back to article A certain millennial turned 30 recently: Welcome to middle age, Microsoft Excel v2

Thirty is a ripe old age, maybe older than a good chunk of Register readers. Even for those of you for whom Excel is a spring chicken, how many applications or even operating systems are you still using of a similar age outside the Office suite? Is Windows 10 the same OS as Windows 2.0? Is that still your grandfather's axe, …

  1. Korev Silver badge
    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Gene

      You called?

    2. I_am_Chris

      Re: Gene

      Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Despite this paper, the number of scientists that are blithely unaware of these problems is frightening.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Out of all the applications I use excel has got to be the one that has saved me the most time.

    I cut my teeth in C++ then taught myself VBA and my how powerful is it? I can manipulate data left right and centre, I can reference dll's and get it to control other applications. I can jump into any other vba program and work from there if I want.

    On the downside I've seen some bloody awful coding over the years that takes you days just to figure out what the hell someone was trying to do. Macro's and variables without any meaningful names, references to macros that reference other macros for no point and hidden global variables that make where's wally(waldo) look shit at hide and seek.

    If you ever use Excel VBA then one piece of advice I would offer is "Can you do it in a formula?" because 8 times out of 10 you are wasting your time writing a macro.

    I have to say Excel is one thing Microsoft got right.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There have been times when I've thought to myself "I should be doing this in SQL".

      Now that I use an OS that Excel doesn't support, I think to myself "I'm glad I don't need Excel".

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        "Now that I use an OS that Excel doesn't support"

        I'd guess Libre Office 'Calc' will do what you need, yeah.

        On a semi-related note, has anyone ELSE observed that the Windows 2.x screenshots with Excel 2.0 in the article look WAY TOO MUCH like 2D FLATSO Win-10-nic ? Just wanted to point that out. Yes, I am _COMPELLED_ to do so.

        Of course, "that" look+feel was based on Windows 1.0, even 2D'er and FLATSO-er than 2.x [but at least the colors weren't all 'shades of grey'].

    2. Gio Ciampa

      "I have to say Excel is one thing Microsoft got right."

      Improvements are still due

      This may be a case of my misusing it...

      ...but have you ever tried applied a formula to tens (or hundreds) of thousands of rows...

      ...then waited an age for it to figure out what it's doing? (Even on a modern 8 core "business" laptop)?

      That bit I can live with... just about...

      ...but what boils my piss is the fact that if you then try to interact at all with it... it starts the whole bloody calculation again (or so it appears)!

      This has happened in versions I've used over the last decade or more ... sort it out MS!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "I have to say Excel is one thing Microsoft got right."

        @AC

        You know what, you make an extremely valid point. I have transferred a lot of what I have done over the years to SQL because it makes sense however there were other occasions where it didn't. Excel still has it's place though because of what it can do in it's own ecosystem. Where else could I take raw data out of a database, manipulate it, get crystal reports to create the report and then email it all automatically with the click of a button?

        @Gio Ciampa

        Turn off auto-calculation and use F9 to calculate. This goes back to my response above, there are things you can but should not do in excel and from the sound of what you are describing it should not be done in excel. Personally I join multiple systems into a database and then create report data which is then used to generate the reports via excel, the grunt work has already been done and takes about an hour. I could have done it all in excel but that would just add a ridiculous amount of time to the process. I don't think I've come across a calculation you can't replicate in SQL though I'm probably wrong.

      2. Field Commander A9

        Re: "I have to say Excel is one thing Microsoft got right."

        "...then waited an age for it to figure out what it's doing? (Even on a modern 8 core "business" laptop)?"

        "business" laptops have SHIT CPUs (and even shittier cooling), no matter how many cores they've got. You need a mobile workstation (or at the very least a gaming laptop) to do proper number crunching.

      3. Toolman83

        Re: "I have to say Excel is one thing Microsoft got right."

        Uhh, you can turn off "auto calculate" since at least version 4

        (maybe before, that was the first one I used, and turning it off was sometimes needed with a large worksheet on a 486)

        There is even a button in the calculate group that does it these days!

        1. BongoJoe
          Mushroom

          Re: "I have to say Excel is one thing Microsoft got right."

          Trouble is that the Autocalculate option turns itself on just for the fun of it every now and then.

          Sometimes it's because I've opened a spreadsheet constructed by someone else and,sometimes, because Excel bloody well feels like it and I wonder why my machine seems to have stopped dead for a few minutes.

          I wish that the sodding thing would stay off when turned off.

        2. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

          Re: "I have to say Excel is one thing Microsoft got right."

          >Uhh, you can turn off "auto calculate" since at least version 4

          >(maybe before, that was the first one I used, and turning it off was sometimes needed with a large worksheet on a 486)

          Version 1.

          Used to be pretty much compulsory for large multi-file linked spreadsheet models (back before workbooks got invented (v4, made the default fileformat in v5), on your creaking 8MHz Mac Plus.

          Which, for actual USER interaction (rather than processing), ran faster than the latest i7s on Windows 7+/MacOSX 10.4+ ...

      4. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: "I have to say Excel is one thing Microsoft got right."

        "but what boils my piss is the fact that if you then try to interact at all with it... it starts the whole bloody calculation again (or so it appears)!"

        a) Learn to use the software properly, and turn off automatic sheet recalculation. Just because the software makes it all look "dead simps" doesn't mean you can get clever without doing some reading of the manual. See: post #1 in this thread.

        2) Are you sure you ae using the right tool for the right job? Hundreds of thousands of rows? This isn't what spreadsheets are for. You can make them work that way, but the user experience is a diminishing returns calculation inversely proportional to the data density.

      5. John Watts

        Re: "I have to say Excel is one thing Microsoft got right."

        >it starts the whole bloody calculation again

        Turn off automatic calculation and then get it to update when you've done what you need to. Just remember you've turned off automatic calculation before you start swearing at the screen ...

      6. Mark 65 Silver badge

        Re: "I have to say Excel is one thing Microsoft got right."

        @Gio Ciampa: You sound like you have fallen into one of the many traps of the less experience Excel user. Part of the art of using Excel is knowing the pitfalls. Typical use within banks for calculating complex derivatives will make use of a crappy little calculate button and having auto calculate turned off. The code behind the custom button with manually re-calculate the workbook by processing the worksheets in a set order to optimise the time taken.

        Also, unless using solver or performing repeated what-if iterations I'd recommend using something like R with the data.table library for large data sets or Python. Either of these can be used separately or through XLL add-ins. The advantage being the separation of code from data - something that is the bane of every expert brought in to fix Excel issues.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: "I have to say Excel is one thing Microsoft got right."

