Spreadsheet software

Hands down, feds love their Excel 2000

By Richard W. Walker

GCN Staff

Can a spreadsheet program have too many bells and whistles?

For users of Microsoft Excel 2000, the top-rated spreadsheet in the GCN survey, it can.

'It goes way beyond my needs,' said Mark Oliver, a systems analyst at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Austin-San Antonio office in Texas.

But he still likes it. 'It's fantastic,' Oliver said. 'It just has a lot more stuff than I use.'

Oliver depends on Excel 2000 for only a few basic daily tasks.

'I use it as kind of a poor man's database for information on communications circuits and IP addresses,' he said. 'It's just handier than a built-up database. If I need to do a report or track down information on anything, it's right there. It takes the place of a database.'

He also uses it for budgets. 'All of my accounting information is set up in spreadsheets,' he said.

He also finds Excel to be nicely intuitive. 'I seldom use help at all,' he said. 'That's what's so wonderful about most Microsoft applications. You don't need to go there that much.'

User views
'I love the parse function [converting separate, copied text into spreadsheet columns]. I do a lot of that. I do queries in Unix and import them into Excel and use that function to parse the data. It's so smart. That's a wonderful function.''

'Mark Oliver, systems analyst at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Austin'San Antonio office in Texas, on Microsoft Excel 2000

'We had some problems getting some tables [from Microsoft Excel 97] into a 98-page Microsoft Word document. We would start to put a table in there and it would get lost or skip to the next page or it didn't put it exactly where we wanted. We had to do some formatting to get it to fit.''

'Edmond Saad, chief of the Systems and Assessment Section, Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Excel 97

Excel dominated the market surveyed by GCN, with five versions'4.0, 5.0, 7.0, 97 and 2000'accounting for 87 percent of the installed base.

Excel 97, rated No. 4 in the survey, held a huge wedge of the market'69 percent. Excel 7.0, rated No. 2 just ahead of Corel Quattro Pro 8, had a 10 percent slice of the market. Quattro Pro spreadsheets collectively also had a 10 percent share.

Do the math

Another Excel 2000 fan is Edmond Saad, chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Systems and Assessment Section, who uses Excel 2000 on his home PC and Excel 97, the No. 3 spreadsheet in the survey, at the office.

'I personally like [Excel 2000] quite a bit more,' Saad said. He uses Excel 2000 primarily for math calculations and small database functions.

'I don't see massive changes, but I like the way it operates. It operates much faster on my Microsoft Windows 98 environment at home. The calculations are done quickly, and I like the features for formulas and the built-in templates that are available,' he said.

Saad finds importing and exporting files much easier in 2000 than in 97. 'With 2000, they seemed to have improved that process quite a bit,' he said.

In general, feds expressed few major complaints about Excel 97. A programmer at the Veterans Affairs Department thought the user interface could be friendlier but said that overall 97 doesn't need much improvement. Others wanted better help features.

Similar opinions were expressed by users of Excel 7.0. In Illinois, the Army's Rock Island Arsenal plans to upgrade users to Microsoft Office 2000 from Office for Windows 95 Professional and, as a result, to Excel 2000, webmaster William Milburn said. In the meantime, Excel 7.0 bundled with Office 95 will do just fine.

'It's easy to use and intuitive,' he said. 'It integrates well with the other programs' in Office 95.

Quattro Pro users in the survey also didn't grumble much.

At the Army's Aviation Systems Test Division at Fort Hood, Texas, where Micro-soft products are standard, supervisory military test plans analyst Larry Coon prefers Corel software. So he uses Quattro Pro 9 at home, having upgraded to WordPerfect Office 2000. He had used Quattro Pro 8.

'I like Corel products,' he said. 'I've used them for years. I think over the years I've just developed a preference.'

Overall Output quality User interface Ability to
export to
word processor,
publishing apps
Multiple read and write formats Speed Documentation and helpAvailability of sheet linking
Microsoft Excel 2000 90 100 100 100 100 80 70 100
Microsoft Excel 7.0 71 83 83 70 71 78 65 70
Corel Quattro Pro 8 68 78 78 56 78 78 63 78
Microsoft Excel 97 63 82 83 65 76 71 57 77

Charting and data mapping features Efficient memory use Graphics capabilities Ease of use of macro features Variety of macro features Elaborate formatting Web publishing features
Microsoft Excel 2000 90 89 80 90 90 90 75
Microsoft Excel 7.0 74 65 63 74 74 67 57
Corel Quattro Pro 8 89 63 67 56 56 88 29
Microsoft Excel 97 65 52 65 55 55 51 35

The Government Computer News Product Preference Survey is designed to give federal buyers detailed quantitative data on specific computer and communications products, as rated by federal users.

The survey also measures the relative importance of product attributes in selection of those products.

This survey on spreadsheet software was part of a questionnaire mailed to 4,000 federal readers of GCN who on their subscription application forms identified themselves as buyers and users of spreadsheet software. We got 245 responses to this part of the questionnaire.

The spreadsheet packages in the survey were chosen because they represent the bulk of such products used in government. This report lists results only for those versions that received at least nine responses.

The overall rating for each product was developed by averaging all individual attribute scores. Top scores are in red.


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