The tyranny of Microsoft Excel may finally be over

Spreadsheet software company Rows has launched a beta version of a new desktop application designed to undermine the dominance of Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets.

The company released the beta in stealth back in December, but has now gone public with native applications for both Windows and macOS, TechRadar Pro can reveal.

Until now, Rows has been available exclusively as a web app, which had placed a limit on performance. However, the company says the new desktop clients will support complex and large-scale sheets as efficiently as the market leaders, as well as providing a foundation for some functionalities only available with Rows.

Spreadsheets, but different

The central ethos behind the Rows project is that the spreadsheet software market is ripe for disruption. The duopoly of Microsoft and Google has led to a dearth of innovation,  the company believes, leaving the door wide open for an ambitious challenger.

“Let’s face it. Spreadsheets suck,” said Humberto Ayres Pereira, Rows co-founder and CEO. “The business world still runs on them but they’re slowing us down. Rows is bringing the beloved spreadsheet into the modern working world.”

The company has not been shy about its ambitions to topple the incumbents. As part of a recent marketing campaign, Rows rented billboard space close to the Microsoft headquarters and erected a sign that read: “Dear Microsoft, your spreadsheet has been at it for 36 years. It’s time to retire.” And Google was given the same treatment.

To understand what distinguishes Rows from every other spreadsheet software, we spoke to Renan Araújo, who is heading up the development of the desktop app. Although Rows features all the familiar spreadsheet functionality – cells, rows, columns, functions, tables etc. – the service differs from Excel and Sheets in a few crucial ways, he told us.

Rows

Rows co-founders Humberto Ayres Pereira (left) and Torben Schulz (right). (Image credit: Rows)

Most significantly, Rows has focused closely on the ability to integrate third-party APIs into spreadsheets, with little to no coding expertise required. In practice, this means someone could easily draw data from services as diverse as Twitter, Stripe and Google Analytics into their sheets, in a way that would require a mastery of Excel.

Rows spreadsheets can also be configured to update themselves at regular intervals. In an example shown to us by Araújo, a spreadsheet was set to update every 60 seconds with new pricing information from the Amazon marketplace, effectively allowing for real-time price comparison.

Another unique feature is the ability to turn Rows spreadsheets into simple web apps that can then be let loose on the public. For example, someone could turn a Rows sheet into a landing page that collects information from customers, without having to meddle with HTML and JavaScript or pay for a third-party service.

“Building spreadsheets is a kind of programming – it’s a visual programming language,” said Araújo. “But bringing this kind of flexibility to spreadsheets takes things to a whole other level.”

Elephant in the room

The main problem facing Rows is the extent to which Microsoft and Google services are embedded in the professional world, creating a platform effect that can be difficult to overcome.

Excel and Sheets are both just small parts of much wider software and services bundles that encompass email, productivity tools, calendaring, collaboration software, cloud storage, VPN and more.

In the case of Microsoft, the company is able to establish synergies between products that extend all the way out to the Windows operating system on which most business computers run.

As a result, companies like Rows must convince potential buyers that their service is not only on-par with existing apps, but also offers sufficient additional value to justify the extra line of expenditure on the balance sheet.

With fewer than 4,000 weekly users, Rows is currently a flea nipping at the heels of the giants. But the user base has expanded rapidly since the turn of the year, and the firm is confident in its growth prospects, despite the significant headwinds.

Rows

(Image credit: Rows)

Asked why the company believes its spreadsheet software will succeed where others have failed, we were told that changing market conditions have combined with product innovation to create a window of opportunity for Rows.

“The evidence we see is that our two biggest innovations (built-in integrations and sharing as a website) are strong enough drivers to lead large teams to adopt a new spreadsheet,” said Henrique Cruz, Head of Growth at Rows.

“In the past 15 years have seen three very large changes in work setup (mobile-first, APIs and explosion of SaaS, and async first), and we are the first company building a pure spreadsheet for this new world.”

To close the gap on the likes of Microsoft and Google, Rows will rely largely on virality. In other words, the company intends to let its product speak for itself.

Like other SaaS offerings, Rows is available for free to those that want to dip a toe in the water. And although the desktop beta is missing a handful of features (e.g. tables), the company says it aims to achieve parity with the web service by the end of the year.

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The tyranny of Microsoft Excel may finally be over

Spreadsheet software company Rows has launched a beta version of a new desktop application designed to undermine the dominance of Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets.

The company released the beta in stealth back in December, but has now gone public with native applications for both Windows and macOS, TechRadar Pro can reveal.

Until now, Rows has been available exclusively as a web app, which had placed a limit on performance. However, the company says the new desktop clients will support complex and large-scale sheets as efficiently as the market leaders, as well as providing a foundation for some functionalities only available with Rows.

Spreadsheets, but different

The central ethos behind the Rows project is that the spreadsheet software market is ripe for disruption. The duopoly of Microsoft and Google has led to a dearth of innovation,  the company believes, leaving the door wide open for an ambitious challenger.

“Let’s face it. Spreadsheets suck,” said Humberto Ayres Pereira, Rows co-founder and CEO. “The business world still runs on them but they’re slowing us down. Rows is bringing the beloved spreadsheet into the modern working world.”