          "The advantage being the separation of code from data - something that is the bane of every expert brought in to fix Excel issues."
          That was the big advantage of Lotus Improv; the cells contained data, but the formulae were separate and referred to named ranges of cells.

          Have an upvote.

          1. Peter Quirk

            Re: "I have to say Excel is one thing Microsoft got right."

            FCS EPS was a pre-PC spreadsheet that separated logic from data.

            Improv's "everything is a pivot table" concept was confusing at first. I think Microsoft's got pivot tables right after seeing what Lotus did.

      7. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

        Re: "I have to say Excel is one thing Microsoft got right."

        >...but have you ever tried applied a formula to tens (or hundreds) of thousands of rows...

        Yes. Frequently. Not a problem. Possibly you have a RAM shortage courtesy of a later version of Windows?

        regardless:

        > ...but what boils my piss is the fact that if you then try to interact at all with it... it starts the whole bloody calculation again (or so it appears)!

        Solution:

        switch off automatic calculation.

        When you want it updated, press F9 (="Calculate Now"). In VBA, "=CalculateNow()"

    3. Tom Paine Silver badge

      I cut my teeth in C++ then taught myself VBA

      My god, how bad must VS C++ be that VBA is a pleasant change?!

      I shouldn't complain - it was the 20 months grinding out VBA that brought home to me just how fantabulous Perl is.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Hell no, it was Borland though I have used VS. These days I potter around in any language I choose, the principles are similar mainly the syntax that changes.

      2. BongoJoe

        VBA is massively underrated.

        In the spreadsheet that I am using day in and day out, I couldn't have done the operation with formulae. But there can't be much that can be done in C++ that can't be done in VBA.

        One sheet I use most days is something that I have knocked up which handles linked lists with tens of thousands of entries and has its own garbage collection built in. Doing stuff like that, without storing the data within a sheet, would be nigh on impossible and even if I used a worksheet to store the data rather than in a linked list I would perhaps still need VBA.

        If one treats VBA as Visual Basic 6 with $APPLICATION objects glued in (be it Excel, Word, Access, Powerpoint, etc) and writes proper code then it's rather good.

        Yes, one doesn't have all the fancy Object Oriented coding facilities offered to us that C++ does but it goes most of the way there, and I except that, but this doesn't mean that it's a bad language or should be taken out and shot.

        Like all languages there are people who abuse it or miscode and this gives the language a bad name whereas in actual fact it's the coder that's usually to blame.

        Some of my VBA applications are tens of thousands of lines long and they work perfectly. Yes, I could use a standalone language, as I do in some cases, and talk to $APPLICATION via COM. But then I've seen on these boards people saying that COM is also the spawn of the devil. Sigh

        There's nothing wrong with VBA apart from a few bits of OOP architecture missing but it's still a bloody good language.

    4. Old one

      MS missed the mark again

      Lucid 3D was far better program and advanced over MS Excell capabilities. BUT again MS marketing of an integrated program led to great sales and hence use. Just as DR Dos offered the Gem Desktop two years before Windows 1.0 and the 22 following revisions to overcome the blue screens of death that were fairly common in "those days".

      There were lots of open competition from various companies that created numerous excellent programs but they would not run without a operating system. Making the operating system quirky so that outside MS supplied programs had operating issues seemed to be part of the MS marketing plan. MS Dos had so many revisions for the first decade+ that for those who were experienced in other operating systems got very annoyed with the exorbitant time required to keep upgrading MS Dos.

      MS won by being the bull in a china shop -- making compatibility hard for any non MS programs. Still today when MS updates the OS how many experience issues with existing programs?

      Longing for Gary Kidall....

    5. FrancisKing
      Thumb Up

      Yeah,but

      Yeah, I like Excel and for many things it's my go to tool, but...

      It's annoying that Excel is single threaded. The user interface locks up when you're trying to do anything sizeable.

      There are also a few problems with large spreadsheets, which become unwieldy.

  3. Vimes

    There are too many VBA-filled spreadsheets out there to allow Excel to disappear any time soon.

    And I speak as somebody who regularly gets asked to update one such file for a client. This file has been around longer than I have, and I've been at my current employer more than 11 years now.

    I've also seen a general resistance to learning anything new or changing working practices - especially in the larger accounting firms (I'm guessing they probably don't want the additional training costs in terms of both time & money for so many people unless it's really necessary). This means you can easily end up with a situation where people end up sticking with what they know & are familiar with using.

    It may also be worth noting that whilst Libre Office supports macros it does so using its own language and not the same VBA that so many people are familiar with. A move to Libre Office would require a rewrite of those existing macros in files accountants are already using.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Accountancy firms don't use Excel. They may produce spreadsheets, but they certainly don't work with Excel.

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        WTF?

        "Accountancy firms don't use Excel."

        They use Excel for everything, regardless of whether it is the most suitable tool for the job.

        Writing letters, doing presentations, databases, calendars, maybe adding up a row of numbers on occasion. I've not seen anyone send emails or watch cat videos using it, but I'm sure it happens somewhere.

        1. Alistair Wall

          I have used Excel as a browser. Head office at a previous employer banned Firefox. Many sites were unreadable without ad blocking, but rendered without ads in Excel.

        2. Simon Harris Silver badge

          "everything..."

          Apparently you can even use it for instant messaging...

          https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/09/08/slow_day_inspires_excelvba_instant_messaging_app/

        3. Nevermind
          Devil

          There is a big plc out there who use Excel for absolutely everything bar number crunching by the way I receive reports, reviews, document templates...because they find it easy to put text in a box I guess...let me tell you, it is f*ck*ng painful to have to read these 3 screen wide by 10 screen deep text efforts when really, it could have been done in (Agh)Word, or Writer or even Notepad, but NOT Excel.

          I bet they have CLAIT qualifications in it too...

          1. TheTick
            Angel

            "I bet they have CLAIT qualifications in it too..."

            As we all giggled to at school back in the day; you're not meant to add little words like "and" to acronyms so it should properly be CLI....you get the picture!

        4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          "They use Excel for everything, regardless of whether it is the most suitable tool for the job."

          Second only behind Salespeople for tracking (basically) everything.

          That said when people look back on the history of computing I think they will find the spreadsheet was a more fundamental improvement than the word processor.

          Historically people in large organizations had ways to produce high quality documents with good layouts. What was much less common was being able to generate quick "what if" calculations or models. Basically there was no mathematical equivalent to the electric typewriter.

          Spreadsheets didn't just do this, they created a paradigm for structuring those problems into pieces that you didn't have to think about. Calculation on demand. When you want it, how you want it.

