Author: Bill Jelen
Publisher: Que, 2013
Audience: New users of Excel and those upgrading to Excel 2013
Reviewed by: Janet Swift
This is a large tome that promises to cover a huge application in depth. Do you need it?
When I reviewed the previous edition of this book I found it a great asset in getting to grips with the new features of Excel 2010. Noticing that the new edition has exactly the same number of pages as the 2010 version, I wondered whether I would need this volume as well.
The short answer is yes. Bill Jelen, who as Mr Excel is well known for his website as well as many other books on this topic, has done a thorough update and if you are upgrading to Excel 2013 you also need this book.
If you are an existing Excel 2010 who hasn't yet decided whether to upgrade, reading the Introduction and Chapters 1 and 2 will help you make up your mind and luckily Amazon's Look Inside selection extends far enough to let you read them online.
According to Mr Excel, the positive new features of the latest version boil down to:
- Flash Fill - helps with reformatting imperfect data
- Quick Analysis - provides instant preview of using the various data analysis tools including color coding, charts and reports.
- Excel App Store - a source of apps that can extend Excel's functionality
- Recommended Charts feature and the paintbrush icon that lets you style charts
- Recommended Pivot Table feature and new Power View that lets you visualize data stored in a Power Pivot model
- Excel Web App
Bill Jelen is both expert and enthusiastic when it comes to Excel but he is also aware of its shortcomings and is prepared to be critical where necessary. For example, in Chapter 1 he welcomes the fact that the change in Excel from 2013 from MDI (Multiple Document Interface) to SDI (Single Document Interface) means you can show two workbooks on two different monitors, he points out the drawback of SDI, which is that each book has to have its own ribbon and other controls which leave little real estate for the spreadsheet if you want to title several on the screen.
When it comes to the new Excel Start Screen, Jelen points out that it is rarely useful to him and that for him, and other experienced users, it has a "fatal flaw" which is that if used to select a Blank Workbook it does not use any customized default settings that the users has established. He also regrets that the Recent Folders pane on Excel 2010 has been replaced and is not impressed by the new Timelines filter for Pivot Tables.
As mentioned in my previous review, the book isn't for naive spreadsheet beginners in that it doesn't ask basic questions such as "why use a spreadsheet" nor does it include a simple first worksheet. Instead it dives deep and, as promised in its back jacket, goes:
Beyond the Basics... Beneath the Surface.... In Depth
and caters both for new users and for those who have kept up with the evolution of Excel over its many generations
The five-part structure of the previous edition is preserved and a lot of the material relating to unchanged aspects of the software that has been carried across with minimal revisions. The exception is Part I - Mastering the New User Interface which has three completely new chapters.
Chapter 1: Staying Connected Using Excel 2013 looks not only at the different feel of the Single Document Interface and the Start Screen but also the new options for signing into Excel 2013 and using the cloud - not just for storage but also for linking to multiple accounts.
Also new are Chapter 2, devoted to Flash Fill and Quick Analysis; and Chapter 5, on Excel apps and add-ins and obtaining them from the new Excel appstore.
Upgraders from older versions of Excel will find the assistance they need in Chapter 3, which is about the elements of the Excel Interface that were first introduced in 2007 - the Ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar; and in 2010 - Backstage View and Paste Preview and in Chapter 4 on Customizing Excel. The final two chapters in Part 1 are on Keyboard Shortcuts and on Excel's grid and file formats.
Part 2: Calculating with Excel starts with a chapter on Understanding Formulas. This is targeted at new users of Excel but is worth a skim read for almost everyone. The next two chapters, 9 - Controlling Formulas and 10 - Working with Functions, also cover basic principles and then come five chapters on different types of functions. Functions that are new in Excel 2013 are introduced where appropriate and this leads to a new section on Web functions in Chapter 12.
After chapters on Connecting Worksheets, Workbooks and External Data and Using Super Formulas in Excel, Jelen includes a chapter on the use of range names and concludes this part with Chapter 19 - Fabulous Table Intelligence covering a feature introduced in Excel 2007 which gives extra facilities for analyzing two-dimensional tables of data and is well worth knowing about.
Part III, Business Intelligence, starts by looking at Excel's facilities for sorting and filtering data and using automatic subtotals. Then come three chapters on Pivot Tables and PowerPivot, including new material on the new timeline filter.
The major new chapter in this section covers Power View, the new feature in Excel 2013 that builds on PowerPivot and lets users create interactive dashboards based on data stored in a PowerPivot model, combining charts, maps, pivot tables, images and more.
Other chapters in this part, as before, are on Using What-If, Scenario Manager, Goal Seek and Solver; Automating Repetitive Functions Using VBA Macros.
Part 4 is a whirlwind, yet comprehensive look at Excel's facilities for Visual Presentation. It's first chapter answers the question "Why Format Worksheets?" giving a good introductory discussion, which while useful to new spreadsheet users is probably even more valuable to experienced ones to whom embellishment using themes may be new.
After a chapter on Using Data Visualizations and Conditional Formatting we come to Chapter 32 on Excel charts and it is here that you will find information about the new Recommender Charts feature and Using Paintbrush Icon for Styles. This part rounds out with chapters on Sparklines; SmartArt, Shapes, Word Art and Text Boxes; and Pictures and Clip Art.
Part 5 consists of the same three chapters as before. Chapter 36 on Printing has been updated to reflect how the printing process has been "streamlined" in the new Print panel on the file menu - a change that Jelen finds cumbersome rather than an i8mprovement. By contrast he is impressed by what you can do with the latest version of the Excel Web App and also covers sharing workbooks on SkyDrive in Chapter 37. The final chapter is devoted to the Easy -XL Program and looks at utility developed and sold by Bill Jelen through his website MrExcel.com which adds 50 commands to the Excel 2013 ribbon and is intended to make complex data analysis tasks easier. A 90-day license to use this program is included with the book so you are encouraged to try it out.
As with the previous version, I enjoyed dipping into this tome and found it comprehensive and insightful. I will keep it on my shelf and expect to use it often to ensure that I make best use of Excel in the most efficient way.