Microsoft Excel

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What Does Microsoft Excel Mean?

Microsoft Excel is a software program produced by Microsoft that allows users to organize, format and calculate data with formulas using a spreadsheet system.


This software is part of the Microsoft Office suite and is compatible with other applications in the Office suite. Like other Microsoft Office products, Microsoft Excel can now be purchased through the cloud on a subscription basis through Office 365.

Techopedia Explains Microsoft Excel

MS Excel is a commercial spreadsheet application that is produced and distributed by Microsoft for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS operating systems. It features the ability to perform basic calculations, use graphing tools, create pivot tables and create macros, among other useful features.

Spreadsheet applications such as MS Excel use a collection of cells arranged into rows and columns to organize and manipulate data. They can also display data as charts, histograms and line graphs.

MS Excel permits users to arrange data in order to view various factors from different perspectives. Microsoft Visual Basic is a programming language used for applications in Excel, allowing users to create a variety of complex numerical methods. Programmers are given an option to code directly using the Visual Basic Editor, including Windows for writing code, debugging and code module organization.

History and Future of MS Excel

In the early days of accessible PC business computing, Microsoft Excel played a central role in bookkeeping and record-keeping for enterprise operations.

One of the best examples of a use case for MS Excel is a table with an autosum format.

It's very easy in Microsoft Excel to simply enter a column of values and click into a cell at the bottom of the spreadsheet, and then click the “autosum” button to allow that cell to add up all of the numbers entered above. This takes the place of the manual ledger counts that had been a labor-intensive part of business previous to the evolution of the modern spreadsheet.

The autosum and other innovations have made MS Excel a must-have for various kinds of enterprise computing, including looking at daily, weekly or monthly numbers, tabulating payroll and taxes, and other kinds of similar business processes.

Various types of simple use cases made Microsoft Excel a key end-user technology as well, useful in training and professional development. For a number of years, MS Excel has been included in basic business diploma courses on business computing, and temporary work agencies may assess individuals on their skills with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel for a wide range of clerical duties.

However, as the world of business technology has advanced, Microsoft Excel has become largely obsolete in some ways.

The reason for this is a concept called “visual dashboard” technology or “data visualization.”

Generally, companies and vendors have come up with neat new ways to present data visually that do not involve end users looking at a traditional spreadsheet with columns of numbers and identifiers. Instead, they look at graphs and charts and other sophisticated presentations, to understand the numbers better and more quickly. People have realized that the visual presentation is far easier to “read.”

The principle of data visualization has shifted the use cases for Microsoft Excel. Where businesses may have used Microsoft Excel in the past for, say, hundreds of records, most of today's business use cases involve spreadsheets that handle less than a few dozen values for any particular project.

The idea is that if the spreadsheet is longer than a couple of dozen rows, it will be more effective to display the information on a visual dashboard than in a traditional spreadsheet format.

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.