Office 2011: Excel FAQ

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A couple of weeks ago, we asked you what you wanted to know about Office 2011, the latest update to Microsoft's venerable software suite. (It goes on sale this week.) Based on our own research and consultations with Microsoft, here are answers to your questions about Excel 2011 ( ); stay tuned for our answers about the suite's other apps.


Can all Excel 2011 commands be accessed by menu options (in addition to buttons, the Ribbon, and so forth)?
Yes, the menus work just as they did in Excel 2008.

Can I set the menus and Ribbons in Excel 2011 so they’re the same as in Excel 2007 for Windows?
Although the user interface is similar on both platforms, they are a bit different, so you won’t be able to make Excel 2011 look and feel exactly the same as Excel 2007.

Did Microsoft add menu-item shortcuts to Excel for Mac like the ones that are in Excel for Windows?
Microsoft added some menu-item shortcuts similar to what you get in Excel for Windows. However, as the Mac and Windows operating systems differ, there are some differences in the shortcuts.

Does pressing the slash key (/) in Excel 2011 jump the focus up to the menu bar, as it does in the Windows version? The Mac version used to do this; it was nice to not have to reach for the mouse.
No, that is not supported in Excel 2011.

In a workbook with multiple tabs, can you color each tab individually? You could do it in Excel X and 2003, but not since.
Yes, you can color tabs individually.

Did Microsoft bring back the ability to see (and manipulate) page breaks in a page-break view?
Yes, you can see and change page breaks in the Page Layout view.

Are there pencil-and-eraser tools for selecting borders? (I didn’t see them in the beta versions.)
No, Excel 2011 doesn’t have this feature.


There’s been an inconsistency between the ways the Mac and Windows versions of Excel have managed dates (the 1900 versus 1904 problem). Has that been solved?
New workbooks in Excel 2011 now automatically default to the 1900 date system, as they do in the Excel 2010 for Windows.

Can I exchange spreadsheets freely with colleagues who use the Windows 2007 version?
Yes, Excel 2011 files are compatible with Excel 2007.

Does Excel 2011 for Mac support macros created with Excel 2007 for Windows?

Will data files created by Excel X be compatible with Excel 2011, and vice versa?
If you use the free Open XML file format converter, you can open documents saved in Excel 2011’s default file format in Excel X or later.

VBA and AppleScript

Is the version of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) in Excel 2011 different from the one that worked with Excel 2004?
There are two major differences between the two: First, Microsoft ported the Windows Office VBA environment to the Mac. The engine was upgraded from VBA 6 to VBA 6.5. The company also enabled some functions—such as FormatCurrency, FormatNumber, and Replace—that had been disabled in Office 2004. Second, whenever it was possible and made sense, Microsoft aligned the object models in Office 2011 with those used in Office 2010 for Windows. The company says that should result in much better compatibility across the two platforms.

Is the VBA in Excel 2011 compatible with the version in Office 2004?

Is the Solver integrated into Excel now that VBA is back? (In Excel 2008, it was a separate application and very slow.)
Yes. Solver is back in Excel 2011. It uses VBA for its user interface and Apple’s new Scripting Bridge technology to help with performance. Microsoft says its interface matches that of the new Solver in Excel 2010 for Windows. You should be able to move Excel workbooks containing Solver models (and VBA macros that control Solver) freely between Mac and Windows versions of Excel. All versions of Solver—from Excel 3.0 in 1990 to Excel 2010 and 2011—will be available as free downloads from Frontline Solvers.

Has the AppleScript library changed at all since Excel 2008?
It has been expanded a bit; it now supports password protection, filtering, sorting, and tables.

Other Questions

File format: Is it xls or xlsx?
The default format is .xlsx.

Is there a sort-by-format feature? I’d love to identify lines of data via conditional formatting or even manual formatting, and then sort them accordingly.
You can sort by cell color, font color, or icons created by conditional formatting.

Are there still problems with files that have long paths (opening, saving, inserting images from, and so on)?
Excel 2011 supports path names up to 255 characters long.

Did Microsoft improve the program’s ability to paste text from external applications into merged cells?
Yes and no: Microsoft says that it fixed some bugs regarding pasting into merged cells, but it can’t guarantee that all data from all apps will paste successfully.

Can a cell in Excel reference data that's available from a Website and then update at selected intervals of time?
Yes and no: You can update a cell in Excel reference data from a Website, but you cannot set the interval time.

Does Excel 2011 include Fourier transforms?

Does Excel 2011 support Excel 2004’s tools for matrix manipulations (TRANSPOSE(array), MMULT(array1,array2), MINVERSE(squareArray))?

Does Excel 2011 support what used to be called Graphical Goal Seek for XY Scatter Plots?

Can you access MS SQL OLAP cubes now?

Does Excel 2011 include the equivalent of Excel 2010’s slicers (the ability to filter on multiple pivot tables in a dashboard-like interface)?
PivotTables in Excel 2011 are in many ways like those in Excel 2010, but the Mac version does not support all of the high-end features—including Slicers or built-in database connectivity—found in the Windows program.

Has Microsoft returned the Analysis Toolpak add-in that it removed from Excel 2008?
Microsoft says that the new version of Excel supports the add-in the same way Excel 2008 did, and that the add-in’s basic functions work in Excel 2011.

Excel 2010 for Windows has a powerful add-on—Power Pivot—for handling huge data sets. Will Excel 2011 support it?

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Improved user interface
    • New Sparklines
    • Greatly improved pivot tables
    • Visual Basic for Applications returns
    • Much faster recalculation times
    • Themes and cell styles


    • No support for Services
    • Live window resizing is jumpy
    • Scrolling has been slowed down too much
    • Drop-down menus in the Ribbon don't remember custom size/shape settings
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