Excel Versions

I currently have Excel 2003 and Excel 2007 installed. I’m pretty happy with this arrangement from an Excel standpoint, but Word and Access are always trying to install themselves. Happy or not, I’m in a situation where I need to install Excel 2010. I don’t know what to do.

What I want to do is delete everything and install only 2010. But sometimes I need 2003 for support reasons. So maybe I have 2010 and 2003.

I haven’t totally embraced the Virtual Machine paradigm for production work. I use it for beta testing or for specific OS/Excel needs (like when I’m editing a book), but I don’t use it for every day client work. I know some people do and I’m genuinely impressed by them. When Windows or Office has an update, do they go into all their VMs and run update? That sounds almost as fun as poking myself in the eye.

So what should I do? Your comments are always appreciated.


This isn’t really an update, but is a question that is somewhat related. My laptop is nearing the end of its life. What if…stay with me here…I replaced it with a Macbook Air? I only use it about 20% of the time and mostly while traveling. I wouldn’t mind having a Mac for Rails stuff, although I have it working under Windows pretty well now. I’ve heard many times, and twice in the last week, someone say something like “I bought a Mac in 2006 and never looked back.” It makes me we want to see if I’m missing anything. However, my first love is Excel, so if it doesn’t do that well, I’m not interested. I expect an opinion or two on this.

24 thoughts on “Excel Versions

  1. i use excel 2003 most of the time, but also have 201 installed, as i try to move some of my apps to the newer version. but i just have a lot of issues when i try to run my code in 2010.
    1. when i use code in 2003 to set borders, and run the same code after opening toe workbook in 2010, i get debugs. i have to clear all of the borders prior to running the code in 2010, then it will work.
    2. i use something like this: lastrow = worksheets(“sheet1″).cells(rows.count,”A”).end(xlup).row to determine the last row.
    when going between a workbook created in 2003 and 2010, the code debugs, because the row count is different.
    3. background queries to an as400 don’t work in 2010, they have to be rewritten. i have a client using a mish match of 2003 and 2010 and it’s going to be a nightmare getting it all converted to 2010.
    so, there are just things that need to be done.

    as to your point, 2003 is my default, when i double click and excel file, it opens in 2003. sometimes it gets messed up, with an update or something, and i just open 2003 help and do a detect and repair. i still have to do this even though i’ve set the registry to use 2003 as the default. the detect and repair just resets this for me.

    i do use both and have both running at the same time on a few of my pc’s.

  2. Go for the Mac. Then you’ll have a whole series of interesting posts to tell us why you don’t like it.

    I’ve been tempted to do that, but I’ve resisted. My experience with Macs is limited to a few visitors who came to the house and could never get networking to work. I tried to fix it, but I had no idea where to start. Even Google couldn’t help.

    The take-away (from my limited perspective): If you’re used to Windows PCs, you like them because you know (sort of) how they work. If you own a Mac, you really don’t know how they work because you’re not supposed to.

  3. I’ve been a Mac Fanboy now for about 4 years and I’ve loved the two macbook pro’s I’ve had. Like you, I’m very partial to Excel.

    I’m going to suggest sticking with windows. I’ve used Excel in basecamp for Mac and Parallels, and I’ve never thought I was getting the full Excel experience without compromises. Either I had to default the function keys on the mac to behave like windows so my Excel shortcuts would all work and loose the cool native mac shortcuts, or I keep flipping back and forth which can get annoying.

    Also the mac I had only had 4GB of RAM and I work with pretty big datasets (100,000 rows x 100 columns) with quite a few complex array formulas. Splitting my RAM between 2 OS’s was just too crippling. So I will say if you get a mac with enough RAM for your applications, you are willing to have some things not function 100% (maybe 90-95%) as they would on native Windows then by all means go for the mac.

    But if your number 1 priority is Excel, I’d say stick with windows 7 as I think it’s pretty fantastic really. There are going to be some awesome ultrabooks out this year for windows with comparable build quality I’d imagine.

    I’ve stopped using Parallels after years of using both Parallels or VMWare Fusion. I have a work computer that is an old XP laptop, my wife and I have a couple of macbook pros, and I have a seriously old desktop computer which I managed to install Windows 7 and Excel 2010 on and that is my favourite setup for doing Excel stuff.

    Ultimately, I don’t think you can go wrong either way. Good luck!


  4. I went for a Mac and have Excel 2011 — it’s a weird hybrid between 2003 and 2007/2010. I kind of like it for that. But a lot of weird differences that will frustrate you until you get used to it. I’ll admit I am still slower on my Mac but I work on a PC at work (with a lot of excel) still (which is most of my existence).

  5. PS – the Mac overall actually feels more robust and less cluncky. The Mac is generally smoother and more fun, but still seems less efficient and German like the PC feels.

  6. The take-away (from my limited perspective): If you’re used to Windows PCs, you like them because you know (sort of) how they work. If you own a Mac, you really don’t know how they work because you’re not supposed to.
    I really like that, can I use it?