The company has not been shy about its ambitions to topple the incumbents. As part of a recent marketing campaign, Rows rented billboard space close to the Microsoft headquarters and erected a sign that read: “Dear Microsoft, your spreadsheet has been at it for 36 years. It’s time to retire.” And Google was given the same treatment.

To understand what distinguishes Rows from every other spreadsheet software, we spoke to Renan Araújo, who is heading up the development of the desktop app. Although Rows features all the familiar spreadsheet functionality – cells, rows, columns, functions, tables etc. – the service differs from Excel and Sheets in a few crucial ways, he told us.

Rows

Rows co-founders Humberto Ayres Pereira (left) and Torben Schulz (right). (Image credit: Rows)

Most significantly, Rows has focused closely on the ability to integrate third-party APIs into spreadsheets, with little to no coding expertise required. In practice, this means someone could easily draw data from services as diverse as Twitter, Stripe and Google Analytics into their sheets, in a way that would require a mastery of Excel.

Rows spreadsheets can also be configured to update themselves at regular intervals. In an example shown to us by Araújo, a spreadsheet was set to update every 60 seconds with new pricing information from the Amazon marketplace, effectively allowing for real-time price comparison.

Another unique feature is the ability to turn Rows spreadsheets into simple web apps that can then be let loose on the public. For example, someone could turn a Rows sheet into a landing page that collects information from customers, without having to meddle with HTML and JavaScript or pay for a third-party service.

“Building spreadsheets is a kind of programming – it’s a visual programming language,” said Araújo. “But bringing this kind of flexibility to spreadsheets takes things to a whole other level.”

Elephant in the room

The main problem facing Rows is the extent to which Microsoft and Google services are embedded in the professional world, creating a platform effect that can be difficult to overcome.

Excel and Sheets are both just small parts of much wider software and services bundles that encompass email, productivity tools, calendaring, collaboration software, cloud storage, VPN and more.

In the case of Microsoft, the company is able to establish synergies between products that extend all the way out to the Windows operating system on which most business computers run.

As a result, companies like Rows must convince potential buyers that their service is not only on-par with existing apps, but also offers sufficient additional value to justify the extra line of expenditure on the balance sheet.

With fewer than 4,000 weekly users, Rows is currently a flea nipping at the heels of the giants. But the user base has expanded rapidly since the turn of the year, and the firm is confident in its growth prospects, despite the significant headwinds.

Rows

(Image credit: Rows)

Asked why the company believes its spreadsheet software will succeed where others have failed, we were told that changing market conditions have combined with product innovation to create a window of opportunity for Rows.

“The evidence we see is that our two biggest innovations (built-in integrations and sharing as a website) are strong enough drivers to lead large teams to adopt a new spreadsheet,” said Henrique Cruz, Head of Growth at Rows.

“In the past 15 years have seen three very large changes in work setup (mobile-first, APIs and explosion of SaaS, and async first), and we are the first company building a pure spreadsheet for this new world.”

To close the gap on the likes of Microsoft and Google, Rows will rely largely on virality. In other words, the company intends to let its product speak for itself.

Like other SaaS offerings, Rows is available for free to those that want to dip a toe in the water. And although the desktop beta is missing a handful of features (e.g. tables), the company says it aims to achieve parity with the web service by the end of the year.

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This tiny Microsoft Excel update could make all the difference

Microsoft is currently working on several new updates for its spreadsheet software that will make it easier to work with formulas in Excel.

For those unfamiliar, formulas allow you to use the built-in functions in Excel to perform calculations and solve problems more easily.

If you're just getting started using formulas in Microsoft's spreadsheet software, you can also download the company's Formula workbook that walks you through Excel's most common formulas in a guided tour. The workbook even contains real-world examples with helpful visuals so you'll be able to Sum, Count, Average and Vlookup like an Excel pro.

Multiline formula bar and argument assistance

In the first update to the Microsoft 365 Roadmap, the company revealed that it plans to add a multiline formula bar to Excel which should be generally available in March.

Once this feature rolls out, users will be able to resize the formula bar which will make it much easier to navigate when working with longer formulas.

In a separate update, Microsoft announced that it will be adding a new card called Argument Assistance to Excel in March as well. This card will appear when a user is writing a formula and will remain on screen during the arguments insert/edit phase. 

The Argument Assistance card will also help users be more efficient while writing formulas and will help reduce the risk for errors. It even includes descriptions of the formula and the different arguments being used as well as an example.

If you haven't used formulas in Excel yet as part of your workflow, there's never been a better time to start using Microsoft's spreadsheet software to its full potential.

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Microsoft Excel is making a big change to protect against malware

Excel 4.0 (XLM) macros are now disabled by default, Microsoft has confirmed. In a Tech Community blog post, the company revealed that the change has been made to better protect users against “related security threats” coming through spreadsheets.

Back in July 2021, the company released a new Excel Trust Center setting option, allowing administrators to restrict the usage of Excel 4.0 (XLM) macros. It has now made this option default for everyone.

