It’s Gonna Be A Hot Summer


I spend a lot of time here writing about the new Office 12 UI. And why
not–it’s the project I work on and I’m proud of the work our team is doing.


But in reality, the purpose of any UI framework is to support the programs
using it–and ultimately to enable them to provide awesome user experiences.


One of the things that blows me away in Excel 12 are the new data
visualizations. This is an area in which the new UI technologies ( href="http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/archive/category/11716.aspx">the Ribbon,
Galleries,
Live Preview) and new capabilities in Excel
(Conditional Formatting
improvements, new graphics functionality) come together to make something
great.


I use Excel a lot, but I’m not an incredibly hard-core user; generally, I
throw some data in the grid and push it around. Excel for me is a decision-support tool.
I use it to analyze and visualize my data to help make good decisions.


For that reason, the fact that I can make something like the following
picture in just one click in Excel 12 is enough already that I dread having to
use previous versions.




Just one click to apply this automatic formatting in Excel 12


I’m sure it must have been possible to make things like this in Excel
2003–probably through writing fancy VBA code or by finding and buying $200
add-ins.


But I never spent the hours necessary figuring out how to create something
like this. Now that I have these capabilities at my fingertips, I find them indispensable.
"Format as Table" and "Conditional Formatting" on the first tab of Excel might
just be the two commands I use the most frequently in Excel 12.


What really rocks is seeing
Live
Preview
in action with Conditional Formatting. As you hover over all the
choices in the gallery, your data is instantaneously updated to show you what
the visualizations look like. Finding the most meaningful one takes just a few
seconds. This is all working in current builds, and it’s one of my favorite
parts of Office 12.


If you use Excel to analyze data, you owe it to yourself to read
all about
Conditional Formatting on the venerable Excel team blog
. (I’d recommend
starting at the bottom and reading up.)


Have a great weekend everyone!

Comments (9)

  1. I’ve used conditional formatting in previous versions of Excel. For example, I use it to keep track of my finances. Any bill due in the next couple weeks will be highlighted in red as a reminder to pay it (or be aware that it’s coming out automatically).

    (big fan of the blog, btw… looking forward to O12)

  2. "But in reality, the purpose of any UI framework is to support the programs using it–and ultimately to enable them to provide awesome user experiences."

    Great statement and is exactly why I hope MS decides to make all this hard work available to all Windows developers.

    Again, thanks for blogging Jensen I always look forward to your posts.

    Have a great weekend.

    -Steve

  3. Stuart Swindells says:

    Yeah, conditional formatting existed before, but it wasn’t /as/ easy to create effects like in the screenshot.

    Fan of the blog here too, good informative look into where O12’s going. :)

  4. Conditional formatting is available in Excel 2003 and previous versions, though I suspect the implementation is much slicker in Excel 12. I don’t know whether there’s a limit to the number of conditions you can have; the most I’ve needed is two: in the attendance sheet I maintain for my Rotary club, I mark those with 100% attendance in yellow and those with less than the required 60% in blue.

    For those who don’t know how to get started, see Excel’s Help topic "Add, change, or remove conditional formats."

    Need I add I’m also a fan? <g>

  5. KirkMorrant says:

    I remember the days when conditional formatting involved typing lots of codes into the Format Cells dialog box. And all THAT did was change the text colour! I’m gonna be like a kid in a candy store with O12! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!

  6. LesC says:

    I’m going to be a spoilsport, but I think that table is ugly as sin and really hurts the eyes. It also has the (undesirable?) side-effect of making it very difficult to read the actual numbers.

    I hope against hope this is not a built-in effect.

  7. jensenh says:

    Les,

    You can, of course, choose not to apply this effect. But I think it does help to visualize the relative temperature patterns of the different cities (which is many cases is more important than scrutizing every number.)

    I do agree that there are many cases in which this kind of formatting wouldn’t make sense.

  8. Luc says:

    Very cool feature! One cool idea might be to have a custom iconset with thermometers in the cells. To go a step further, allow the colors be be applied to the ‘mercury area’ of the thermometer. Yeah… I know, I’m being that guy. :)

    I’m a big fan of your blog too, Jensen. Keep ’em coming!