    I believe the latest VM tech allows you to run just the application instead of the whole operating system. Application streaming or something. Yes, you’d still need to perform Windows/Office Update for each VM but it’ll behave more like a non-interfering application.

  7. I missed out on the Office 2007 experience, but now am running both 2003 and 2010 versions with very few problems. There is a relatively simple registry hack described in http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=928091 that allows both versions of Word to run without the install dialogue appearing when you switch versions.

    Unfortunately, I’ve not found a similar fix for Access. Does anyone know of one?

  8. If your primary interest is Office (maybe, just Excel) and if you get a powerful enough Mac, you could install Virtualbox (or I assume one of its competitors) and run Windows in the VM. Then, you can experiment with the Mac but return to the comfort of Windows Excel when you have real work to do. This is what I do…did — until my wife decided she preferred the Mac — it’s lighter than the Wintel laptops that I favor.

    If your interest is trying out Office on the Mac I would save my $$ — the Mac is more expensive than a similarly powered Wintel machine. IMO, Mac Office 2011 is a strange beast. As far as VBA goes, it is like Office 97 without the Windows libraries capabilities. And, the UI is very confusing consisting as it does of menus, toolbars, and ribbon.

  9. Go with the Mac. It’s the only machine (MacBook Pro 15″ with hi res matte screen) I’ve ever kept for more than a year – due to build quality, good spec and ability to upgrade RAM / HDD, etc (despite what people say).

    Parallels is the right answer for running Windows on the Mac. With mine upgraded to 8 Gb I don’t even notice when Windows is running, even when doing memory-intensive photo / video editing and dropping to Windows for Office at the same time. Far better solution than using Office for Mac in my opinion (though from what I’ve seen O2k11 looks much better than 2k8).

  10. I run Win 7 and Office 2010 at Home, I also run Oracles Virtual Box on the same machine
    This allows me to have a Virtual Win 95 & Win Xp virtual machine, where I run Office 97 and Office 2003 with no problems
    Setup a common netwoprk drive to allow file transfers between all machines

    I’d look at Running Parallels on the Macbook Air and then run a few virtual machines as required.

  11. Parallels on a Macbook Air should work fine as long as you have a lot of RAM (8GB would be fine) – then you can run whatever makes more sense, Windows or Mac. The current Office for Mac generally works okay in terms of VBA/etc., but it’s not quite as smooth of a development environment as Office 2010-Windows (and I can’t believe I’m saying that). Macbook Air is the one Mac I’ve seen that even heavy Windows folks really like, both for its reasonable price and great size/weight/power. Apple’s touchpad also is the only one worth using IMO, due to its sensitivity and actually useful and well implemented multitouch gestures.

  12. I learned Excel 2003, then occasionally used 2007, then switched to 2010 only. I find 2010 a significant improvement over 2007.

    I use GoToMyPC when I want to use Office with my old Macbook. It works very well, but requires a subscription, a good internet connection, and the host machine to remain powered on (or configured to wake on LAN). I have read that GoToMyPC and its competitors are unnecessary if you know a little bit about networking.

  13. Dick,

    I wont’ comment on the Mac/PC side, as I think you’ll get enough feedback from someone else. For the VM side though…

    Updates can be a bit of a pain but, to be honest, as long as you’re machine is behind a firewall, and you only use it for testing scenarios, do you really need to update it all the time? I often don’t for testing purposes, but will install major service packs as they can change the way Excel works sometimes. All the security updates though, well… I just don’t find them necessary if the machine is protected and never connects to the internet.

    (For reference, my laptop here runs 2003 and 2010 natively and they coexist together just fine.)

  14. I used to have all 3 on my development laptop (Excel 2003, 2007 and 2010), but found that I had no need to use 2007 once I install 2010 and having it on my system caused some annoying problems, nothing serious, but annoying. So 6 months ago I removed 2007 and my 2007 clients seem to have no problem when I send them a model from 2010. 2010 offers much better user experience than 2007 if you are like me and like to customize the environment – it is certainly a far cry from 2003 (which was the best for customization and minimizing UI space), but it is ok. I really like how effective 2007/2010 tables are to work with, so am using 2010 much more, even given the lack of ultimate customization of 2003.

    When you install 2010, make sure you completely uninstall 2007 or there is stuff left around in the registry that just gets annoying. And the order is important – 2003 then 2010.

    I do use Win7 virtual PCs, but that is mostly for testing with stuff that may be specific to a client and that I don’t want cluttering up my development computer.

    I am curious about the Mac world, but not enough to waste a lot of time and money to figure out. Let us know your experiences if you go that way, so we can all benefit vicariously.

  15. I’d stick with the PC. We bought a macbook for home about a year before my work upgraded to Windows 7. I thought the mac was a really nice machine with a great OS until I tried Windows 7, which in my opinion is hands down, the superior OS. Also, Excel 2011 for mac is clunky and confusing – when I hit F2, i expect my formula to come up, not my screen to get brighter. The benefits of the mac (if there are any) don’t outweigh the hassle of learning new keyboard shortcuts.

