Understood as one of the most used and useful software programs to perform calculations, Excel (or more correctly Microsoft Excel) is a program that allows you to create spreadsheets, with lists, numbers and classifications. After Microsoft Word, it is the most used of the Microsoft package due to its great utility and easy handling. The Microsoft Excel screen appears in the form of columns with numerous possibilities that are added as the versions of the program multiply and improve. It has become a de facto standard within this segment of programs.
Microsoft Excel is the spreadsheet that is part of the Office suite of applications.
Its first version dates from the year 1985 and, although being from Microsoft many of you will think that it was for Windows, the reality is not like that: Excel 1.0 was for the Macintosh, with version 2.0 of 1987 for, now, the Microsoft graphical environment (still it was not an operating system, but an environment that ran on MS-DOS.
To position itself as the first spreadsheet with a greater number of users than its rivals, Excel had to surpass Lotus 1-2-3, a spreadsheet for MS-DOS that had been released in 1983, and which at that time constituted a "de facto" standard.
Few at the time sensed the great success that Windows would bring, although with the near monopoly that MS-DOS had, it was not difficult to foresee that something great would happen to that windowed environment.
With 1-2-3, Lotus laid the foundations that would later be followed by other spreadsheets, but made a huge mistake: underestimating Windows and releasing a version for this environment late. Too late, because by the time it did, Excel had already taken over a large part of its user base.
Excel's history of domination began there, and continues to this day. Among end users, the only spreadsheet capable of overshadowing it is the LibreOffice office suite.
Over time, Microsoft has adapted Excel to the paradigm of the cloud and mobile apps.
Today we have an online Excel, which we can run from any web browser, as well as a mobile app and not only for the Windows operating system, but also for Android.
The structure of an Excel spreadsheet consists of a grid divided into rows, each one of which is assigned a number, and columns, each of which is assigned a letter (or two when the alphabet).
This is the usual configuration of all spreadsheets, established - indeed, you guessed it - by Lotus 1-2-3 and taken as standard also by its competition.
Thanks to this nomenclature of the cells that make up the spreadsheet, we can perform operations between them; for example, in cell C3 we can calculate the result of adding cells A1 with B1, in an operation that is denoted by a text string in C3 that begins with the symbol = (equal to), followed by the operation: = A1 + B1.
The mathematical operations between cell values to give a result is one of the functionalities of Excel. And these are not limited to addition and the three other basic operations (subtraction, multiplication and division), but include functions of all kinds, such as statistics, trigonometric or algebraic.
Excel is also capable of working with functions intended for texts, such as concatenation, in addition to numerical functions. We also have the use of functions, such as logic if (the "if conditional", so that it is possible to make decisions based on the result of an operation, a comparison, ...
Different sheets can be grouped in a file, thereby forming a book. And they can even interrelate with each other.
Something that has made Excel famous are its assistants and its programming capabilities.
For the latter, it uses VBA, Visual Basic for Applications, a high-level programming language based on BASIC, which is valid for creating Excel-based solutions. It is a feature that it shares with the other programs in the Microsoft Office suite.
We can also automate tasks by building macros, scripts that we will record in a visual way.
Another very popular Excel feature is the ability to graph from data tables.
These charts can be of various types, such as pie, bar, stacked bar, line or scatter among others. We can customize the colors of the elements, add legends, and insert them into other files, such as Word documents or PowerPoint presentations.
Among the most advanced tools that Excel has, we find the pivot tables and target search.
Pivot tables are useful for visual analysis of all kinds, although it is also probably the most difficult feature for Excel users to understand.
On the other hand, the objective search allows us to start from a result to find the values that allow us to reach that result.
The Excel file format, the famous .XLS, also marked an era and became a de facto industry standard.
Despite not being an open standard, but rather a proprietary Microsoft format, the massive adoption of Excel as a spreadsheet program meant that compatibility with the XLS format became essential for any other spreadsheet application, which had to incorporate filters for importing and exporting to this format.
In 2007, Microsoft changed its proprietary format to another based on XML and recognized as open, thus facilitating the interaction of other applications (for example LibreOffice) with its spreadsheet, a change that also affected the rest of the applications in the package. Office.