zandax online course logo
Info, Blogs, Contact & Login

Version History of Excel

From the ZandaX Microsoft Software Blog

Articles to help you improve your Microsoft software skills

Home  >  Blogs Home  >  Business Blog  >  Microsoft Software Articles  > 
Version History of Excel

Version History of Excel

A post from our Microsoft Software blog

      Written by Jordan James
Excel, or to give it its correct name, Microsoft Office Excel, is a fantastic piece of technology, charts, pivot tables, databases, data graphics, not to mention the core functionality of, doing sums.

It's sometimes easy, when you work with the latest version of Excel, to forget that things weren't also quite so easy and quite how long it has taken, to get Excel to its current position. In this short article we are going to have a look at the history of Excel and the changes that have been made along the way.

The Birth of Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets can trace their history back to around 1978 (OK, a bit earlier if you count the Abacus) and the release of VisiCalc on the Apple II. This was the worlds first 'killer app' and is generally considered to be the application that took the PC out of the hands of hobbyists and into the business world.

VisiCalc was a massive hit, even though it only had 5 columns and 20 rows! Microsoft unsurprisingly, were not slow to follow, and in 1982 released Multiplan. Multiplans main differences were a larger calculation area of 40 columns and the introduction R1C1 cell referencing (which we can still use in Excel today, if you want to baffle your boss).

Want Better Excel Skills?

We have online courses with full 12-months' access.
RRP from $49 – limited time offer just $12.00

Other spreadsheet applications were available at that time, most notably SuperCalc, but it was the release of Lotus 123 in 1983 that sounded the death knell for VisiCalc and Microsoft MultiPlan.

With MultiPlan losing to out Lotus 123, mainly due to 123's superior charting and database functions, Microsoft had a re-think and in 1985, launched Microsoft Excel. Excel 1 was released on the Apple Mac and was the first spreadsheet to have a visual interface that allowed it to be controlled using a mouse.

The first Windows version (2 to keep it in line with the Mac version) appeared in 1987. The intension of Microsoft was to make Excel "do everything that 123 does, but better". Excel 2 was the first spreadsheet to allow the user to change its appearance using fonts and modify cells, it introduced intelligent re-calculation (speeding up large spreadsheets) and extensive graphing facilities.

Many people still insist that Lotus 123 was the better program, however 123 was slow to move to a graphical interface, Excels sales increased and by 1989 when Lotus finally moved 123 to the Windows platform it was too late. Excel was King of the spreadsheet world and Microsoft gloried in their defeat of the software giant of the day.

The Birth of Spreadsheets

Early Versions of Excel

We hear a lot of complaints from people that the 'latest' version of Excel, is just the same as the last and it isn't worth the price of the upgrade. And it's true, generally speaking, the differences between the versions are small, visually anyway. It is rare for there to be a massive change in the program. Taken over time though, the changes are huge.

Excel 3 - 1990 saw the release of Excel 3 and with it the introduction of Toolbars (how did we manage without them?), Data Outlining, 3D Charts and Drawing.

Excel 4 - In 1992 Excel started to become mainstream, introducing customisable Toolbars, more shortcuts and functions and the appearance of a feature that everyone now takes for granted: the Autofill handle.

Excel 5 - 1993 and Microsoft released a major new version. Excel 5 now had support for multiple Worksheets and adds VBA Macro's for the first time, giving users a fully programmable interface.

Excel 7 - In 1995 Microsoft skipped Version 6 and went straight to 7. This was to synchronise the version numbers of the various Office applications. Whilst there were no real changes from Version 5, Excel 7 went to a 32 bit architecture, which made it faster and more stable. Oh, and a little feature called Pivot Tables was introduced.

Early Versions of Excel

Excel 97 - 2003

Excel 8 - 1997 ushered in the age of the Paperclip. 'Clippy', Microsoft's much maligned help interface, allowed us to start using natural language help searches. With a re-vamped interface, Excel 8 was the first version to have the year in its title. So Excel 8 became Excel 97, with closer integration with the other Office apps, a better VBA environment and allowing data validation for the first time.