        5. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Linux

          They use Excel for everything

          "They use Excel for everything, regardless of whether it is the most suitable tool for the job."

          I would think it would be easy for them to migrate to Libre Office, and then Linux, because of that.

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            I would think it would be easy for them to migrate to Libre Office,

            Which shows how little you know about either product Bob.

      2. I'm Dugly

        Yes they do. My accountants would frequently request excel files, including exports from QuickBooks. If I or the accountants had a question it was simpler to send an excel file rather than create an accountant's copy in QB.

      3. Paul Woodhouse

        "Accountancy firms don't use Excel. They may produce spreadsheets, but they certainly don't work with Excel."

        WTF are you smoking... accountants are the WORST for inappropriate use of Excel, and they usually look utterly mystified when you do a facepalm as they show you the spreadsheet they've knocked up to record meeting action plans and stuff...

    2. Stevie Silver badge

      A move to Libre Office would require a rewrite (4 Vimes)

      Amen.

      Also a complete revision of finger memory, learned on Lotus 123, continued through Excel and abandoned in favor of, what, TELNET/EMACS/CLI keyboarding shortcuts.

      Why this was chosen beats the living daylights out of me, but if you want to zoom around a wide and/or deep sheet in one of the open "equivalents" and find data boundaries, you'll need a completely different set of shortcut finger habits than those the world leaders established when the OO/OL crowd were still crapping into their underwear.

      It's almost as if the designers couldn't see the point in asking a real spreadsheet user what their job involved before putting fingers to coding keys (a problem that infests IT to this day: "I use Word as a typewriter, so everyone uses it that way and I understand everything I need to know about the thing").

      Formulas also use a different field separator. This, at least, is almost completely catered for by the import process, but if you write them you'll need to learn a new vocabulary.

      FWIW I use only OO on my own machine, and hate struggling with the new cloudified Excel at work. The problem is I have no training in the new cloudified Excel and such little reason to use it I won't get any. That and the quart from a pint pot network we have, slowing things to a manageable speed.

  4. Franco Silver badge

    Excel does have a lot of uses, but at the same time it really gets on my nerves. Not so much the program, as the idiots who use it for everything.

    Some genius where I work decided shared calendars (despite having Exchange and SharePoint) are a bad thing and banned them, so departments use Excel for this and for timesheets and holiday planning and about a million other things that there are simpler and better ways to do.

    Lost count of the number of "our database isn't working" calls I've had, all of which are in fact corrupt Excel spreadsheets being misused. I'm sure Excel isn't the only spreadsheet app misused in this way though.

    1. Naselus

      The million-row excel file that should have been moved into Access fifteen years ago problem springs to mind...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "The million-row excel file that should have been moved into Access fifteen years ago"

        And to a proper database server 14 years and 11 months ago.

        1. bitten

          Filemaker

          For mere millions of rows Filemaker did the job perfectly 14 years and 10 months ago. The spreadsheet that could be a server.

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: Filemaker

            "For mere millions of rows Filemaker did the job perfectly 14 years and 10 months ago. The spreadsheet that could be a server."
            Filemaker is a database product, not a spreadsheet. Fifteen years ago it was only a flatfiler even. I was a beta tester for the first Windows version codenamed Samurai.

            1. Nattrash
              Meh

              Re: Filemaker

              Hummm... So am I an old fart when I remember working geoCalc and Quarto (think that was DOS)? Must be, because my memory is failing me whether this was before Excel yes or no...

              1. I'm Dugly

                Re: Filemaker

                Maybe Quattro Pro from Corel?

                1. 404 Silver badge

                  Re: Filemaker

                  I still have a lawyers office where I install Quattro* on new machines... lol

                  *So old, spellcheck says wtf? lmao...

                2. Parash2

                  Re: Filemaker

                  Before that I have a memory of Borland's Quattro.

              2. The answer is 42

                Re: Filemaker

                I think you mean Quattro- I remember it because whilst 123 could sort by 3 columns, Quattro could sort by 5. Lets not forget Lotus Symphony, which did database, spreadsheet, wordprocessing etc all cunningly concealed as a spreadsheet.

            2. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

              Re: Filemaker

              >> "For mere millions of rows Filemaker did the job perfectly 14 years and 10 months ago. The spreadsheet that could be a server."

              > Filemaker is a database product, not a spreadsheet. Fifteen years ago it was only a flatfiler even. I was a beta tester for the first Windows version codenamed Samurai.

              Speaking as an old and hardcore/evangelical RDBMS boy (in R&D on one of the only TWO rdbms.s which have ever managed SQL92 compliance, even to this day (well... technically Oracle, SQLServer(Sybase), etc can do it, but they need to table-lock everything -- not realistic for more than, say, 2 users) ) ... where was I?

              ...

              , flatfile storage knocks relational out of the park for speed for a surprising number of use cases. Plus Filemaker had such awesome user-friendly dev env that utter computer donkeys could knock out professional-quality apps in a weekend. With no idea what they were doing, merely an understanding of what they wanted.

              And don't get me started on relational front-ends dropped on top of column-stores for implicit intra-table joins (eg, every damn financial markets db on the planet). First hit that with SAS early 90s -- revelation.

        2. BongoJoe

          Normally, yes.

          But there are advantages with Access with million row databases (I have one) over 'proper database servers' such as:

          - Back up (XCOPY *.mdb will do the trick)

          - Sharing the data with a chum who is not on the network and is clueless (it's on your drop box, copy it somewhere and then open it)

          - Not having to maintain a proper database server

          Doing these things whilst at work and being paid for, as one person above mentioned this, and doing this at home when one wants simplicity is another.

          I could have a proper database and that being backed up but it's easier to rebuild a machine that's died, sling onto it Office via CD/DVD and then copy from pendrive the .mdb file.

          But despite the million record tables in my Access it's never died. Perhaps because I haven't used it for multi-user which, once upon a time, used to kill it (unless one did lots of clever stuff, but that's another story).

          It's another one of these If It's Access/Excel/VBA then it must be crap memes. It's actually a bloody good little database. Not perfect but still bloody good and has given me less grief than SQL Server over the years.

        3. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

          Proper database.

          I recall a (short) conversation with a colleague when I worked for an ISP in the noughties. She ran over to our cube, in a panic, saying she'd lost a business critical database on her PC. 'no you haven't' we said. "If it was business critical it would be on our SQL server, and we'd support it....'

          Still, not as bad as the guy who was using Crystal Reports and trying to make an offline copy of our customer database from the AS/400 to his PC every night. Caught him out when he ordered (through a non IT slush budget) some SCSI disks and a controller card, and couldn't get them to work, and started asking how to make them work in a roundabout but not admitting anything kind of way.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My boss likes to use excel for gantt charts.

