Excel Services part 12: Unsupported features

In the second article I wrote about Excel Services, I discussed the scenarios that we are targeting with this initial release and also a few scenarios that we will not support.  Today I wanted to provide further detail on the latter – specifically, the Excel 12 features that will not be supported in our first version of Excel Services.  Excel 12 is a feature-rich application, and it was not possible to support every one of Excel 12’s features in our first version of Excel Services.  Instead, we focused on the features required by the aforementioned set of scenarios, and also on making sure Excel Services is a server-grade product that will meet customers’ expectations in terms of reliability, scalability and security.  Over future versions, we expect to add support for many of the features detailed below as well as future Excel client enhancements; we will use customer feedback to inform which features are most important to tackle next.

What does “support” mean, anyway?
Before getting into feature lists, I want to briefly discuss what it means to “support” an Excel 12 feature on Excel Services.   There are different ways to look at “support” for Excel 12 features in Excel Services.  Here is how the team talks about this area.

  • Loading files.  Excel Services will not load every Excel file – in some cases, when Excel Services does not support an Excel 12 feature, Excel Services will not load the file.  For example, Excel Services does not support running VBA, so it will not load files with VBA in them.  More on this below.
  • Viewing files.  In some cases, Excel Services will not display an object in a spreadsheet with full fidelity as compared to Excel 12.  For example, charts in Excel 12 are getting great new visual effects.   When displayed via Excel Services, charts will not support all of these new effects.  More on this below too.
  • Interacting with files.  While some features support interactivity in the browser, not all do.  For example, users cannot add or rearrange fields in PivotTables when working with spreadsheets in a browser.
  • Authoring files.  As I described in my initial post on Excel Services, authoring spreadsheets is not a scenario that we are targeting in this release of Excel Services.  This means, for example, that you cannot insert a chart or change a formula once the spreadsheet is opened up on Excel Services. 

With that in mind, let’s review the Excel 12 features that are not supported on Excel Services, starting with features that will prevent a spreadsheet from being loaded by Excel Services.

Excel Spreadsheets that will not load on the first version of Excel Services
Spreadsheets that contain one or more of the following features will not load in Excel Services.

  • Spreadsheets with code.  This includes spreadsheets with VBA macros, forms controls, toolbox controls, MS 5.0 Dialogs, and XLM Sheets.
  • IRM-protected spreadsheets
  • ActiveX Controls
  • Embedded SmartTags
  • PivotTables based on “multiple consolidation” ranges
  • External references (links to other spreadsheets)
  • Spreadsheets saved in formula view
  • XML expansion packs
  • XML Maps
  • Data validation
  • Query Tables, SharePoint Lists, Web Queries, and Text Queries
  • Spreadsheets that reference add-ins
  • Spreadsheets that use the RTD() function
  • Spreadsheet that use spreadsheet and sheet protection
  • Embedded pictures or clip art
  • Cell and Sheet background pictures
  • AutoShapes and WordArt
  • Ink Annotations 
  • Organization Charts and Diagrams.
  • DDE Links

Many of you are probably wondering whether there is an easy way to find out whether a spreadsheet contains any of the features in the list above.  When you publish a spreadsheet 

to a document library, a user has the option of viewing it in their browser after the publish completes.  If there are feature(s) that are not supported on Excel Services, they will get immediate feedback in the form of a message that indicates that are unsupported Excel 12 features in the spreadsheet. 

(Click to enlarge)

The remaining support “types” (viewing files and interacting with files) do not prevent a spreadsheet from being loaded on Excel Services, but instead, will either limit the amount of interactivity or how a specific feature is displayed in Excel Web Access as compared to Excel 12.

Features Not Supported for Display in Excel Services
Spreadsheets that contain one or more of the following features will load in Excel Services, but the features will not be displayed.  (The features won’t be removed from the file however, so the next time you open the file in Excel 12, they will once again be displayed). 

  • Split and Freeze Panes
  • Headers and Footers
  • Page Layout View
  • Cell patterns
  • Zoom
  • Analysis Services’ member properties in tooltips
  • Some cell formatting like diagonal borders and border types not supported by HTML

Features with Limited Interactive Support 

  • PivotCharts – PivotCharts will not be interactive when viewed in a browser (i.e. you wont be able to filter a PivotChart directly), but if you interact with the PivotTable supplying data for the PivotChart, the PivotChart will update accordingly (so if you filtered the PivotTable, the PivotChart would update to show the filtered data set)
  • PivotTables – Users will be able to sort, filter, expand, and collapse data in PivotTables in a browser, but they will not be able to drill-through, use SQL Server Analysis Services actions, add or remove fields, or rearrange (i.e. Pivot) fields.
  • GoTo – In a browser, users can use either Named Object View or the provided navigation controls to move around a spreadsheet, but there is no equivalent of GoTo
  • Zoom; Minimize and Maximize – These capabilities do not map well to browse-based viewing of spreadsheets
  • Switching to Page Layout View – A new view I will cover in future posts.  It’s designed to facilitate printing (an activity that is best performed in Excel 12 client). 
  • Goal Seek and Scenario Manager
  • Formula auditing (Trace precedents, trace dependents, show formulas, etc.)
  • Altering a spreadsheet’s calculation mode
  • Watch window

A word on authoring spreadsheets …
Spreadsheet authoring is not a scenario that we are targeting with this initial release.  To be as clear as possible, here are some examples of what we mean by spreadsheet authoring … these functions will not be supported in this release of Excel Services.

  • Inserting a new worksheet
  • Inserting a Chart
  • Creating a Table
  • Inserting a PivotTable
  • Inserting a PivotChart
  • Editing Formulas
  • Entering data into arbitrary cells
  • Defining names
  • Changing cell formatting
  • Altering conditional formatting rules
  • Grouping and ungrouping (you can interact with groups once defined in Excel 12)
  • Creating Outlines (again, you can interact with outlines once defined in Excel 12)
  • Defining consolidated ranges
  • Converting text to columns

A word on charting …
Excel Services will render all charts created in Excel 12 client, however, there may be some minor visual differences when some charts are created by Excel Services depending on how charts are designed.  Specifically, some of the fancier new effects that Excel 12 charts will have

such as bevels, shadows, and reflections are not available in Excel Services.

A word on extensibility …
As noted above, Excel Services does not support or load spreadsheets that contain VBA code.  Excel services will support user-defined functions that are written in managed code. Native code add-ins will not be directly supported, although native code functions called by “wrapper” functions can be used.  I will describe all this in more detail in a future post sometime this month.

With that, we have largely summarized our investment Excel Services (save for the extensibility post I just mentioned).  Starting next week, I will be starting a series of posts on PivotTable improvements in Excel 12.