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Microsoft revamp hits Excel, Word and PowerPoint

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Microsoft has hit the green button for Office and Windows 11, as it rolls out a host of customer-requested updates, previews and new features. Maddy Christopher also summarises a few security tips accessible by Windows 10 users.  

14th Jul 2021
Staff Writer AccountingWEB
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Microsoft has revealed that the much-hyped Windows 11 should be ready for official release by early winter. Public betas will no-doubt precede the final launch, and Windows 10 will be a free update for Windows 10 users.

The new Windows has been designed to create “an incredible sense of calm,” said Microsft SPO Panos Panay, whilst improving the speed of startup and browsing – and running updates 40% faster. Android apps will run on Windows like integrative native apps found in the redesigned Microsoft Store.

Windows widgets are also said to feature heavily in the new version. “Windows widgets is a new, personalised feed, powered by AI, serving you curated content,” explained Panay.

Microsoft Teams will now come pre-built into Windows 11, following the recent release of the consumer version of Teams, making Teams Microsoft's version of Facetime.

Microsoft’s new Office UI 

Designed to match the redesigned Windows 11 operating system, Office Insiders can preview the new user interface (UI) before it is officially made live later this year.

The key changes are a more rounded Office ribbon bar with soft Windows corners and tweaks to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook buttons, to match Windows 11. Microsoft appears to be making subtle changes to Office’s UI, rather than scrapping the ribbon interface altogether. 

However, Microsoft eventually plans to replace the ribbon interface completely with a widget called Snap Layouts, by means of adaptive commanding, allowing the toolbar to be undocked and float alongside your work.

Other changes include a “neutral” colour palette, also available for Windows 10 users.

Changes should first appear on web and mobile versions, ahead of main desktop design overhauls, but these changes could take between one and two years for a full rollout.

Office visual refresh

The recently released Windows 11 OS will soon be followed by an Office visual refresh available to anyone using Windows 10. The update responds to customers asking for consistency between Windows applications, and shows coherency between Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, Project, Publisher, and Visio, using the Fluent Design principles.

Document, spreadsheet, and presentation titles have transitioned to the top left of the app window, in the place of the auto-save button. The quick-access toolbar is now disabled by default, with commands now featuring below the ribbon.

Microsoft Excel

As Microsoft begins to close the gap between desktop and web Excel, Pivot tables, Office script recorder, and extremely large worksheets can now, for the most part, be worked on in the browser. This also applies to mobile phone usage and other devices – provided you have the data or bandwidth.

Excel updates include the formatting features:  

  • Cell and table styles (including total rows) 
  • The ability to draw and erase cell borders 
  • The ability to click on individual elements on a chart to format them 
  • Custom colour palettes 
  • A mini-toolbar that shows a selection of formatting commands when you right-click
  • A new print preview
  • Sort by cell or font colour or by conditional formatting as well as by cell values 
  • Split text into columns using delimiters 
  • Get familiar keyboard shortcuts for navigating like Page Up and Page Down, and Ctrl-End to move to the last cell with data in

Pivot improvements:

  • Create a PivotTable quickly with Recommended PivotTables
  • Change the settings and look-and-feel of your PivotTable the way you want it via the new PivotTable ribbon including PivotTable Styles and new PivotTable Settings task pane
  • Copy, refresh, and show or hide PivotTable task panes with one click using the new PivotTable right click menu

Sort improvements in web Excel :

  • Sort by Cell Color, Font Color, and Conditional Formatting Icon 
  • Sort by Cell Values 
  • Sort by more than one column

Interactive charts:

  • Directly select and interact with chart elements when formatting a chart
  • Double-clicking a chart element launches the format task pane 
  • Single-clicking a chart element navigates to its corresponding formatting options
  • Non-data chart elements can now be removed from the chart using the delete/backspace keys
  • A preview of the current selection now appears when hovering over different chart elements

New shortcuts:

  • End-arrows – move to the last cell in the row or column
  • Ctrl-End – move to the last cell that contains data or formatting.
  • Ctrl-Shift-End – extend the selection to the last used cell

Coming soon:

  • PgUp/PgDn – move screen up/down
  • Alt-PgUp – move screen left
  • Alt-PgDn – move screen right
  • Alt-Shift-PgUp – extend selection left one screen
  • Alt+Shift+PgDn – extend selection right one screen
  • Full list of keyboard shortcuts via Help > Keyboard Shortcuts.

Microsoft Word

Mimicking Google Docs, Word documents now should coloured ‘presence indicators’ so who is in the document is on clear view.

Native 64-bit ARM version on Windows 11 Office

The upcoming version of Office for Windows 11 will have a native 64-bit ARM version to support 64-bit add-ins, to run faster, offer more memory, better support large documents, and maintain compatibility with existing 64-bit add-ins using the new x64 emulation capability provided by Windows.

Dark mode

To match the Windows theme, Office now has various modes, including white, black (dark mode), colourful or dark grey that can each be set as the default.

