I’ve been using Navipane from viziware for the last couple of days. It’s a workbook analyzer and navigator. It also works in Word and Powerpoint, but I didn’t try it with those. Here are some thoughts I have about it:
Trials: Here’s some advice to anyone who makes software: Thirty day trials of full functioning software is the minimum. You have to get the user used to using your product. As a user, I’m in evaluation mode for the first few days. Only later am I really using your product. If I use it for ten or 15 days, I can very easily discard because I’m not quite invested enough. However, after a month or 45 days, I’m still using it because it’s useful. Maybe I even have some spreadsheets that depend on it. Or maybe I’ve become so spoiled by that one feature that I don’t want to give it up. Now you’ve got me.
Viziware drops the ball on the trial. It’s only 15 days and it only works on the first two workbooks you have open. If one of those workbooks is Personal.xls, or any other hidden workbook, you’re down to one.
Keyboards: Oh, you knew this one would be near the top. Navipane has pretty good keyboard support. It’s better than most add-ins I’ve seen, but still not perfect. They have a page in the Options dialog that allowed me to enable or disable shortcuts, but not change the actual shortcuts. The shortcuts allow me to move around the pane easily, but there are a few things I couldn’t do. For instance, I could navigate to a Favorite, but I couldn’t open it without my mouse.
There is a keyboard shortcut to show/hide the pane, which is great. There is also a feature called QuickToggle which “minimizes”, but doesn’t hide, the pane. I’m not sure what the difference is, but it’s nice to get it out of the way when you’re not using it.
Unfortunately I had to disable shortcut keys. When I navigate to a cell with data validation, I use Alt+Down to expand the DV list. That’s a shortcut key defined in Navipane, so it doesn’t work for DV. I’m not sure if the right answer is to be able to disable shortcut keys one at a time, remap keys, or simply have pane-navigation key combinations revert to normal when the pane is hidden.
Screen: Screen real estate is pretty darn important to me, and apparently to viziware too. They add a menu item to the menubar, which I don’t mind, and the “pane” that is navipane can be hidden and resized. That’s about all I can ask for out of a program, so they good marks on this point.
First, hidden workbooks should not show up here. I’ve hidden them for a reason. Maybe an option.
In general, this tab held the least intrigue for me. I picked a particularly egregious workbook to illustrate my point. With the volume of stuff that Navipane is tracking, it’s not very usable to me. When I expanded the tree to see the 41,000 formulas, it took some time. I don’t know how much because I went and did some other stuff, but it wasn’t quick. And once expanded, it was of little use to me. If I have 1,000 rows of the same formula, I don’t need to see that formula 1,000 times. In fact, it distracts from what I may be looking for. Similar formulas in contiguous ranges should be grouped together, I think.
Of the 496 shapes, 322 were from autofilters, 168 were comments, and 2 were charts. Since those objects are listed elsewhere, I don’t need them listed here and it prevented me from figuring out what the other four shapes are.
Speaking of autofilters, there are 322 columns to which an autofilter is applied, not 322 separate ranges. Grouping, again, makes this more usable.
Validations shows >0. When I expanded that part of the tree, the fireworks show began (screen flicker). Apparently Navipane is actually inserting a worksheet multiple times into my workbook then deleting it. I’m not sure why, but it takes several seconds. I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with that level of interaction with my workbook, although it didn’t seem to hurt anything and I did it four times.
If someone is a big time spreadsheet auditor, I can see where the information on this tab might be useful. Clicking on any of the stuff in the list navigates to that object, which has some value. It’s easier to see what’s going on with a workbook with less stuff, but then of course you don’t really need Navipane to get around small workbooks.
Now we get to the good stuff. The Sheets tab lists all the workbooks and all the sheets in a treeview. It’s purely for navigation, but it does that beautifully in my opinion. I found it easier (or at least more convenient) to unhide Navipane and navigate to a sheet than using Excel’s built-in methods. I usually use Ctrl+Page to move between sheets, but it’s nice to see where you are in the stack.
This is another feature that I really liked. I can right click on any open spreadsheet on the Home tab to add it to favorites and I can drag the favorite to a group.
The icons at the top need a little work. The plus sign adds favorites via a File Open dialog. I think it should add the active workbook to the favorites list. The delete button asks “Are you sure you want to delete 0 favorites?” when nothing is selected. I’m a big fan of disabling controls when they are of no use.
As I mentioned earlier I need a way to open a favorite without the mouse. There may be a way, but I couldn’t figure it out.
And finally when I’m keyboarding, the list scrolls to the left unexpectedly. A few small problems with this pane, but over all I like the implementation.
Another great tab. Now you know why you haven’t seen many posts here lately. I haven’t been using Excel much lately. I like that I can add one of these to my favorites with the little star icon. I don’t like that I can delete an item though, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt me if I don’t delete it. Both here and in Favorites, the icons need little tooltips when I hover over them, so I know exactly what they do.
I had the same scrolling problem here as I did with Favorites.
Both Favorites and History need a search feature.
Overall I was impressed with the features of this product. I don’t have much use for the Home tab, but the other tabs were great. Would I pay USD 69.00 for it? Nope. But I can’t think of any Office add-in that I would pay that much for. It’s just too expensive for me.
If you’ve tried Navipane, or even if you haven’t, your comments are welcome.