We’ve updated Excel Web App: What’s new in November 2013

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About six months ago, we announced that Excel Web App and all Office Web Apps are destined to become a comprehensive productivity experience on more browsers and devices–not just companions to the desktop applications. In June, we released a major update, and I’m excited to share another significant step forward with you today! Let’s look at some of the awesome new things you can do in Excel Web App, now in both SkyDrive and Office 365, and also take a peek at some of what’s coming in future updates.

We’re still focused on your feedback

As I wrote in an earlier post, we have a list of features and functionalities that we’ve prioritized based on customer feedback and market research. The feedback from the survey was great, and confirmed for us that we’re generally working on the right things. We’ve continued to focus on those features that customers are asking for–I’ll touch on a few of them here, but I wholeheartedly recommend that you try the new Excel Web App today to get a sense for yourself for how great it is.

If you are interested in trying out the features in this blog post yourself, you can give it a shot here: October 2013 Web Excel Update Demo.xlsx. Copy the workbook to your own SkyDrive and then view it in edit mode to see some of the features in action.

Real-time co-authoring and presence

Excel Web App has supported multiple users editing the same workbook for years, but with this release things have gotten a lot better in two ways: the data flows between editors much faster (nearly instantly in most cases) and now you can see what cells other users are editing so that you don’t accidentally edit the same cell at the same time. This area is also exciting because we’ve added the same functionality to Word and PowerPoint Web Apps–read more about it here.


Figure 1: Real-time presence and coauthoring in Excel Web App.

Sheet Protection

Besides support for Freeze Panes (introduced in June), Sheet Protection has been one of our biggest requests. In the past, Excel Web App would not load workbooks that contained Sheet Protection, but now it does, which will prevent users from selecting or typing in protected cells. This allows for easy creation of forms and calculators that you can fill out without worrying about the rest of your workbook getting messed up. Pro tip: Use Data Validation and Sheet Protection together for an even slicker solution!


Figure 2: Sheet Protection in Excel Web App.

Status bar aggregates

Some of the little things in Excel are what make it such a nice application to use. Quickly selecting a group of cells and seeing the SUM, AVERAGE, and COUNT in the status bar qualifies for many of our users as one of the most convenient shortcuts. Now those aggregates are shown in Excel Web App as well, making life that much easier.


Figure 3: Status bar aggregates in Excel Web App.

Reorder sheets

When creating a workbook with multiple sheets, it is common to want to move a sheet from one location in the workbook to another–maybe move a sheet to be the first sheet if it is the most important. In the past, this was something that users could not accomplish using only Excel Web App, but now there are two ways to perform this common operation: right-click the sheet you want to move and then choose Reorder, or just click and drag the sheet tab to the desired location, and you’ll see an arrow to indicate where the sheet will end up.


Figure 4: Reordering sheets in Excel Web. (Note the arrow indicator.)

Drag and drop cells

Similar to the way that you can drag and drop sheets within a workbook, one of the easiest ways to move cell values from one place to another is to drag them. This is also similar to Cut/Paste, but can be more convenient since Excel will show you the group of cells that’s being moved, and what range will be replaced when you drop the cells in their new location.


Figure 5: Dragging cells in Excel Web to move them from one place to another. O wins!

Rename the workbook

A final piece of feedback we’ve heard users want is the ability to rename a workbook–without creating a copy of it–from within Excel Web App. In the past, renaming has been possible, but the user would have to close the file, navigate to the file in SkyDrive, and then use SkyDrive UI to rename the file. Now you can simply click the filename in the header and type in your new name. Simple and quick!


Figure 6: Simple and quick rename of a file, entirely within Web Excel.

We’re still working on more of what you want

I think you’ll agree that the improvements we’ve looked at so far are great ones for Excel Web App. But we’re not done–not by a long shot. We have much more in the pipeline, and in the coming months you’ll see us release even more of the features that you’ve come to love in desktop Excel, as well as some you may not have even realized existed. Log in and give the updated Excel Web a try–we think you’ll like it.

Remember to grab the sample workbook, and as always, we love to hear what you think, so let us know in the comments section, and have fun using the new release of Excel Web App!

  1. Great additions both to Word and Excel Web Apps!
    But where is "close" (X) button? Yes, I can click File -> Exit, but it took me one more additional mouse-click 🙂

    • Dan Battagin

      Glad you like them! For close – you can just close the browser window/tab, or navigate away to another page (click "SkyDrive" in the top navigation bar – there’s no need to explicitly close the file. We’re constantly saving in the background, so you should never lose any of your work!

      • Vitali Plagov

        Ok, thank you. May be it really makes a sense.

        Would like to provide you some more feedback. If I’m applying a filter to table and then want to summarize numbers in filtered rows using SUM formula, it sums not just filtered rows but all rows as like if filter was not applied.

        • Dan Battagin

          @Vitali – for summing those numbers in a table, try using the SUBTOTAL function – that will only sum the numbers that are visible after you filter (SUM always sums everything, and SUBTOTAL will aggregate what’s showing.)

          • Glenn Brown

            @Dan Battagin – Dan is there a reason why such obviously needed features such as word co-authoring are being held to a next Office version for Web Apps Server? I can understand some delay, but a whole office release version seems a bit ridiculous.

  2. MVOverdijk

    Excellent work! Would love to see the addition of conditional formatting in an upcoming update.

    • Dan Battagin

      @Mark – thanks! We’d love to see it too! Guess what that means? 😉

  3. Anshul_Shrivastava

    Awesome! When the release is expected for the Office Web Apps Server?

    • Dan Battagin

      @Anshul – the next release of the Office Web Apps Server will come around the same time that the next release of Office ships (still TBD). For now, the best way to take advantage is Skydrive or Office 365!

      • Anshul_Shrivastava

        Thanks a lot @Dan! I am sure lot of people will benefit from this clarity.

        Off late there seems to be a trend where more and more features are being made available to O365/SharePoint Online first (or exclusive) and there might be a delay in sync. Example: External links, Yammer Integration, and now the Office Web App changes.

        While the lag between O365 (being SAAS) and On-Premise is understandable, this may call for a re-strategy in terms of offerings for ISPs like us, as this may leave our On-premise customers under served.

        Any thoughts on this concern would be appreciated!

  4. Dave Goldberg

    I don’t see any of these features in my corp O365 environment Excel web app….are they not pushed live yet or should I already see them? When will they be available?

    • Dave Goldberg

      Looks like the code was pushed…and we can see the features now…great!

  5. Those are great enhancements aimed to bring productivity to the web experience. Here is a wishlist of what is missing :
    1) it would be nice to release a product that can scan a batch of documents an flag the ones that are eligible to the web experience
    2) it would be great to list what kind of documents are not working in the web apps (read and edit mode): documents with macros, linked files, video embeded, password protected…
    3) it would be nice to have benchmark on how fast documents are opening in edit mode
    4) it would be nice to list the degraded experience you can expect when switching from rich to web apps like how to work on a document attached to an email when you don’t have Office
    5) it would be nice to have some sort of roadmap, you’re evoking conditional formating but what else
    6) it would be great to clarify the strategy around Office Web Apps: do you think it can replace the Office Client? When? For what usages? For who?
    As you know the big interest around the Office Web Apps is to know when it can be a replacement for Office, and it is not clear yet.

  6. Mantvydas

    Finally!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    The most important feature that I wanted and asked is here — REAL TIME CO-AUTHORING.

    Now I can Skype my colleague, open one Excel file on the web, and we can see what cell we are talking about!

    I don’t know yet, if the requirement to edit the cell for the other one to see it, will be a problem, but still, at least there is a way to do it!

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