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The world has a shortage of semi-conductors; are worksheets now running out too?
After shortages of semi-conductors caused by COVID and other global supply problems, are Excel worksheets the latest resource to feel the pinch?

Posted by Andy Brown on 30 March 2022

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After semiconductors, are worksheets now running short?

This blog was first created on 1st April 2022.

The COVID crisis has caused resource shortages around the world, with car manufacturers having to scale back production due to a global shortage of microchips.  In the UK these shortages may have been exacerbated by Brexit.  In this article we look at whether Excel (and even Google) worksheets may be the next resource to feel the pinch.

The Problem

Some clients have been reporting problems in the last week or so when they try to insert new worksheets in Excel:

Inserting a worksheet

The problem appears to come when you try to insert a worksheet into an existing workbook.


Here's the error message which appears:

The error message

It seems to be the case that if you wait 10-20 seconds you can then insert worksheets again.

Some people have also reported the same problem happening with Google Sheets, suggesting that this isn't confined to Microsoft.

The Outlook

We managed to get through to Brian Jones, head of Excel development at Microsoft, who confirmed that this is an issue (although it's currently confined to Western Europe) and that Microsoft are dedicating their French data centres to mining new worksheets:

French data centres

A map of Microsoft's data centres from techncrunch.com.  The France Central and France South centres are being repurposed to mine new worksheets.

Worksheet-Saving Ideas

In the meantime,  Microsoft have released this guide to cutting down on your worksheet use:

Idea Notes
Reuse old worksheets If you've got old worksheets that you no longer need, consider erasing their contents and using them to store new numbers and formulae.
Make use of all your cells An Excel worksheet has 1,048,576 rows and 16,384 columns.  Before creating a new worksheet make sure that you've filled all of your existing one.
Delete unwanted worksheets It's public-spirited to delete any worksheets that you're not using, as it frees them up for others to access.

Despite all this some companies are reporting a black market developing in second-hand worksheets, with prices of $10 for a hundred worksheets being reported in the worst-affected areas of the UK and Ireland.

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