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First impressions of the Excel Web App

Yesterday, I translated and published my article how to access to the Technical Preview of the Office Web Apps. Today, I will write about my first impressions of the Excel Web App. If you are not already participant to the Office Web Apps TP, please read the article Office Web Apps Technical Preview where you will find some explanations how to register for and use the TP.

Let’s now have a look at the Excel Web App. First, I login to Windows Live and navigate to SkyDrive as you can see in the following picture. As I’m usually using Windows Live in German, I had to change the language to English. If you don’t know how to change your language, this is also explained in the article mentionned above.

ExcelWeb App

For the current test, I used the Firefox 3.5 Browser. On one hand, I was curious if the Excel Web App will work properly in another browser than the Internet Explorer and on the other hand, Firefox is quite common in Germany. Let’s navigate to the folder „My Documents“. Then we have to click on „New“ and select „Microsoft Excel Workbook“ for creating a new workbook.

ExcelWeb App

We will then be asked to specify a name for the workbook. To finish, we should click on „Create“. If a workbook with the same name already exists in our folder, an error message appears and asks us to specify another name. Otherwise Excel Web App
presents itself as shown in the following picture:

ExcelWeb App

You can see three tabs on the bottom representing the worksheets. On the upper side, you can see a ribbon with the „Home“ tab active. The ribbon has a similar layout to Excel 2010. For comparison, I took a screenshot of Excel 2010.

ExcelWeb App

For example, the text formatting icons used in Excel Web App are the same as in Excel 2010. But we also note, that apparently not all features of Excel 2010 are available in Excel Web App. However, this is not the claim of the Office Web Apps. They will only provide base functions. If you try to a right click on a cell, you will notice, that the context menue is not available (yet). At this point, I must say, that the current version of Excel Web App is really an early version, so Microsoft will surely add more functions in the next releases.

For testing, I typed a text into a cell and I formatted the background and foreground color. Then I tried to resize the height of the row as I’m usually doing this in my stand alone versions of Excel. Unfortunately this did not work, the browser tab freezed. Ok, I switched back to my folder list and reopened the Excel file. Then I noticed, that the entered text was stored, so in my opinion this means that the inputs are directly stored after they have been typed. I tried to resize the height again and this time it worked.

ExcelWeb App

If you change the background color for a cell or range, you will see that live preview is also available in Excel Web App, cool! And you can also type text in the field left to the f(x). Let’s have a look to the available number formats. Unfortunately the autofill function is not available yet, so I had to type the numbers manually. And the Excel Web App uses language based number formats. I tried some number formats using Windows Live in English, as shown in the picture below.

ExcelWeb App

Then I switched the language to German and – yes – Excel Web App now uses and displays the number formats in German.

ExcelWeb App

Then, I entered some values in the second worksheet and wanted to add them using the sum function. Cool, intellisense is also available in the Excel Web App, as you can see in the next screen. And the functions are also language dependant, meaning in German SUMME is shown instead of SUM.

ExcelWeb App

Like in Excel 2010, if you enter a bracket after the function, you can select a range with the mouse. In case the formula is not instantly calculated, you can use „Calculate Workbook“ found in the button „Data“ of the ribbon to refresh the calculations.

ExcelWeb App

For showing the used function as text, I tried to prepend an apostrophe to the equal sign. Excel Wep App hightlights the cell with a red border. If you double click this cell, the apostrophe is removed and the ffunction calculated. I don’t know if this behaviour is intentional or not.

Let’s have a look on the „Insert“ ribbon tab. There are currently two entries available: „Table“ and „Hyperlink“. If we click on „Table“, we are asked to confirm our selected range.

ExcelWeb App

When clicking on „Hyperlink“, we should provide a link and a description. The following picture shows the result of both options:

ExcelWeb App

Actually the button „Table Options“ does not contain many options, you can hide and unhide the header or total rows. If you click on „Open in Excel“, this results in an error. After I had input some data in my three sheets, I looked for how to insert a new sheet. Unfortunately this functionality seems not to be available yet.

ExcelWeb App

If we click on the backstage button, we can see some options for saving the workbook or providing feedback. „Save As“, „Download a Snapshot“, „Download a Copy“, „Give Feedback“ are working for me, the other options are not active.

Finally I tested what happens, if I upload some workbooks I had previously created in Excel 2010. For this test, I created a workbook containing some text and values, another workbook containing some functions/formulas and a third workbook containing shapes. If I open the first workbook in the Excel Web App, all seems to be fine.

ExcelWeb App

The following picture shows the second workbook loaded in the Excel Web App. I used a simple SUM function to add some values and a function only available in Excel 2010: ISO.CEILING. This is correctly identified by the Excel Web App. I also used the symbol font for displaying the greek sum character. As this font is not available in Excel Web App, the character is displayed as „S“.

ExcelWeb App

If I change some values in this workbook and download a copy, the information about the character in the symbol font remains and all works fine in Excel 2010. However, if I edit the text in this cell in the Excel Web App and if I download this file, all characters in the cell have been changed to the symbol font. If I try to open the last workbook containing the shapes, I got an error message, informing me that this functionality is not available.

ExcelWeb App

My conclusion about Excel Web App: as the apps are a Technical Preview, we can not expect that all works fine and that all functions have been implemented. But what I have seen until now is very promising and I excited to see what will be available in the next version. Very important for me: I repeated my tests in different browsers (IE 7, IE 8, Firefox 3.5 and IronBrowser, a derivate from Google Chrome) and all worked in the same manner. Sometimes, the ribbon was not correctly displayed in the IronBrowser.

This article has also been published in German and in English on the following sites:

 

 
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