      They look really impressive, but I dread to think how much time was wasted on it.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Sounds like Rimmer's revision schedule.

    3. gannett

      Calendars suck for "people resource planning" in anything other than a trivial teamsize.

      Can't control how many leave entries put in on a day,

      Can't add up total leave days over a year,

      Can't ensure that min levels of various skill levels within team. language, technology, etc.

      No auditing of versions to see who changed what.

      Excel can do all of that and push publish to HTML. We had a page a week 3 teams 50 people diary/resource plan that showed all the skill levels with green/amber/red highlighting.

  5. Christopher Reeve's Horse
    Thumb Up

    Good Article

    Particularly this bit, really hits the nail on the head:

    "However, there simply is no good alternative to a spreadsheet for building logical and parameterised (eg business) models for many cases, at least to prototype and to get the logic right. Such models can be crystalised into a compiled, performant and version-controlled artefact at a cost, and then become difficult to tweak/update too."

    Although quite often that crystallization process never happens, because of either cost, lack of technical resource, or the model needs to be flexible and dynamically change in a way that can't be done easily on a compiled platform (not by the average user anyway, who's typically the owner of the decision making process).

    1. keithpeter
      Windows

      Re: Good Article

      Quote from OA

      "(One of my well-known City clients took their analysts' spreadsheet creations for tradeable indexes, and turned them into C++ for production speed and manageability.)"

      @ Christopher Reeve's Horse and all

      Just wondering if some kind of automated ingestion of a spreadsheet and excretion of code is in principle possible. Subject to reasonable rules about circularity of references &c.

      Some of my perhaps unorthodox spreadsheet uses....

      http://sohcahtoa.org.uk/oldblog/maths/spreadsheets-to-talk-about/index.html

      oldie but goodie.

      http://sohcahtoa.org.uk/pages/maths_montecarlo.html

      Core Maths idea.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A fool with a tool

    I started using Excel at Version 5 (the last version produced for the 'ol Windows 3.x...).

    Since then Excel (and VBA) has proved to be a (mostly) trusty ally, allowing me to do such diverse things as analysis of data, code generation, data generation for testing... In short, just about everything I couldn't do with just the raw SQL.

    I've seen some appalling stuff in spreadsheets, but by and large Excel still serves me well.

  7. Alan Sharkey

    Who invented it?

    What no-one has said was that MS didn't invent Excel - they bought it. There's very little they actually invented (they bought PowerPoint and email as well, I believe)

    1. Naselus

      Re: Who invented it?

      "There's very little they actually invented"

      Not strictly true. Most of MS's big money making products were bought from elsewhere (more or less all of office, big chunks of Windows, MSDoS...), but MS's research department is by far and away the biggest player in computer science in the world, and a lot of what they make gets adopted for use on license by everyone else. Hence why MS make more money off Android than Google do - even if you discount the stuff looted form Nokia, many of the software-side patents used in mobile phones were from MS original research which they themselves spectacularly failed to develop into a decent product.

    2. Just Enough

      Re: Who invented it?

      Anything to back that claim up? As far as I'm aware Excel was an inhouse development from the very start.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Who invented it?

        "As far as I'm aware Excel was an inhouse development from the very start."
        Indeed it was. Jobs hired MS to develop Excel (and Word), and gave MS a bunch of Macs to do so. Macs were only available to the general public a year later. The Mac teams were locked away each day to keep people from stealing ideas from the Macs.

        As one member of the team said, the only people interested in stealing ideas from the Macs were all locked away in a room full of them...

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Back when Excel was introduced Smartware was the king, at leas for the PC users where I worked back then. It was an integrated office suite in the same way that MS Office, OO and LO are but for DOS. It never made it into the Windows era, at least not in any timely fashion.

    1. Jim 59

      Smartware

      Back when Excel was introduced Smartware was the king,...

      It certainly was, Dr. Syntax. I remember my Father using it, with the help of a *huge* book bought from Byte in Gateshead. It included a database application, into which I typed many business records.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Smartware

        "It included a database application"

        The company was bought by Informix for no good reason except that their (Informix's) then management suffered from a lack of BOFH and openable windows in their offices. They did some work to use Informix as a back end. But only as a back end to the spreadsheet.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      I'm quite sure when Excel was introduce Lotus 1-2-3 was the king... Borland Quattro tried to get some of its market - it was Borland fighting with Lotus for the menu structure copyright, not Microsoft.

      But it was a time when there were a lot of products on the market - companies were far smaller than today, and often didn't have to cover a worldwide market.

      1-2-3 lacked good printing and charting capabilities - you needed third party apps/plugins for that. Excel had everything in one package - thanks to the Windows WYSISYG capabilities - and when laptops and LANs were still in their infancy, printed output was much more important. That was one of the reason that made Excel popular.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Unfortunately Excel's printing capabilities haven't advanced greatly since when it had to compete with 1-2-3. Still a bane of existence, trying to cajole excel into printing content sensibly without the obligatory multiple nearly empty pages.

  9. GlenP Silver badge
    Happy

    But...

    For a while, an essential measure of PC compatibility was how well it dealt with 1-2-3 rather than some abstract technical spec

    The essential measure of compatibility was whether the PC would run MS Flight Simulator!

    1. SW10

      Re: But... (there WAS a flight sim)

      If I recall, Excel had a flight simulator tucked away inside it...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Cottage Industries'

    I once went to a Business Objects user group meeting, I think it may have been at the British Library. A BOXI evangelist was suggesting to the group that productivity would be increased by un-installing excel, and just using Business Objects. He suggested it'd lessen the danger of 'cottage industries' where mere users create critical stuff that just they know about, and then when they die or leave, other people have to pick up and try to understand. Most people could see his point, but ultimately, it's just too fucking useful. There would have been open revolt.

  11. John70

    Not so long ago...

    ...I was given a task to convert an Excel Work Book into a web application.

    The workbook was over 80MB. 20 of the tabs were for departments. There were 365 columns for figures for each day of the financial year + description columns with over 200 rows full of figures, budget data and formulas linking to other departmental tabs and hidden tabs containing look ups and other external files.

    Multiple people used the workbook. It took ages to load, stored on a network shared drive.

    The owners had to create a new workbook for each financial year. You can imagine with all those formulas, they bound to have a few pointing to the wrong worksheets/cells especially when they add a new department.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not so long ago...

      So you presented the spreadsheet to the browser via ActiveX?

      Joking of course. I've had the same task.

  12. Jim 59

    ... how many applications or even operating systems are you still using of a similar age outside the Office suite?

