Hello patient followers. I haven’t posted for a while, not because I can’t think of anything to write about, but because I’ve been rather busy. I’ll talk about each of these things separately, but I think I need a quick post to say what’s going on.
Peltier Tech Blog
There are plenty of topics that I want to cover. New chart types in Excel 2016. Charting and programming examples. Dozens and dozens of old articles that were written for Excel 97 and need to be updated.
An article that I started in October and still haven’t gotten around to finishing is an Excel-based solution to xkcd’s velociraptor problem, inspired by an article in Wired magazine. I have a formula-based approach and a VBA approach, plus plenty of cool images from a Google search.
Microsoft Excel 2016 for Windows and Mac
The Mac version finally looks enough like the Windows version that I don’t feel totally hobbled while using it. In fact, the look and feel is very much like the Windows equivalent. Of course, it was released prematurely, and a lot of things were not really working yet, particularly on the VBA side. But each month Microsoft releases an update (the latest is 15.17), which fixes a bunch of stuff, hasn’t yet fixed a bunch of other stuff, and into which a few new bugs have crept in. The latest big improvements are that the ribbon can now be customized by add-ins like my own charting utilities, though there is not yet a capability for users to modify the ribbon themselves.
The Windows version is pretty good; I’m using it most of the time now, except for testing. There are a few things I don’t like, for example the way they handle pinned files and folders in the File-Open and File-Save functions. But all in all, it’s working well. The Windows version has monthly updates too, if you’re using an Office 365 subscription.
The coolest thing Microsoft has done is started up a User Voice section on Excel, which allows us, as regular users, to make suggestions for features that would make Excel even better. If you see an idea you like, you can vote on it, and the items with the most votes get attention from Microsoft. Here are some suggestions I’ve made, voted for, or commented on.
Give us a proper NULL() worksheet function – This would let you use NULL() in a formula, for example, and a chart would treat the formula as if the cell were totally blank, and leave a gap in the line. You know what’s cool? Within a couple weeks of posting this idea, someone from Microsoft called me to discuss this function, and now it’s actually being implemented.
Recent Files pane in Excel 2013 was pretty good, but Excel 2016 broke it – This is about how Excel 2016 messed up how pinned files and folders are displayed, which I complained about above. It’s only got 61 votes, so follow the link and add your vote.
Sensible date formatting on X-axis of XY-scatter charts – This would give you a nicer date format for XY charts, without having to use the less-flexible line chart. Only three votes, so I don’t know about this one.
Chart series formatting – UI overhaul – I think the intent of this one is to provide a single dialog to format all of a chart’s series, the way Excel 2013 introduced one dialog to manipulate chart type and axis for all series. 36 votes, so people, share the love.
Go to the User Voice site, read the ideas people have posted, and vote for your favorites. Microsoft is reading these, and commenting on even the ideas without too many votes.
Peltier Tech Charts for Excel
I announced the release of Peltier Tech Charts for Excel 3.0, the latest major upgrade to my popular and awesome Excel charting utilities. This major upgrade makes it compatible with Excel 2016, such that one add-in works on both Windows and Mac computers; no need to buy two licenses if you can’t decide on an operating system. Because Mac Excel 2016 is evolving monthly, I have been spending a lot of time making sure that my software takes advantage of the fixes Microsoft makes (and removing workarounds). I have also been addressing a lot of dumb little problems, and I’ve started outlining some new features. The documentation is admittedly pretty lame, so I have started outlining that work as well.
If you are a licensee of my earlier utilities, email me and I’ll set you up with a discount coupon so you can upgrade on the cheap.
In November, Microsoft hosted the annual Microsoft Global MVP Summit. I met up with a few dozen Excel MVP colleagues, and we got caught up, had a beer or three, and talked Excel with the Excel Product Group at Microsoft. These folks are working on some cool things, not just the Windows and Mac stuff, but also Excel on all kinds of platforms: I let them talk me into installing Excel on my Android phone, and I was amazed that I could actually do a little work on it. They’re working on improved simultaneous co-authoring of documents, and on more new chart types, and this new chart engine they’ve been developing will make charting faster and more flexible.
Australia and New Zealand 2016
In March 2016 I and several of my Excel MVP colleagues will be traveling to the Southern Hemisphere to present a series of conferences on Excel. We will have two-day sessions in Auckland, Sydney, and Melbourne. Follow the link to read more about Excel Summit South 2016. There will be presentations by the experts, including MVPs, industry leaders, and Microsoft. We’ll have panel discussions and Q&A sessions, and lots of time for off-line chats.
On May 26, 2016, MVPs Tony de Jonker and Jan Karel Pieterse will host the third annual Amsterdam Excel Summit. I missed the 2014 session, but I was there last year, presented a couple of sessions, and met a lot of people that I’d only known through email or blogs. I’ll be there again in 2016, so come by and visit; I’m really friendly, not as nerdy as my blog would make you think.
On May 27, 2016, I will lead the Excel Charting And Dashboard Masterclass along with Tony de Jonker and David Hoppe. We’ll be teaching about charting, visualization, and dashboards.
Microsoft is Listening
Microsoft has changed a lot, especially in the past couple of years. They’ve really opened up about what they’re working on, and they’re listening much more closely to what others are telling them. Of course, Microsoft pays a lot of attention to us MVPs, both at the Summit and in the mailing lists they host to discuss things with us. But they also are interested in what their regular users are saying. I mentioned User Voice above, where Microsoft program managers are reading the suggestions that users are posting. They also pay attention to the Send-a-Smile/Frown feedback; I always include my email in the things I send in, and I’ve gotten responses on at least a couple of the items I’ve submitted.
This is not the same Microsoft we’ve known all these years.