Security contention

Microsoft’s new requirements for computers to support the new hardware and virtualisation-based security features. Windows 11 now locks out a number of devices that do not have particular security capabilities, to much contention, including its own £3,000 Surface Studio computer. 

However the features are critical for securing customers and business owners from modern versions of malware and exploit threats.

Windows 10 update ready and security tips

Many of these features and updates are already built-in to Windows 10 if you are running the 20H2 release (Windows 10 October 2020 update). Businesses and consumers can enable most of the updates by deploying Group Policy or clicking into Windows 10's Device Security menu to switch them on.

Trusted Platform Module (TPM) provides hardware-based, security-related cryptographic functions, and any computer younger than five years is likely to have a TPM chip on its motherboard that supports version 2.0. Open up Device Manager and expand "Security devices." If it says "Trusted Platform Module 2.0," you're good to go.

If it doesn't show up in Device Manager or is disabled, boot up into your UEFI firmware settings and look. If the TPM has never functioned on your system, run tpm.msc from the command line to boot it up.

HVCI or Hypervisor-Protected Code Integrity (Memory Integrity or Core Isolation) needs to be turned on manually in Windows 10: click on "Core Isolation Details" and turn on Memory Integrity with the toggle switch. It may take a minute for your system to turn it on, as it needs to check every memory page in Windows before enabling it.

Replies (12)

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By Swabber
15th Jul 2021 09:44

Ctrl-End – move to the last cell that contains data or formatting - I have been using this for years!

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Replying to Swabber:
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By paulwakefield1
16th Jul 2021 08:13

I think many of the above changes refer to Excel on the web.

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By TASG
15th Jul 2021 10:03

Will there be a 32 bit office version available for VT users (or will VT refactor their code?)

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Replying to TASG:
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By paulwakefield1
16th Jul 2021 08:09

VT have told me categorically that they will not be producing a 64 bit version which is a shame.

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David Ross
By davidross
15th Jul 2021 11:16

More messing about. I'm an Excel user since 1 November 1984 and the useful upgrades peaked around 1995, if not before.

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Replying to davidross:
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By paulwakefield1
16th Jul 2021 07:46

That I have to disagree with! For instance Get & Transform is an extraordinarily useful upgrade and I wonder how I managed without it. Dynamic arrays, Tables and some of the new X functions are other excellent developments.

Visually I sometimes think Excel peaked with Excel 2003.

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By duncanphilpstate
15th Jul 2021 11:27

Two thoughts:
1/ I have avague memory that Windows 10 was going to be the last version with a number as it would just be continuously upgraded. Or maybe that was the Excel & Office statement.

2/ What an amazing idea - to be able to undock the ribbon and move it around on your window! Fantastically convenient. And so similar to what one used to be able to do with toolbars before the ribbon was introduced!!! About 10 years ago. Sigh.

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By Hugo Fair
15th Jul 2021 11:30

“Windows widgets is a new, personalised feed, powered by AI, serving you curated content,” explained Panay.

And in English that means?!?

I lost understanding (shortly before the will to live) from that point on. Despite owning a software company, the random glimpses of intelligible pronouncements kept bringing to mind the words 'baby' and 'bathwater' - as perfectly adequate functionality gets swamped/lost by complexities that almost no-one can use.
[And yes, I have asked a sample of nearly 50 people aged 28-35 whether they wanted anything from the 'new features' list and by far the most common response was "Why can't they just leave it alone?", followed by "So yet again I've got to find and learn where everything has moved to!"]

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Replying to Hugo Fair:
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By duncanphilpstate
15th Jul 2021 16:38

I think we both actually know that means giving you news you don't want at times you don't want it.

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By SteveHa
15th Jul 2021 13:14

I wouldn't get too excited by Windows 11 just yet, the bar for entry has been set too high.

TPM and Secure boot are required
CPUs more than a couple of years old are deemed to be too low for Windows 11, so without upgrading or replacing, the majority of machines will be incapable of running it, anyway.

Now I use Linux at home, so it doesn't affect me, but I do wonder what the rational is for an operating system (i.e. the software that allows you to run the software that you actually want) is that it requires fairly heavy duty hardware in the first place.

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By KH
15th Jul 2021 13:25

I once read, long long ago in the dim mists of time when people needed magazines to find out about computers and software, that the editor of PC World (or whatever the de facto BEST computer magazine of the time was called) that he never upgraded his software, much to the astonishment of all the staff ... as he said back then, I don't have a long-enough life to enable me to catch up with, and use easily, every new software update to Word, Excel and Windows (except I don't think it was called Windows back in the 1980s) ... and his maxim holds even more relevance today when each successive update does nothing more than hide/change all the useful features you have spent years getting to know.

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Replying to KH:
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By duncanphilpstate
15th Jul 2021 16:40

"Never be first; never be biggest" as one of my bosses used to say about both hardware and software.

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