Math On Demand (Office 12 Coolness, Part 4)

Here's a neat time-saver in Excel 12.  Let's say that you have some numbers somewhere in the Excel grid, in this case monthly sales figures for the branches of a store:

Sales data in the Excel grid

Now, let's say I wanted to quickly find out the average or total sales for some or all of my store branches.  In Excel 12, I simply multi-select the sales figures of the store branches to compare and look down in the status bar at the bottom of the screen:

Math in the Excel status bar

As I select numbers in the grid, the status bar automatically updates with the most commonly computed simple formulas.  The status bar can display Average, Count, Numerical Count, Minimum, Maximum, and Sum.

Even discontiguous selections work just fine; you can CTRL+CLICK many different cells from different parts of the grid and the status bar will display the calculated values for only the selected cells.

This feature can be a big time-saver, especially for doing quick throw-away calculations.  The update speed, as you'd hope, is nearly instantaneous.  (I guess when home PCs contain processors which can perform billions of instructions per second, adding up a few thousand numbers isn't really so taxing.)

The Excel team blogged about this feature a few weeks ago and included some other tidbits about the new Office 12 status bar I'll be talking about more later this week.  They included some cool pictures of the new charting engine at work in the same post.

Smart, simple improvements are an important (and sometimes overshadowed) element of the revitalization of the Office user experience. 

Comments (9)

  1. Brad Corbin says:

    I agree its a nice feature, but the only thing new about it is the ability to display MULTIPLE calculations at once. In 2003 and prior, a single calculation is displayed in the status bar based on the selected cells. It defaults to SUM, but you can right-click and change it to Average, Min, Max, or Count.

    When you get the chance, I’d love to hear more about the modular nature of the new Office 12 Status bar. You’ve covered the Zoom feature, but in your PDC demo you showed how to right-click to the toolbar to show/hide many other types of elements, including automatic word count in MS Word.

  2. Dan McCarty says:

    This is a great feature. I use it all the time, and whenever I show it to someone else they think it’s neat. (It’s been in Excel since ’97, I think.)

    Good thing it’s instantaneous, too. As John Carmack once, said, "There is something deeply wrong when text editing on a 3.6 ghz processor is anything but instantaneous."

  3. Vorn says:

    Good reason for it to be instantaneous: every single one of those is a single-pass operation that can operate on a stream without any backtracking. 🙂

  4. Centaur says:

    From time to time, I find myself wishing these calculation results could be copied to clipboard.

  5. SHoTTa35 says:

    Well send i’d send it as a suggestion to the beta guys or maybe email Jensen himself. Have him pass it on for ya.

    I never really use excel but sometimes i gotta admit, it does come in handy 😀

  6. KirkMorrant says:

    I agree, it would be nice to be able to copy the result and then paste it somewhere (See Centaur’s comment above).

    What really bugs me about this feature in current versions, is the fact that if you want to do a =COUNTA() you choose Count and if you want to do a =COUNT() you choose Count Nums. Some consistency here would make it less confusing. As an IT trainer, I need things to be as clear and consistent as possible! 😉

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