    Obvious 'tard-bait, but as it's Friday:

    I am now logged into Debian, first release 1993, based on Unix initial release 1974. And editing a file in LIbreOffice, based on OpenOffice, based on StarOffice, released 1985. Yesterday I interviewd for a Solaris job. First release 1982 (SunOS). And I just used "vi" to edit a file. First relased 1976.

    1. Just Enough

      Classic software

      I still use a version of Paint Shop Pro, pretty much on a daily basis. Version 1 released in 1990.

      1. BongoJoe

        Re: Classic software

        I still use a version of Paint Shop Pro, pretty much on a daily basis. Version 1 released in 1990.

        I use PSP on a near daily basis too. My version is v8 which came out in 2003 and works well. For what I use it for I can't imagine a better tool even though I assume that it's been improved significantly since that year.

        caveat: Assuming, of course, that one installs that patch which allows to save over an pre-existing file (yes, that was a bit of a corking bug)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I am now logged into Debian..."

      Yes, all the experience in Linux is about using really outdated software....

      Just they are "based" on - it's not a direct lineage like Windows and Excel. Linux is not Unix, LibreOffice is not StarOffice (which was not for Unix when it was born), and vi, well, it's a text editor designed for typewriters, a better edlin, sure, but not much. One of the reasons Linux desktop is stable at 4%.

      Maybe understanding why Excel could easily overcome Lotus 1-2-3 would give useful hints about creating successful applications and tools for Linux desktop, and, believe me, it's not following vi design.

  13. Hollerithevo Silver badge

    30 is not 'middle age'

    That is 40. 30 is still mere youth. And 50+ is where the real grown-ups are.

    1. Richard 81

      Re: 30 is not 'middle age'

      Most dictionary definitions put middle age as 45-65. As a 32 year old I found the title of this piece utterly horrifying.

  14. wolfetone Silver badge
    Coat

    I don't know how to feel about being two weeks older than Excel, especially when it's better at maths than me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I expect you've had fewer expletives hurled at you throughout your lifetime though.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        For years I thought "gobshite" was my nickname.

        Turned out it wasn't.

  15. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge

    My Dad bought Excel around 1988, it ran on a runtime version of Windows 2 and came on 5 or 6 1.2MB floppies. Very basic but it was incredible to see full GUI version. It might not have been technically as good as 1-2-3 but it was so much easier to use.

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Bought Excel?

      In those free-wheeling days when copy protection was at best a gossamer condom the first thing that anyone did when a PC landed on your office desk was to take "Archive Copies" of all the supplied software to be kept off site. I only threw away my off-site archive of Excel 5 when I moved house last year.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excel drives me nuts

    It's very useful and I've been in it all day so far. But why does it clear the clipboard when I edit something? These hangovers from 1993 realy should be fixed.

    1. Christopher Reeve's Horse

      Re: Excel drives me nuts

      That's because it's not using the clipboard in the way you think it is. If you want to copy something and have it persist in the 'normal' clipboard, highlight it in the formula bar and then copy.

      The excel copy mode is dynamic, so you can copy a cell or range, paste elsewhere, then allow something to update the values in the existing copy range and then paste these new and different values again, all without having to re-copy the original range. Magic.

      1. Richard 81

        Re: Excel drives me nuts

        Magic, but pretty counter-intuitive considering how copy-paste usually behaves.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Excel drives me nuts

          "pretty counter-intuitive considering how copy-paste usually behaves."

          But not how you'd want it to behave in a spreadsheet. OO & LO also have dynamic pasting.

      2. Lamont Cranston
        Thumb Up

        Re: highlight it in the formula bar and then copy

        Always good to learn something new!

  17. mhoulden
    Mushroom

    30 years on...

    ...and Excel still won't let you open two documents with the same name. I know why (VBA uses the name as a reference) but it's still incredibly annoying if you're trying to compare two files. And as for whoever decided to implement copy & paste in a completely different way to other apps...

    1. LesB

      Re: 30 years on...

      ..and the options dialog still doesn't have browse buttons for the file location settings. I recall this being annoying {mumble} years ago, and assumed it would change one day. It's a minor thing, but odd, as the options dialog looks like it shares a lot of code with the one in Word, which does manage to be a bit more friendly.

    2. EH

      Re: 30 years on...

      View->New Window

    3. Aleph0

      Re: 30 years on...

      Assuming it was a same-named file in a different directory, it used to be possible; up to Excel 2010 you could do it by launching another instance of Excel.exe and opening the second spreadsheet in there with file-open. You had to switch by alt-tab instead of control-tab, but it was no biggie.

      Sadly on Office 2016 applications are limited to a single instance, so this workaround is no longer possible...

      1. BongoJoe

        Re: 30 years on...

        Oh yes, indeed

        And try to explain what you mean to a user, over a telephone, that they have perhaps opened a new instance of Excel rather than opened a spreadsheet into the same instance of Excel...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    30 or 32?

    The article says 30 years old ... yet links to an article from 2010 that was about the 25th anniversary.

    So, which is it?

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: 30 or 32?

      It is 32 years old, but the Windows port is 30 years old.

  19. Valerion

    Grandather's Axe

    This is Britain, we'll have none of that thank you.

    Trigger's Broom.

    That is all.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Grandather's Axe

      Good point. Thanks Dave.

      1. PaulyV

        Re: Grandather's Axe

        Cheers:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvPs6uQlsvw

  20. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    One of MS's better developments

    Excel is good for spreadsheets and the 2016 version has some big performance improvements.

    However, it's increasingly being used for reporting only with analysts switching to Jupyter + Pandas + Matplotlib for analysis and putting the results in an Excel file for further consumption. As the maintainer of an Excel library I'm proud to be contributing to this development.

  21. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    I still have something of a soft spot for SuperCalc. First proper business application that I ever used on a proper business computer (CP/M) in my first proper job.

    And at least I always used it as a spreadsheet. Said computer was shared by a number of staff and also had WordStar (on a different 5.25" floppy disk) but some people in the office used to use SuperCalc for writing documents. At the time I recognised that as foolishness, but it should have prepared me for all the hideous misuses of Excel that I was to see decades later.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      I still miss SuperBase.

  22. Versace

    Quattro Pro

    Borland's Quattro Pro should be mentioned among the early spreadsheets. It is still around in the Corel WordPerfect suite (WordPerfect...there's another blast from the past...)

    1. BenDwire
      Thumb Up

      Re: Quattro Pro

      Ah, Quattro Pro. The best looking spreadsheet in the Dos/Win3.1 era.

      Anyone else remember Brown-Bag Software's PC-Calc & PC-Type? Fantastic DOS programs that just got stuff done, and much cheaper than anything else ... like As-Easy-As (123).

