For a more recent article, please see Excel 2016’s Top Ten Tricks

The upgrade from Microsoft Excel 2003 to Excel 2007 is probably one of the most significant changes for users yet. There are many new functions, most of which are an improvement to Excel 2003 but they do take some getting used to!

Major changes between versions

The biggest change is the new “ribbon” format replacing the toolbars. It is now more task-orientated and things are easier to find so you’ll probably find many features you never knew existed! It will take some time get up to speed, however, and you will probably lose some productivity at first.

  • The office assistant paper clip is gone for good!
  • The colours and charting are much more professional looking in 2007
  • Themes and styles have much more functionality
  • Conditional formatting is no longer limited to three conditions, and easier to use
  • It is possible to add comments to named ranges
  • The formula bar is resizable
  • The name manager allows you to organise, update, and manage multiple named ranges in a central location
  • The size of each worksheet has expanded from 65,000 to over 1 million rows!
  • It now remembers up to fifty recently used files instead of nine
  • Sorting limits have increased from three to 64 levels and you can even sort by colour!
  • It has a new file format called the Office Open XML which facilitates integration with external data sources, and also offers reduced file sizes and improved data recovery. In Office Excel 2007, the default format for an Excel workbook is the Office Excel 2007 XML-based file format (.xlsx).

Excel 2007 Compatibility

Until everyone has upgraded to the new version, compatibility will remain the biggest challenge for Excel 2007 users, especially if others need to open the model in 2003. There are a number of new functions in 2007 which are not available in 2003. If you are the only person using 2007 and everyone in your office or your clients are still on 2003, you will have to make sure you do not use the new functions otherwise you will have compatibility issues. Note that all the great graphics and colours still look fine when you open the model in 2003, as long as you do not use a formula not supported in 2003.

A compatibility checker tells you if your workbook contains features that previous versions of Excel will not support. But be careful – you will need to remember to save a document in Excel 2003 format to maintain compatibility with other users until the new 2007 file format becomes the standard. While Microsoft has released a converter to read 2007 files in earlier versions, do not rely on your colleagues to have it installed.

If you use new functions not available in 2003, the compatibility checker will keep advising you to save a copy in 2003 – which gets rather annoying after a while.