Every release, part of what the team (and the entire company) does when working on a new release of Excel is use it in all sorts of ways (often referred to as â€œdogfoodingâ€). We use it in our daily work, we build solutions that the team uses to manage the development process, we help other folks inside MSFT (finance, sales, marketing, etc.) upgrade their workbooks and build solutions, etc. Almost all of this work is focused on running the business at Microsoft, and the goal is to make sure the product is ready before we release it to customers. From time to time, however, folks on the team find slightly more creative ways to test the product. For example, a couple of our program managers have built highly sophisticated (and highly effective) applications that perform all sorts of statistical analysis with the goal of identifying the best picks for their fantasy football leagues (and they tend to dominate their leagues as a result). In another example, Sam Radakovitz, one of our program managers, recently whipped up a version of “Match” using Excel 2007â€™s new conditional formatting feature set.
For those of you that have downloaded the Office 2007 beta, here is a link to the file so you can download it and try it out.
Instructions are included. (This is the same Sam that built, along with another program manager named Joseph Chirilov, an application to download XBOX statistics into Excel using web services so you could analyze your game playing â€¦ here are links to a Forbes article and a Red Herring write-up for those interested in more on that.)
One of my all-time favourites is a chess application. Someone on the team in the early 90s wrote a chess engine that allows you to play chess against Excel â€“ it uses iterative calculation to derive the next move. I am no grandmaster, but I cannot beat the application at its toughest setting. I was hoping to post it, but it is not working in the beta due to a draw bug, so I will post it later when we have it working again.
We arenâ€™t the only ones that build games, either. Here is a page I stumbled upon recently that has ~60 games you can download and play using Excel.
I havenâ€™t sampled many, but the few I have tried are very well done. Enjoy.