What's new in Excel 2013
Part six of a seven-part series of blogs

Excel 2013 contains radical changes to charts, pivot tables and the user interface. This review explains all the new features of Excel 2013

  1. Excel 2013 - the Wise Owl Review!
  2. First Impressions - the Excel 2013 Look-and-Feel
  3. Excel 2013 changes: working with files
  4. Excel 2013 changes: pivot tables and data analysis
  5. Excel 2013 - Changes to Charts
  6. What's new in Excel 2013 - general changes (this blog)
  7. Excel 2013 - summary and recommendations

Posted by Andy Brown on 30 January 2013

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What's new in Excel 2013 - general changes

Along with changes to file-handling, pivot tables and charts, there is a wealth of miscellaneous changes made for Excel 2013.  Below I've picked out the main improvements.

Flash fill

It sounds exciting - and it is!  Flash fill recognises patterns in your data, and extrapolates.  You can use it to parse names, phone numbers, addresses, etc.  To see how it works consider this example:

Celebrity marriage data

I've typed the first 3 entries in, and selected the entire column to see if Excel can work out what I'm up to.


Suppose that you type in the first 3 entries above, which give the first name of the bride and the first name of the groom, then select the column and choose to flash fill it:

Flash fill icon

Click on this icon to flash fill any selected range.


What happens is that Excel correctly works out the data pattern, and fills in the blank cells!

Flash filling names

Excel fills in the rest of the bride-and-groom partnerships correctly.


If you're wondering why I typed in 3 names to start this off, it's because with 2 names it didn't quite work correctly!

Inserting pictures

You can now insert pictures from (as the icon tooltip says) a variety of online sources:

The online pictures icon

You can now insert pictures from Flickr, Bing searches, etc.


When you choose the icon above, you can choose your source:

Choosing online picture source

You can insert pictures and videos from Flickr and from other online sources.

Inserting Office Apps

Microsoft have obviously noticed Apple's app store, and decided that they can emulate Apple's success.  You can therefore insert other people's apps into Excel (and other Office 2013 applications):

Inserting office app

You can click on this icon to insert apps.


Here is a selection of apps avaiable at the Office store:

Some Excel apps available

Some of the apps available for Excel.

At the time of writing there are about 30 apps available, all written for the US market.  To this naive blogger apps sound like add-ins with a fancy name!

New Excel Functions

There are a whole host of exotic new Excel functions, but they're nearly all specialist statistical or mathematical tools.  There are, however, 3 new functions which caught my eye:

Function Notes
ARABIC Want to know what a number in roman numerals represents? As an example, =ARABIC("XIV") would return 14!
DAYS Use this if you want to know the difference between two dates in days.  How many days are there at the time of writing until Christmas?  The answer is given by =DAYS("25/12/2013",TODAY()).
FORMULATEXT Suppose I put the DAYS function formula above into cell F18.  Then =FORMULATEXT(F18) would return the formula as text.  No more typing apostrophes in front of formulae to turn them into the underlying text!

New add-ins

If you've subscribed to Office Professional Plus, you'll have access to the Inquire and Spreadsheet Compare add-ins.  Here's what these allow you to do:

Add-in What it lets you do
Inquire Do a sense check on a workbook to spot potential problems (invaluable for testing spreadsheet models, for example).
Compare Compare two workbooks to see where they differ.

You can see a good summary of what these add-ins do at AccountingWeb.

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