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Editing in Excel Web App – Part I

Thanks to Dan Parish for putting together this series on editing in Excel Web App.

Before I get started, if you haven’t already read our Excel Web App 2010 Overview, you may want to take a minute to get acquainted with what Excel Web App is all about.

In the next two posts I’m going to be talking about the editing capabilities of Excel Web App, and I’ll use the example of creating a simple baseball stats tracking workbook throughout so that you can see how all of these capabilities come together.

How Editing in Excel Web App is Different than Editing in the Excel Client

We’ve done a lot of work to ensure that editing in Excel Web App is a familiar experience for everyone that is used to the Excel client, and there are many examples throughout the rest of this blog post to prove that. However, there are two ways in which editing in Excel Web App is different than editing in the Excel client.

The first is that unlike the Excel client where your changes are only saved when you click the save button, Excel Web App has no save button. Excel Web App continuously saves your changes as you are editing so that you never lose your work. This can greatly increase your confidence in using a web application since you never have to worry about a flaky connection or your browser crashing causing you to lose work. However, if you are editing a workbook that is accessible to other people, you also need to keep in mind that your changes are visible at any time to everyone with whom the workbook is shared. Most of the time this is totally fine, but there may be times when you don’t want your changes to be available until you are finished editing. If such a time arrives there are several ways to give your editing sessions varying degrees of privacy both in SharePoint (using approval, major/minor versions, or checking the file out first) and in SkyDrive (controlling who you share your workbook with).

The second way that editing in Excel Web App differs from the Excel client is that Excel Web App allows for real-time co-authoring of your workbooks with other people. This is an exciting new feature that really expands scenarios in which Excel can be used. There will be an entire post dedicated to co-authoring in the near future.

Entering and Modifying your Data

The first thing that you can do is (obviously) type into the workbook. To help you with this simple process, most of the keyboard shortcuts you are familiar with from the Excel client will continue to work in Excel Web App. In fact, Excel Web App is completely accessible using only a keyboard.

Once you’ve entered some data though, the next step is usually to enter some formulas, say to calculate your batting average (can it really be that low?), your slugging percentage, and your OPS. To help you with that, Excel Web App includes Formula Autocomplete, so that as you begin to enter a formula a list of formulas appears for you to select from:

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Excel Web App also supports Enter, Edit, and Point modes as in the Excel client, which is really just a fancy way of saying “the way that you enter formulas works just how you expect it toâ€. So you can enter data and move quickly from cell to cell, enter a formula and then pick a range via the keyboard or mouse, and easily edit existing content in cells.

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Of course, there is also a Formula Bar at the top of the grid if you like to make changes to your data there.

Excel Web App also supports cutting, copying and pasting data with 100% fidelity within your workbook (including the ability to paste only the values, formulas, or formatting from a selection), and will automatically adjust your formulas to account for their new location.

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You can also copy and paste data from Excel Web App into other applications and from other applications back into Excel Web App, however in those cases only the values and number formatting are preserved.

Finally, there is undo/redo functionality just in case you mistakenly enter that you hit 20 home runs and get caught catch your mistake and want to easily correct it.

Formatting your data

Ok, so now you have a workbook filled with data and formulas. You’re excited, you love your awesome new workbook. You send it to your team but just get back a bunch of emails telling you that it looks ugly and that they can’t understand it because it’s just a bunch of text and numbers. What do you do? Lucky for you Excel Web App comes complete with an array of different formatting options.

There are of course the mandatory font controls, along with buttons for bold, italic, and underline. So go ahead, make your name bold. You can also apply double underlines (useful for accounting), borders, horizontal and vertical alignment, create hyperlinks, and set whether you want the text to wrap within your cell or not.

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You can also choose from an array of different number, date and text formats and even increase or decrease the number of decimals in your numbers to properly format your batting averages, dollar amounts, and so on.

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And then, you can change colors. You can change both the colors of your text and the background color of you cells. You can make your titles appear in your team colors and highlight your best player in green. Now, if you’ve used Excel 2007 you have experienced the power of “Live Previewâ€, which automatically shows you what your color selection will look like in the grid as you hover over each color. Well, “Live Preview†is supported in Excel Web App as well. So no more picking a color and then realizing it doesn’t look as good in your grid as it did in the color picker, now you can pick the right color every time.

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Next time…

In the next installment of “Editing in Excel Web Appâ€, I’ll discuss the ways you can work with and analyze your data, and how Excel Web App works with functionality it supports rendering but not creating, so stay tuned!

As always, if you have any questions or comments on this post, please leave a comment and we’ll be sure to respond.