      Good times!

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Quattro Pro

        "Ah, Quattro Pro. The best looking spreadsheet in the Dos/Win3.1 era."
        Lotus Improv was better. Much better. Looks ain't everything...

      2. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: Quattro Pro

        "Ah, Quattro Pro. The best looking spreadsheet in the Dos/Win3.1 era."

        The native windows 9x port was utter s^&t, however, and the 3.1 version did *not* play well with windows 9x either.

        I have memories of having to download very large patch files for the WP suite (as in multi-hundred MB files) to fix some significant bugs in that app suite, and this was in the days where dialup was still king, and only big multi-nationals had anything faster than a T1 for internet connectivity, if they even had connectivity.

        I didn't say they were _fond_ memories, did I?

    2. I'm Dugly

      Re: Quattro Pro

      I think WP is still in use in some law firms - it was popular with that industry. Corel is still selling it, so perhaps it has some advocates :) From the Wikipedia page on Corel: "In March 2005 Corel announced that the United States Justice Department purchased 50,000 licenses of WordPerfect "

      Back in the 90's the Govt of Canada used Corel office exclusively, probably because Michael Cowpland, and his trophy wife, lived a short distance from Parliament, and an even shorter distance from the PM's official residence.

      As a civil servant back then, I used the Corel suite - I even handed out about 100 copies of the CD when assigned abroad. Back then some folks thought it was great (and the price was right...). After we cut over to MS Office, it took a little while to transition to MS Word because we had become so used to WP.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Quattro Pro

        "I think WP is still in use in some law firms - it was popular with that industry. Corel is still selling it, so perhaps it has some advocates"

        Word Perfect for Linux is free, but it's a barrel of laughs to use.

        INTRODUCING WORDPERFECT 8 FOR LINUX

  23. Jim 59

    Some people have used smartware in the past.

  24. Milton Silver badge

    "the dodgy Google/Libre duo"

    "There's little that Excel did that I cannot accomplish with one of the dodgy Google/Libre duo"

    What's "dodgy" about them? I don't use anything provided by Google except its Translate page, as a matter of principle, but I wasn't aware that people considered it dodgy.

    I'm a heavy user of the Libre suite (not Database or Presentation, but only because I don't have any need of them), and find it powerful, reliable and nicer to work with than MS stuff. Given that it doesn't spy on me, steal personal information, runs locally with no need for internet and seamlessly secures my data, I'd say Libre is by many definitions much *less* dodgy than either Office or Google.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "the dodgy Google/Libre duo"

      Every so often I try Libre Office to see if it can run my W7/Excel 2010 based application that uses lots of VBA to process web pages accessed automatically via Chrome. So far no luck.

      One day I still hope to escape from the threat of having to use W10 or MS SAAS.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "the dodgy Google/Libre duo"

        ... Libre Office ... W7/Excel 2010 ... application ... lots of VBA ...

        Why do people have such expectations of of Open|Libre Office and never seem to measure MS up to the same standard? You'd be better off see how both products do loading a large and complex Open Document file, or even see if you can reimplement your application in Libre Office. Your test case is something along the lines of trying to open a multi gigabyte, dozens of layers PSD in MS Paint and complaining it doesn't work ... after all PSD and BMP are both image formats ... right?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "the dodgy Google/Libre duo"

          "[...] or even see if you can reimplement your application in Libre Office. "

          That is what I intend to do. Each tentative trial port is a test to see what will transfer cleanly. With 2020 not far away then next year will be the time for a serious attempt to make the port to Libre Office on Linux.

          After 50 years of programming in various OSs and applications I believe I have the skills to improve LibreOffice itself. The alternative is to recode at least some of the VBA part of my application in C.

          There is already a tentative development to improve the processing speed under W7 Excel. An attempt to produce a VB.Net binary of some functions failed when the conversion program failed to run after an apparently successful install. As always with such situations - which path is most likely to be most productive? I have a support programmer's mindset - I always look to build on existing blocks rather than always wanting to reinvent wheels.

          In the meantime a large chunk of my time is spent keeping the application running on W7 Office 2007.

          It is an "alligators in the swamp" situation - running the application to a deadline every week is currently a higher priority than doing the port.

  25. Alister Silver badge

    Eh, memories, memories.

    I've still got, (mouldering in a corner somewhere) a boxed set of Visicalc floppies (5 1/4, naturally) with instruction manuals, in a very nice blue vinyl covered case, if I remember correctly.

  26. deconstructionist

    The 2 gentleman Bricklin and Frankston who originally created the spreadsheet never patented it during the BBS freetard era, it is reckoned they be worth Billions now as any spreadsheet/ relational database would owe them coin.

    Of course everybody and their uncle just ripped the code and made buckets.

  27. ArrZarr Silver badge
    Pint

    Well, I'm 26 and in my four years in the working world, the program I've used more than anything else is excel, mainly for templating reports.

    The way I feel about Excel is that if you have it, everything looks like a spreadsheet. Maybe SQL would be better for this task, maybe writing something in Java would be better for that but in the end, you just use Excel because everything looks like a spreadsheet.

    Thanks, Excel. Without you, I'd probably have to work for a living.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If you spend your days designing and configuring an intelligent application or whizzy infrastructure that just works, nobody cares. Put your achievements into a spreadsheet with some pretty colourful graphs and pie charts and suddenly you're a computer wizard and a genius.

  28. OnlyMortal

    TASCALC for the Spectrum

    A school friend of mine wrote it for Tasman. He got an Atari ST later and did ProShare ST. He started to do a spreadsheet for the ST and I lent him a MacPlus with Excel 2 on it.

  29. Robert D Bank

    Rrs

    Can't restore Excel 3.1 onto my Vista laptop...wants some registry update. So much for that investment

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excel is a great tool ...

    I have lost count of the number of times I have used Excel to generate thousands of lines of SQL, rather than write (and debug) a script.

    Alternatively, use it to produce a CSV for input into another app.

  31. Sean o' bhaile na gleann

    Mainframe spreadsheet?

    Back in the late '80s, I was tasked with trialling a spreadsheet application that ran under CICS on our VSE system. Can't for the life of me remember the name of it, but it didn't last long - it was just to easy to write formulas that caused smoke to come out of the processor...

  32. phaedrus_the_second

    > One of my clients' phenomenally successful trading apps

    Was that Laura? Whatever happened to that - did she die?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excel...

    If you can't spread cheeks, you can definitely spread sheets.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Except that Excel is actually 32...

    "Microsoft's legendary spreadsheet software was born in November 1987"

    Except it wasn't.

