Excel has a long and colorful history. Microsoft released the first version of Excel for the Macintosh in 1985 and added a version for Windows two years later. By 1993, Excel had morphed into an all-purpose number-cruncher, and it quickly eclipsed competing spreadsheet programs like Lotus 1-2-3.
Although Microsoft is reluctant to admit it, most of Excel's core features were completed six or seven years ago. So what has Microsoft been doing ever since? The answer, at least in part, is spending millions of dollars on so-called usability tests, which are aimed at figuring out how easyor nota program is to use. In a typical usability test, Microsoft gathers a group of spreadsheet novices, watches them fumble around with the latest version of Excel, and then tweaks the program to make it more intuitive. As a result, Excel is packed full of timesaving featuressome nifty, some just quirkylike menus that hide advanced options, lists that complete themselves , animated assistants, and every imaginable type of button, toolbar, and dockable window. Some of the features are genuinely useful, while others can be supremely annoyingespecially when Excel hides the feature you're hunting for desperately.
The best way to avoid potential headaches like these is to take a quick tour of Excel as you start creating a spreadsheet. That's the task you'll complete in this chapter. Along the way, you'll learn how to enter information in the Excel window and how to open and save spreadsheet files.