Administrators can use existing Microsoft 365 applications policy control to configure this setting, the announcement reads. The Group Policy setting “Macro Notification Settings” for Excel can be found in the following path and registry key:

Group Policy Path: User configuration > Administrative templates > Microsoft Excel 2016 > Excel Options > Security > Trust Center.

Registry Key Path: Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Office.0\excel\security

Malicious actors often abuse macros

Furthermore, administrators can manage this policy setting with both cloud policies, and ADMX policies. They can also completely block all XLM macro usage, including in new user-created files, by enabling the Group Policy, “Prevent Excel from running XLM macros”, Microsoft added. 

Excel 4.0 (XLM) macros were the default format until 1993, and even though they’ve since been discontinued, they can still be run by the latest versions of the Office program. That makes them ideal for threat actors, who’ve been abusing them to push malware such as TrickBot, Zloader, Qbot, Dridex, ransomware, and many other malicious programs, BleepingComputer reminds. 

The publication also reminds that in October 2019, Microsoft added a new Group Policy, allowing administrators to block Excel users from opening untrusted Microsoft query files with IQY, OQY, DQY and RQY extensions. It claims that these files have been weaponized in “numerous malicious attacks”, to deliver remote access Trojans and malware, for years. 

XLM is disabled by default in version 16.0.14527.20000+, current Channel builds 2110 or greater, monthly Enterprise Channel builds 2110 or greater, semi-annual Enterprise Channel (Preview) builds 2201 or greater, and semi-annual Enterprise Channel builds 2201 or greater (coming this July).

Via: BleepingComputer

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This new Microsoft Excel feature is so obvious we can’t believe it didn’t already exist

Microsoft is preparing an update for spreadsheet software Excel that rectifies an obvious shortcoming dating back a number of years.

According to a new entry in the company’s product roadmap, Excel will soon allow users to drop hyperlinks into comments added to spreadsheets. Currently, links can only be added to comments in plaintext, so must be pasted manually into a web browser.

The feature is currently under development, but should roll out to all Microsoft 365 users by the end of next month.

Given the simplicity and obvious utility of the new Excel feature, we found it difficult to believe it didn’t already exist. But lo and behold, a brief investigation revealed the current version will not allow the user to click through a link embedded in a comment thread, which adds unnecessary friction to the experience.

A quick search online reveals this is a problem Excel users have faced for years. Until now, people have had to rely on a rough-and-ready workaround to sidestep the issue.

Excel

(Image credit: Future)

As various online tutorials demonstrate, it is possible to add a hyperlink to a note (which is distinct from a comment) and pin that note to the sheet so it doesn’t disappear when the user mouses away from the associated cell. Microsoft Excel will then launch that URL in the default browser when someone clicks through via the note.

However, this method is neither particularly straightforward (it demands all existing formatting and any additional characters are removed from the note) nor particularly pretty, so the ability to simply drop a hyperlink into a comment thread will be welcome.

The update can be considered part of the wider campaign to optimize Microsoft 365 apps for live collaboration, in a world in which many people expect to either remain remote or adopt a hybrid working model.

In December, for example, Microsoft rolled out a series of improvements for the Excel web client, which can now support a wider range of files. Microsoft Outlook, meanwhile, received a feature that lets users specify whether they will attend a meeting in-person or through video conferencing software.

The company has even launched an entirely new collaboration app, called Loop, which allows users to create portable components that move freely and stay in-sync across all Microsoft apps.

The new hyperlink facility for Excel is yet another piece of this same puzzle.

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Editing Microsoft Excel files online could finally get a lot simpler

Editing spreadsheets on the go or at work should soon be easier than ever thanks to a significant update to the web version of Microsoft Excel.

Microsoft has revealed a number of spreadsheet softwareupgrades that it says will help close the gap with its desktop-based sibling, including better support for larger files, as well as those with legacy features.

“We are excited to share that you can now open and edit more files on the web and complete your job anywhere, in the browser of your choice,” Microsoft noted in an Excel blog post announcing the news.

Excel for Web upgrade

Going forward, Microsoft Excel for the Web will now allow users to open and edit large files from SharePoint up to 100MB in size. This will expand possible files to thousands of rows of data, and means users will not have to switch to the Desktop version of Excel to finish work.

Users can also now edit files containing what Microsoft calls Legacy Art objects and SmartArt objects – including the likes of Form Controls, ActiveX Controls, Camera Tools, and OLE objects. The company says this will allow users to access and interact with any such workbooks but not with the objects themselves. 

Elsewhere, users can now also access password-protected workbooks on Excel for the Web, meaning there's no need to switch back to a desktop in order to open & interact with secured files. Similarly, users can now also edit files which are protected for editing using a password to modify, meaning you'll be able to access and interact with different types of protected workbooks on the browser itself. 

That's not all, as Microsoft also noted that more features will also be added soon, including support for Microsoft 365 subscribers to edit large files up to 100 MB from OneDrive, and further support for editing workbooks with legacy shared features and data wizard connections.

The news comes shortly after Microsoft revealed it will be bringing support for smoother scrolling to the Excel Desktop app, hopefully resulting in a much better user experience.

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