    Version 1 was 'born' in September 1985, making Excel thirty-two years old (and a couple of months). The article came close - it does mention that the Mac version came first, then completely fails to consider that a valid version of Excel. Nowhere in the title is there mention of it being the 30th birthday of only the Windows version. Did anyone fact-check or sub-edit this dross? It's a bit like saying Star Wars was released in 1980 because that's the Episode everyone likes best.

    Oh wait. 2017. Trump. Alt-facts. Gotcha. I'm back on board now.

    A/C (because the Windoze fan-things will moan...)

    1. bitten

      Re: Except that Excel is actually 32...

      " the Episode everyone likes best"?

      1. James O'Shea Silver badge

        Re: Except that Excel is actually 32...

        Well, Empire Strikes Back _was_ my fav episode... until I saw Rogue One. Now it's my second fav episode.

        Note: there have only been five episodes of Star Wars: the original, Empire, Jedi, Awakens, and Rogue. And Awakens and Jedi are iffy.

  35. Inspector71
    Happy

    Sigh..

    Version 1.0 was about the first Microsoft product I learned to use. On a Mac Plus if I remember right. Excel v4 and Word v5.1 on a decent 68k Mac have yet to be bettered IMHO. Jumpers....goalposts.....

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Excel is not alone in letting you make errors"

    And that's Excel's fault how exactly?

  37. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    Disc Shuriken

    BBC Basic when I was a boy, NT3.5 as lad with some legacy Novell security issue and a Raspberry Pi as a teenager.. #imreallytrying #offmyskateboard

  38. This post has been deleted by its author

  39. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    UX Wars

    Your interface is worse than FaceBooks. #justbashingaway

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bankrolling ujpgrades

    "So, will they go on bankrolling the likes of Microsoft and Excel (or even Office 365)?"

    Yep, as long as MS keeps inventing new "standards" like xlxs. Or as long as crap software like Sage keeps insisting on having Excel installed in order to generate reports (output a freaking .csv guys! or at least let me set up the reports on the server without expecting Excel to be installed on the Sage server... good lord).

    1. Mark Ruit

      Re: Bankrolling ujpgrades

      @AC

      "Or as long as crap software like Sage keeps insisting on having Excel installed"

      We dumped Sage specifically because of that piece of crass stupidity. But Sage's problem as a company is is that it is managed by accountants. not by software specialists: and that shows in a lot of other places in their software too. Sage was the most user-hostile pice of software it has ever been my misfortune to use. When we were moving to the cloud Sage One was not even in consideration.

    2. Mark Ruit

      Re: Bankrolling ujpgrades

      @AC

      "Or as long as crap software like Sage keeps insisting on having Excel installed"

      We dumped Sage specifically because of that piece of crass stupidity. But Sage's problem as a company is is that it is managed by accountants. not by software specialists: and that shows in a lot of other places in their software too. The most user-hostile pice of software it has ever been my missfortune to use. When we were moving to the cloud Sage One was not even in consideration.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I still have a licensed boxed copy of Excel sitting in a cupboard, but have not felt the need to even load it onto a laptop for years. "

    I have several - and MS refused to re-authenticate them when moving to a replacement PC. The licensing restrictions have become more onerous over the years. It seems inevitable that a monthly extortionsubscription will be the eventual model - lapse and you lose everything.

  42. keithpeter
    Pint

    Spreadsheet errors (literature)

    http://www.eusprig.org/

    The people who collate and promote research on errors in spreadsheets (Panko is yer man)

    https://www.ft.com/content/0fdc6e62-2f23-11e5-91ac-a5e17d9b4cff

    Popular article on the phenomenon

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22223190

    The old sum(A1:thingy) joke

    https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2006/06/16/my-first-billg-review/

    Joel Spolsky's recollection of a meeting with Billy G

    Icon: happy weekend all

  43. Roopee
    Thumb Up

    For all its faults...

    ...Excel is my favourite application, bar none, and my version of choice is Excel 2000 - you can keep all the fancy gimmick features and ribbons! I cut my teeth on SuperCalc 4 in, I think, 1988, by taking home the manual and trying out stuff on the one PC in the accounts office! I thought it was ace, and so did my boss when he saw what I could do, especially as I was only a temp :) Then I started training as an accountant and moved on to Lotus 1-2-3 v2, which was a backward step from SuperCalc 5 (which was 3D and I had upgraded to). Then I bought myself Excel 3 with the offer that came with my first Windows PC, and that got me a job working on Excel 4, and so on. Along the way I was a 1-2-3 v3 guru (but it was horrible compared to Excel), and bought myself Lotus Improv and Quattro Pro (and still have the floppies and manuals) but they never got any traction despite being superior at the time (Betamax/VHS anyone?). Like the writer I have an unused copy (of Office 2010) which would be my 2nd choice if I ever need to abandon 2000, but that would only happen if I had to abandon Windows 7, which isn't likely so it will probably stay in its packet. I left accountancy for IT 20 years ago btw.

  44. Rathkennamike

    Used it from day one and still using it, brilliant. Switched to it from using Visicalc and a 3D version of Lotus 123.

    It was and is brilliant in so many ways, as a spreadsheet, it was never intended as a DB or any of the other things some people seem to have been using it for.

    Remember; 'If the only tool you have in your toolbox is a hammer, all problems look like nails'

  45. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    An oddball use case

    I'm using Excel (because that's what's on the machine at work) to keep a rather large state machine under control: the front page is a grid of State vs Event and the end result is about a thousand or so lines of C code that lick'n'sticks straight into the compiler.

    If I tried hard, I could probably dump it straight into the SVN server... mind you, it turns out that Excel still won't allow more than 64k of text in a cell, and fails silently if you try it.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excel - the thin edge of the wedge.

    Now culminating in a plethora of code that doesn't actually work, because its been constructed using 'frameworks' that no one understands, by art students on day release.

    Excel was the first of such 'frameworks' giving users the illusion that they, too, could write code.

    Some of them could. The vast majority could not.

    There is a downside to de-skilling everything. Morons think they are God.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Excel - the thin edge of the wedge.

      Spreadsheets in general have probably set back IT more that any other IT invention. I've seen whole IT departments leave the same day an accountant retired rather than have to maintain the unmaintainable,

  47. Scott 53

    CSV files

    When someone complains that the data in a CSV file has been corrupted the only question you need to ask is "Have you opened it in Excel?" as Excel knows best when it comes to dates, telephone numbers, etc. My standard format specification when receiving data from third parties is "Anything other than Excel".

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: CSV files

      Always use Tabs!

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: CSV files

        Excel will still murder the data format. As for Excel's broken CSV import code... well that's a story in itself.