Excel 2000 - Now released as part of Office 2000, Excel 2000 had formula auditing to identify potential formula errors and crash recovery, though very little else was changed.

Excel 2003 - Again, a minor upgrade, featuring proper support for XML, enabling the import of data from other applications, as well as Smart Tags, List Ranges and IRM tools which provided security features to help protect data.

Excel 2007 - 2013

Excel 2007 - Along with the radical and highly controversial (but ultimately beneficial) move to the Ribbon interface, Excel's workbooks were significantly improved in the 2007 update. This meant the programme could store more data (up to 16,000 columns and up to a million rows). Constructing tables around data became easier too, due to a wider array of headings and row types. Complex conditional formatting becomes a trivial task.

Excel 2010 - At first glance it seemed like nothing had changed in the 2010 version of Excel, but in fact, the differences were subtle. The main focus was usability, a better designed ribbon and easier access to chart and pivot table commands. Pivot tables also gained Slicers, a cool way to filter pivot data.

Excel 2013 - Building on the improvements of Excel 2010, Excel 2013 had tighter integration with Office 365, Microsoft's Cloud solution, improved charting and PivotTable control allows for the building of complex data models and some neat animations when values change on the sheet.

Excel 2016 and Beyond

Well, we wait and see. At the time of writing, Excel 2016 is due in a few months' time, but as with the other versions of Excel, we can expect the changes to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

It has taken us 12 versions to get us to where we are today. Very few of those versions have seen a massive step change, but taken as a whole, the change is vast. I'm not that interested in what Excel 2016 has in-store for us - although I'm sure if you dig, you will find some neat new features - I'm much more interested in what Excel 2116 has in store and what will be added along the way ...

Want Better Excel Skills?

We have online courses with full 12-months' access.
RRP from $49 – limited time offer just $12.00

Back to the Microsoft Software blog

Click the button for more Microsoft Software articles.

The ZandaX Business Skills blog

Click a panel for great articles on business skills

ZandaX Blog Contents

Want to see them all? Click to view a full list of articles in our blogs.

Online courses to boost your skills
Click a button to see more about each course
Personal Development
Microsoft Software
Leadership & Management
ZandaX online training course logo
ZandaX – Change Your Life ... Today
All content © ZandaX 2022
Close menu element
See how you score on a range of skills that are critical to your well-being and performance
Communication Skill test
Communication Skills
How Can You Communicate Better?
Would you like to see what kind of communicator you are? And how you can improve the effectiveness of your communications?
Likeability test
How Much Do People Like You?
Do you sometimes wonder just how likeable you are? And wouldn't you like to see how you can (genuinely) become more likeable?

Time Management test
Time Management
How Can You Make More Use Of Your Time?
Are you frustrated by how easily time slips away? Do you get frustrated when things don't get done just because you run out of time?
Assertiveness test
Are you Passive, Aggressive or Assertive?
Would you like to know where you fall on the behavior spectrum? Does your response to events sometimes surprise you?

Close menu element
Information & Resources
ZandaX information
Read more about us, our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Service
See how we want to help you, and how we make everything easy for everyone
Callback request
ZandaX Blogs
Articles to increase your knowledge and understanding in key areas of your life and career.
Read our blogs on Personal Development, Business Skills and Leadership & Management

Time Management test
Log In
Log in to your online dashboard
View your courses, review what you want and download your workbooks and certificates
Assertiveness test
Contact Us
An easy online form to get in touch
With options for More Information, Customer Service and Feedback

Close menu element
Learn About:
Personal Development
Leadership & Management
Sales & Presentations
Microsoft Office
Microsoft Project
Microsoft Visio

