Greetings again. A little while ago, I was excited to share with you the new functionality that we made available to all Excel Web users on SkyDrive and Office365. This is part of our commitment to make the Office Web Applications a comprehensive productivity experience (not just a companion to the desktop applications), allowing you to create polished Office documents from start to finish, all from the web.
We’ve made a number of investments in the Office Web Apps over the last two years, adding features each release*:
- Summer 2007
- Initial Release to Business Customers
- Summer 2010
- Initial Release on the Web
- Embed spreadsheets in your own web pages
- Fall 2011
- Autofit Columns
- Context Menus
- Merge Cells
- Print to HTML
- Fall 2012
- 3D Charts
- Anonymous Editing
- Apps for Office
- PivotTable Field List
- REST API
- Sharing by Email
- Sharing by Link
- Sharing with Specific People
- Slicers on Tables
- Summer 2013
- Data Validation
- Freeze Panes
- Hide/Unhide Sheets
- Sort a Range
- Table Header Snapping
* This is just a sampling of the features we’ve added over the last several releases.
Hopefully you’ll agree that the functionality we’ve been adding is useful, and among the most important for us to add to Excel Web App. The investments we’ve made have been informed by the feedback customers like you provide on what’s most important. When you offer your input, we do our best to listen and get those features into the product as quickly as we can.
Today, I’m excited to talk through how we go about deciding which features to add next as well as some of the items that we’ve currently got on our list.
First, how do we decide what to do next?
One of the great things about Excel is that it can do many different things – from simple lists to complex BI/financial models. Of course, this means that when we build a new version of Excel for the Web, or for a mobile device, we can’t get everything into the new version all at once; we have to prioritize. Our methodology for prioritizing includes looking at data from several different sources every few months. They include:
- SkyDrive Customer feedback. There are several different channels through which we get this feedback, including the “File | Help | Send Feedback to Microsoft” button in Excel Web, surveys that we randomly send out to users of Web Excel, and “Send a Smile” feedback that we get from beta tests.
- Office 365 customer/company feedback. Office 365 has the same feedback mechanisms as SkyDrive for users, but there are also cases where we work with large companies on agreements for hundreds or even thousands of users. Sometimes, companies decide not to go with Office 365 (because they go with the desktop version of Office, or sometimes a competitor), and in those cases, we capture the list of any features in Excel Web that would have resulted in a successful sale.
- How we compare with competitive products. We always want to make sure that we’re the best at the things we do, so when there’s a competitive product doing things for which we think Excel should be used, we want to change that situation.
- Usage Data. For many years, Microsoft products (including Excel) have allowed users to opt-in to sending anonymous usage data to Microsoft in order to improve the products. Excel sends us information about the features that are used (clicked in the Ribbon, included in files, etc.) so that we can determine what’s most important to the millions of people using the application.
- Anecdotal customer feedback. We get tons of feedback every day from customers all over the world – from Excel MVPs to Fortune 500 CxOs to Excel users we meet in Starbucks.
Every few months, we take these inputs, score each feature based on them, and then build up a formula – in Excel – that ranks the features in terms of importance. Of course, we still apply a bit of internal ordering and weighting (for engineering efficiency, or to align with other Office initiatives, etc.), but for the most part, we work down the list based on real customer data (your feedback!). In the end, we have something like this (but not exactly this):
Feature Importance = (Competitive Standing) * (Weight X) + (SkyDrive Feedback) * (Weight Y) + (Office 365 Feedback) * (Weight Z) + (Usage Data) * (Weight P) + (Internal Factors) * (Weight R)
So, what are we doing next?
Now that you’ve got some background, here are some of the items that are currently on our list. Note that this isn’t in any order; I’ve just taken a bunch of the items near the top of the list, because I don’t want to imply that you’ll necessarily see one of these before any other. (Each one takes a different amount of time to develop, and we work on many things in parallel.)
Adding and Editing Freeze Panes (they are already viewable)
I hope you’ll agree with me that this is a SUPER exciting list of features that we’ve got in the backlog for Excel Web App. As these are released, we’ll go a long way to making Excel Web App an awesome productivity experience for working with data.
Of course, this may not be exactly the list of things that you’d like to see in Excel Web – and that’s where you can help us. The survey below is a great place for you to provide feedback that we will use to tweak the list of things we’re working on. If you feel that something on our list is particularly important, or that we’re missing something very important from our list – please let us know!