  16. Replace Excel 2007 with Excel 2010.

    Many annoying attributes of Excel 2007 have been corrected in 2010, which is especially noticeable with charts. Excel 2007 would choke after plotting a few hundred pairs of points. Excel 2010 can plot a few series of 50,000-100,000 pairs before the refresh time becomes really annoying. Dates can be entered directly in axis-specification dialog, as occurred in 2003 and earlier versions of Excel.

    My needs for Excel 2003 virtually have vanished with Excel 2010. I have a single, rarely used copy of Excel 2003 on just 1 of the 3 machines that I routinely use and I ponder flushing that lone copy.

  17. I recently used a Netbook for working on Excel 2010 and was amazed at the performance of these cheap little fellas. Having almost skipped the 2007 version working as you say in either 2003 or 2010 I had to go back and was disappointed to find that the 2010 in cell charting, conditional formatting and pivoting all created compatibility issues with 2007. I aim to skip 2007 if at all possible. My kids smack up the Netbooks we have and some how they all survive I have had no issues, lately I find no correlation between price and build quality. I even suspect that the lighter machines “bounce” more easily. Rather like the difference between dropping a Cat vs a Dog.

    Install 2003 then 2010 on some crappy little netbook and use keyboards and monitors if you are working from a fixed location like offices & homes. Your back will reward you for it in later life.

  18. Go with the Mac and get Excel 2011. You’ll have a big adjustment with Excel, but you can fix this by partitioning your hard drive and installing Parallels, which will allow you to run Windows 7 and you can install Excel 2003 and Excel 2010.

    I have a Windows desktop and a 15″ MacBook Pro, which I picked up almost 2 years ago. Right now the Windows PC is gathering some serious dust.

  19. I have a MacBook Pro and Parallels. I believe Gregory misspoke. There is no need to partition the hard drive. Parallels is just an application that runs under the MacOS. I’ve got a WinXP and a WinNT virtual machine. I’d forgotten how snappy WinNT was.


  20. @Michael, WinNT means NT 4? Doesn’t that restrict you to Excel 2002 or prior? IIRC, Excel 2003 doesn’t run under NT 4.

  21. Not wanting to touch the PC vs Mac debate willingly (our family is currently divided ;), I too have a similar love/hate/unknown relationship with the Excel versions 2003/2007/2010 (I’m a PC guy, btw). The majority of my end-users at my work have 2007, but there are a few boxes that have 2003 on them. Thus, I code in 2003 in a VM, while 2007 is installed on the host PC. 90% of my work during the day is done in a VM, and I find it quite a stable environment for testing, much more so than the host environment.

    One advantage to the VM approach is that if Excel takes a memory dump on me and I have to restart, it only takes down the VM and not my main PC.

    Also, I keep a backup or “clean” copy of my VM so that if I do end up “toasting” the VM I can easily start backup with a fresh installation of everything: the OS and Excel. This way I can install Excel resources and add-ins to my heart’s content and not worry about possibly corrupting the installation of files. I find that I take a lot more liberties and freedoms with my VM than I would ever consider doing to my host PC.

    And having 2007 on my host PC allows me to do testing on my 2003 code to make sure it will function correctly in both environments. However, I would prefer to have 2010 installed, but alas, I am not in control of those decisions where I work.

    So long story short, yes, you can obviously have 2003 and 2010 installed without any problems on the same machine, but the VM approach has its advantages too.

  22. fzz –

    You’re probably right. I created it to open an old PowerPoint file and transition it into a later file version that a newer PowerPoint would handle. I’ve got Office 97 on the VM. Still snappy, and I’ve got XL map objects if I want them. ;-)

    Having gone to the (considerable) trouble to make it, I keep it around.


  23. No comment on the PC/Mac debate; I am happy with my PC, but I know quite a few hardcore Windows developers who work on Mac and seem happy with it.
    I have been doing all my development work with VMs for years now, using VMWare Workstation on a Win7 PC, and really love it. You’d better have a solid machine (i.e. plenty of RAM) to get a good experience, and yes the update process can be annoying at times, but on the flip side I enjoy having a totally clean base machine, and a sandbox where I can install whatever I want, and which I can clone in a matter of minutes. The update process isn’t too bad either – I have a core development machine, with my typical setup, and a few “specialized” machines (XP + Office 2003 for instance), which I rarely use and update only when needed. Every month, I scrap my monthly changes on my core machine, revert it to the last known clean state, update, and restart for a month – and I create a clone for each project. What helps is that I keep no files on my development machine, all my code is on a server in a code repository, so I don’t have to worry about losing anything when I clean up.
    In short, it’s a matter of how you prefer to be poked in the eye. Updating virtual machines regularly is a regular minor pain, whereas re-paving a base machine is a major but infrequent hassle…

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