[NOTE: Mouse over the titles above,
then to visit the website pages you want,
click on the links in the right hand panel]
Our courses
We have everything covered: learn all applications at all levels!
Microsoft Excel courses
Microsoft Excel 2021 / 365
Introduction to Advanced (*NEW*)
Microsoft Excel VBA
Introduction & Intermediate
Microsoft Excel 2013 / 2016
Introduction to Professional
Microsoft Powerpoint courses
Microsoft PowerPoint 365 (2021)
Ultimate all-in-one (*NEW*)
Microsoft PowerPoint 2019
Introduction to Advanced
Microsoft PowerPoint 2013/2016
Introduction & Advanced
Microsoft Word courses
Microsoft Word 365 (2019)
Introduction & Advanced
Microsoft PowerPoint 2013/2016
Introduction & Advanced
Microsoft Access courses
Microsoft Access 365 (2019)
Introduction & Advanced
Microsoft Access 2013/2016
Introduction to Advanced
Microsoft Outlook courses
Microsoft Outlook 365 (2019)
Ultimate all-in-one (*NEW*)
Microsoft Outlook 365 (2019)
Introduction to Advanced
Microsoft Outlook 2013/2016
Microsoft Project
Enhance your project management with our two intensive but very easy-to-follow CPD certified Microsoft Project courses.
Microsoft Project courses
Microsoft Project Introduction
Get a solid foundation in Project software to create solid, resilient project plans.
You don't need prior experience with Project: just be able to use a PC with Microsoft Windows.
Microsoft Project Advanced
The Advanced course takes you to a level that will put you in complete control of your projects.
You should, of course, be fully conversant with the skills and concepts taught in the Introduction course.
Microsoft Visio
Become a Visio master with our two intensive but very easy-to-follow CPD certified Microsoft Visio courses.
Microsoft Visio courses
Microsoft Visio Introduction
Get a solid base for using Visio to create high quality, impressive diagrams.
You don't need prior experience with Visio: just be able to use a PC with Microsoft Windows.
Microsoft Visio Advanced
This course will enable you to use Visio to design graphics at the highest level.
You should, of course, be fully conversant with the skills and concepts taught in the Introduction course.
Take a look at our new Marketing section which we begin with two great books on Copywriting
... there will be more to follow, so stay tuned!
Copywriting books
Copywriting for Results
A two-book set that will give you all you need to write great copy every time.
Get the first book to learn the process, then the second to see how to apply it to all media types.
  • Copywriting for Results: Your Complete Guide
  • Copywriting for Results: Putting It Into Action
Watch This Space
We have more in the pipeline so be sure to check back soon to see what's new!
More marketing books
Take a look at our new Leadership & Management section which we begin with a superb course on Managing Teams
... there's lots more to follow, so keep in touch!
Team Leadership courses
Team Leadership & Line Management
For practical advice on managing teams for results.
Make your team successful and more positive with tons of real-world techniques that work.
  • Team Management for Line Managers & Supervisors
  • Building High Performing Teams (in production)
Watch Out For More!
We have more courses in the pipeline so check back soon to see what's new!
More team leader courses
Great, easy-to-follow courses on how to succeed in sales and presentations
Drive Your Sales to New Levels
Selling Skills course
Learn how to sell more, to more people
Deliver Presentations that Get Results
Presentation Skills course
Build and deliver great presentations
Your Keys to Success are here!
Sales Management course
Manage your team for great results
Great, easy-to-follow CPD certified courses on skills that will change your life!
Learn How to Stop Wasting Time!
Time Management course
Get more out of every day of your life ...
Boost Your Self Esteem: Be Assertive
Assertiveness course
Learn how to deal with bad behavior
Great Communications = A Happy Life!
Communication Skills course
Supercharge your communications
Improve Your Relationships
Building Relationships course
Learn how to be more likeable!
Get a Plan to Beat Your Stress
Stress Management course
Learn how to reduce & manage your stress
It's the Behavior, Not the Anger!
Anger Management course
Control anger in yourself and other people
Site Cookies
We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better.

You can change your cookie settings in your browser. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

I'm fine with this