10 awesome new features in Excel 2013

The number-crunching workhorse in the Office suite is getting new tools to help newbies and power users alike.

Microsoft's updated spreadsheet tool isn't getting a lot of new, whiz-bang features, but it is becoming more functional. That's something both new and experienced users will enjoy--especially a new approach to an old problem that used to require a cumbersome workaround. Complex tasks become easier to perform, thanks to tools such as Recommended Charts and Recommended PivotTables tools. Other changes place choices closer to your data, and use big-business brawn to crunch data right into Excel.

[ FREE DOWNLOAD: Excel 2010 cheat sheet ]

To help you get up to speed, read on for 10 new features that make your work easier in the new Excel. Want to know more about the new Office suite? You'll find our full review of Office 2013 here, as well 10 killer features in the new Word 2013 here.

1. Start screen sets the scene

Excel's new Start Screen helps you get to work more quickly. Along its left edge are the most recently used worksheets, any of which can be pinned to your Recent list so they will always be visible. Here, too, you can click Open Other Workbooks to access your files from a disk or the cloud. The Start Screen's top-right corner also shows the SkyDrive (or SharePoint) account you are currently connected to.

A range of templates appears here to help you quick start a project. These can also be pinned, or you can use the search feature to look online for other templates. A list of suggested searches can help you get started.

New users will appreciate the template choices, and existing users will like the Recent file list and quick access to existing files. Although the Start Screen can be disabled, I find it useful enough to stick with it.

2. Enjoy a new Backstage View

The Backstage View, introduced in Office 2010, is accessible from the File menu. In Excel this has been revamped to show exactly what you're doing so you can choose the appropriate task. 

The Open tab now gives you access to recently accessed workbooks, making it a combination of the Open and Recent tabs from Excel 2010. You can pin worksheets to this list or click Computer  to access recently accessed locations (any of which you can pin permanently here, too). There's also access to your SkyDrive account, and the option to set up additional SkyDrive or SharePoint accounts.

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