Excel for Mac 2016 review

This is our original review of the preview edition of Excel for Mac 2016, written in May 2015. Turn to the previous page to see our review of the final version of Excel 2016.

One of Excel's big boasts as far as Microsoft is concerned is that, like the new Word, it's now compatible with Windows keyboard shortcuts. In other words, amongst other things Ctrl+C will now copy, as will the same-old Cmd+C that’s been used on Macs since 1984. This will certainly appeal to number crunchers who’ve bought a MacBook Pro to replace their Lenovo or Dell.

Wondering when the final version will launch? Keep up-to-date with the rumours at Microsoft Office for Mac release date rumours

Another seemingly trivial new feature is an animated effect when you select a different cell. The highlight now slides over, as if on an icy surface, an effect also seen when selecting a range of cells via dragging. To be honest, this can take a little getting used to and feels less certain than the click-and-drag that’s again been pretty much de rigueur since 1984. However, we forgive it because it looks so cool.

Excel for Mac 2016 review

Those who use Excel for more than simple accounting will appreciate the fact that pivot tables can now have slicers – buttons that you can add to filter data and that also indicate which filter is currently in use. Statisticians will appreciate substantially beefed-up analysis tools, including the popular Analysis ToolPak.
 
Elsewhere, however, the differences are largely cosmetic and/or an attempt to bring Excel into line with its Windows sibling. As with the other new Office apps the ribbons have been rationalised so that there are fewer of them, with the Tables ribbon now being reduced to a button on the Insert ribbon, for example. The result is that Excel now feels tighter and looks significantly less bewildering.

Check out the rest of our Office 2016 previews: PowerPoint for Mac 2016 preview | Outlook for Mac 2016 preview | Word for Mac 2016 preview

The status bar at the bottom of the screen also receives the same colourful redesign as the other apps although here this has useful repercussions. Whereas switching the Sum count on the toolbar to alternatives such as Max, Min and Avg required you to click its dropdown list in the older Excel, now you right-click the status bar, where these are shown as part of a larger list of options. Additionally, more than one can be shown at a time – in fact, you can now have all of them displayed on the status bar if you wish (and have enough space).

One small but welcome update we noticed was that the password box that appears when you click Options in the Save As dialog box now appears alongside its parent window, rather than causing it to disappear and then subsequently reappear – a nice example of attention to detail.

Of all the apps here Excel felt the buggiest. A few times the title bar became garbled, with the filename running into the search field. We have little doubt Microsoft will fix this before the final release but for the moment – caveat emptor.

Read:

How to get Excel on an iPad

Microsoft Excel versus Apple Numbers

How to use Apple's spreadsheet app, Numbers

Alternatives to Numbers and Excel on the Mac

OUR VERDICT

Although boosted by invaluable features and a new look - the greater consistency between OS X and Windows editions will make things easier for many - Excel for Mac 2016 remains the poorest performer in the otherwise solid Office 2016 offering. Some will find it interminably slow at handling even moderately complex spreadsheets. Unless you desperately need the new features we recommend you stick with Excel 2011 for the near future.

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