

Windows 9x or NT, 200-MHz or faster Pentium processor, 32M of RAM, 252M of free storage

Improvements focus on how the spreadsheet relates to the Web and its Hypertext Markup Language. Excel worksheets can be saved in HTML directly to the Web with ease and some dynamic functionality. Certain spreadsheet functions stay embedded in the Web page, so users who have Office 2000 can edit and make changes directly to the posted data. But if Office 2000 is not present, the user cannot see the page'not even a static view. That is unfortunate.

Excel data posted on a Web page even keeps the power of the PivotTable analysis tool. If you've never tried PivotTable before, it shuffles around cells to show the results in several ways.

Say you keep an Excel spreadsheet to track purchases of office supplies. After gathering data for a while, you might wonder who buys the most floppy disks. Using PivotTable, you not only can see who's buying the most, but you also can tell when disk consumption goes up.

By dragging and dropping different row and column heads, you can group the same information into several formats. It's revealing and also quite easy.

Excel's charting remains powerful, although it would be better if the new version had allowed greater control. For example, Excel creates charts in its own palette of muted colors that do not take advantage of modern color printer capabilities. The chart applet should let the user specify a palette and font choice up front.

Amid all the brouhaha about year 2000, it's interesting that the spreadsheet's short-date default formats, for example, 10/16/99, do not include an option for four-digit years, say, 10/16/1999.

You have to enter MM/DD/YYYY under the Custom selection.

Excel 2000 adds up to an application with equality for all'except that forced use of the equal sign.'


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