Excel is part of the Microsoft Office suite and works well in conjunction with the other programs in the bundle. You can purchase Excel as a stand-alone product, as part of a desktop suite or as part of Office 365. It’s most functional and most cost-effective as part of the Microsoft Office desktop suite or as part of Office 365.

Microsoft offers its Office 365 plans with yearly or monthly subscriptions, which includes all new upgrades and updates for as long as the plan is active. With the Office 365 option, you can access the Excel web application, install the mobile app and download the desktop program. You can then access all your files and edit them from any device. OneDrive cloud storage is included in most Office packages, letting you view and share stored documents.

You can collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, and multiple users can edit the same document simultaneously. However, you can’t see other people's edits occurring in real time. Instead, you and your collaborator both have to save your copies of the file. Then, when you load the file backup, you’ll see the changes made. This is a little awkward, and while it’s a definite improvement over previous generations of Microsoft Excel, it’s not the best option for collaboration.

With Excel, you can share your spreadsheets easily by saving them in OneDrive, emailing a shareable link if you’re using the web app, emailing a file as an attachment, or posting it to your social networks. Microsoft also allow you to convert your file to HTML for easy web publishing and supports PDF conversion for secure document sharing.

You can access over 1,000 templates within Excel, so there’s likely to be something suitable for most common spreadsheet uses. If you need to build your workbook from scratch or do heavy or complex alterations on your chosen template, you can make use of Excel’s extensive library of formulas. The program also supports conditional formatting so that you can apply changes to a group of cells and have the changes adjust to the value of each cell.

To speed up tedious data entry, Flash Fill learns your input patterns and fills out the next boxes with the appropriate information. Quick Trend is a handy little feature that shows trends or patterns in your data, and Inquire & Compare scans your spreadsheet for errors, broken links and missing data. You can also choose to print only a defined area of a spreadsheet, which is useful with large files. To improve the appearance of a spreadsheet, you can auto-generate charts and graphs based on your data and add graphics and images to them.

As you’d expect from a company like Microsoft, there is an extensive support network. This includes telephone, email and live chat, along with an active moderated forum, online tutorials, user manuals and FAQs.

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