  48. chasc

    Sheets comes with Chromebook. Don't laugh - serves most everyday tasks.

  49. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Excel

    fighting computer science for 30 years.

  50. The other JJ

    Microsoft Cirrus, sorry, Access

    Let's not forget that Excel's younger sibling celebrated a quarter century this month. Throughout the nineties much of the shadow IT that couldn't be done as Excel macros was done in Access.

  51. John Watts

    I once made a single player 'pong' with Excel and VBA.

    Do I win the prize for the most inappropriate use of Excel?

  52. HmmmYes Silver badge

    Dont use spreadsheets for any numbers that are important.

    Just keep excel for displaying data.

    Do not start puting code into spreadsheets - its never tested, always has bugs in.

    There are a surprising number of large companys who base their decisions on storing and manipulating numbers. Its fuking nuts. No transation, no seperation of data and code. Limited testing - one had test and real data in the same file which, inevitably, got mixed up at some point.

  53. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    A company I used to work for had a sales director who was known for being a 'computerphobe' - and this was back in the 90s when there were a lot of them about. During a presentation, he handed out sales forecasts and figures that he had prepared using Excel, and everyone was pretty impressed that he had done that, as they know his particular ineptitude for all things computer-related. That feeling subsided when he announced: "This spreadsheet thing is great, so useful, but it would be better if it could actually add up the numbers for you".

    The room went quiet, and nobody had the heart to tell him.

    1. HmmmYes Silver badge

      If his name was Charles then i workedfor him.

      I proved my computer genius credential to him by getting his computer to work whilst waiting for my interview.

      How did you do it ? He asked.

      Oh just press the right buttons.

      I actually just put the kettle lead back him which hed trod on and pulled out,

      We should recruit this one, he said, hes a genius...

  54. Morten Bjoernsvik

    Some habits are hard to break

    Nice to hear people still using Excel and SQL for analytics, when a general purpose programming language and dataframe support makes it so much easier.

    I worked years creating fraud reports in perl from large sql-databases, where the output had to be an excel spreadsheet. My major concerns were the 64K row limit and the crappy positioning. I alsways spent more than 60% of the time on Excel presentation.

    Now I do python with dataframes using pandas and store it in a nosql elasticsearch database. I then import them into R for final analysis and presentation. In a nosql database you can store dataframes directly, it is like a multidimensional sql database. no more issues with positioning within the spreadsheet and presentation follows using the R cran modules.

  55. ValleyBoy

    Clicky-pointy number-crunching fools

    A friend of mine who worked in "Business Intelligence" (whatever that is!) always used Excel and VBA to do some seriously bug number crunching. Sometimes it would take days to complete, and would often fail once the spreadsheet reached 2GB.

    Despite numerous attempts to convince him that he could do his number crunching in any other language (even PL/SQL), and it would complete in a fraction of the time, he would not be convinced. He faithfully carried on burning out the cooling fan on his PC every weekend.

    1. HmmmYes Silver badge

      Re: Clicky-pointy number-crunching fools

      Whats 'Business Intelligence'?

      An oxymoron.

      For all those millions with business degrees and MBA from Fulchester Poly, thats a treatment for acne.

  56. ValleyBoy

    Increased productivity

    Whenever managers ask us for suggestions on cutting costs, I always make the same suggestion:

    Take Microsoft Excel off everyone's PC, and fire anyone who complains!

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Increased productivity

      "Take Microsoft Excel off everyone's PC, and fire anyone who complains!"
      And when every department in the hospital uses Excel for maintaining records of drugs, dressings, etc, they will be more productive when they don't know how much they are using and how much they will need? And don't forget you've just fired them who have a rough idea because they are the ones maintaining those records...

      1. HmmmYes Silver badge

        Re: Increased productivity

        If you have multiple people using Excel to control the stock of whatnot in a hospital then I can guarantee you, 100%, they will have no fuckign idea what the stock level is.

        Again, Excel is a tool for displaying and parsing numbers. Its is not a database. Excel does not support transactions from multiple sources.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: Increased productivity

          "If you have multiple people using Excel to control the stock of whatnot in a hospital then I can guarantee you, 100%, they will have no fuckign idea what the stock level is."
          Private hospital chain my brother-in-law used to work for obviously have "no fuckign idea" how to run a multinational business then. How do they remain in business?

          Public hospital my sister used to work at the woman who usually did the stock estimates each month was on leave so my sister was asked to do the report. When the usual nurse responsible for it returned from leave she was livid. How dare my sister report actual stocks and usage? She always altered the numbers to reflect what she thought was needed. So it goes...

          "Excel does not support transactions from multiple sources."
          But individual sheets from disparate areas can be analysed together when included in the same workbook.

          1. HmmmYes Silver badge

            Re: Increased productivity

            How do they do it?

            Painfully slow and ask great risk of fucking all the data up.

            Using Excel for this sort of thing is the sort of thing you'd expect from a one man company.

            It does not reflect well on either organisation.

  57. Alister Silver badge

    Shameful confession

    Whilst pouring scorn on everybody else for inappropriate use of Excel (all the usual suspects like writing documents in it, creating databases in it, etc, etc) I must admit that I find it incredibly useful for managing scripts and log files, 'cos if you dump a text file into Excel using spaces as the delimiter you can manipulate stuff by columns, which is great, not just for ordering the data, but doing find / replace on a single column and leaving the rest untouched.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shameful confession

      so we can add additional inappropriate uses of using Excel instead of Awk, Sed, or PERL (or Python for you damn millennials).

  58. elgarak1

    Excel, to me, is the poster-example of a sad development: It has become less of a tool for work – the work IS Excel (and the other Office components, too). Instead of doing work with Excel, most office drones operate Excel – and hopefully finish some work task regardless.

    That's quite the opposite what the computer SHOULD be.

    In part, this development is caused by Microsoft, whose main interest always were sales and install numbers, and not WHAT the tool is used for – as long as the tool came from Microsoft, they're happy. They added functions primarily to prevent people wanting to try something else. It's sad how much innovation was stifled by this misguided business approach.

    Excel certainly is a powerful tool, but for most of what is done with it, there are better and more productive tools out there. But since those better tools only ever do part of what's done with Excel, so they never get widespread use.

  59. J J Carter Silver badge
    Boffin

    Takes me back...

    I, err I mean a friend, at a high-street travel agency selling traveller's cheques coded a mahoosive Excel app that calculated anticipated profits, taking into account mean time to redemption for cheques, short and long-term interest rates, buy/sell price variance etc.

    Using the results, we walked away from sales channels which were huge turnover but zero profit.

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