Excel 2003 vs Excel 2007 - What's New in Excel 2007?

If you've been using Excel 2003 for several years, you will probably be aware of increasing numbers of people or organisations using more up-to-date versions of Excel (2007, 2010, 2013 or Excel 2016). You may even have been sent Excel workbooks that you can't open with your own version of Excel. Therefore, you may at some point in the future, consider upgrading.

The main changes occurred between Excel 2003 and Excel 2007. Therefore, this page discusses some of the major changes between these two versions of Excel.

Number of Rows and Columns

VersionNumber of Rows & Columns
Excel 2003:65,536 rows and 256 columns
Excel 2007 (and later versions of Excel):1,048,576 rows and 16,384 columns

One of the main developments in Excel 2007 and later versions of Excel is that Excel now allows more columns and rows. For many users this may not be an issue - after all, the 65,536 rows and 256 columns provided by Excel 2003 allows you to handle a large amount of data. However, it isn't so unusual for users to want to handle HUGE amounts of data! Therefore, the ability of recent versions of Excel to handle 1,048,576 rows and 16,384 columns of data is a great advantage for some users.

Conditional Formatting

Another major improvement in Excel 2007 is Conditional formatting. Many users of Excel 2003 required the ability to apply more than 3 conditional formats but this was not possible in Excel 2003. However, in Excel 2007 (and later versions of Excel), you can specify as many conditions as they like, each with a different format.

Data Bars Color Scales & Icon Sets Examples in Excel 2007

Conditional formatting in Excel 2007 and later versions of Excel can even be made to work for cells that satisfy more than one condition. For example, if you specify cells having values ≤ 10 to have bold text and cells having values ≥ 10 to have red text, you will find that text in cells containing values exactly equal to 10 will be formatted as bold and red.

Also, Excel 2007 and later versions of Excel offer additional types of conditional formatting. If your boss likes to see figures illustrated with pretty charts and lots of colour, they will love the spreadsheets you produce with Excel's new Data Bars, Color Scales & Icon Sets! These features apply colour or symbols to a range of cells, depending upon each cell's value in relation to the rest of the cells in the selected range. As an example, the image above(above right) shows conditional formatting Data Bars, Color Scales & Icon Sets, applied to 3 columns, each containing the numbers 1 - 10.

As a final bonus, Excel 2007 introduced the ability to use conditional formatting with pivot tables.

At first, the interface to Excel 2007 conditional formatting can appear to be a bit complicated, but the time spent familiarising yourself with this functionality is well worth the effort!

Click here for details of how to use Excel Conditional Formatting

Filtering and Sorting by Colour

In Excel 2003, Filtering and Sorting could be performed by cell values only. However, in recent versions of Excel, you can filter and sort by colour. This can be either the font colour or the cell background colour.

Function Nesting Limitations

Another useful improvement in Excel 2007 is the level of nesting that can be performed. Excel 2003 only allows 7 levels of nesting of functions, while Excel 2007 allows up to 64. Surely, even the most dedicated Excel user cannot possibly need more nesting levels than that!

Resizeable Formula Bar

Extended Formula Bar in Excel 2007

In Excel 2003, if a cell contained a long formula or text string, when the cell was selected, the view of the formula bar would block some of your spreadsheet, which could be inconvenient. However, Microsoft addressed this problem in Excel 2007, by introducing a resizeable formula bar, which extends in line with your cell contents. This is shown in the image above.

New Functions

Excel 2007 contains a number of new built-in functions to help you to make your spreadsheet slicker and more efficient. These include the IFERROR Function, the SUMIFS function, and the new statistical AVERAGEIF, AVERAGEIFS, and COUNTIFS functions.

Increased Memory and Faster Calculations

If your work in Excel 2003 has been slowed down by slow calculations when applying functions to large datasets, you may benefit from the increased memory management that is available in more recent versions of Excel. This was introduced in Excel 2007, when memory management was increased from 1 gigabyte to 2 gigabytes.

New User Interface

The main user interface was restructured in Excel 2007, into what Microsoft describe as a "results-oriented" interface. If you have been using Excel 2003 for several years, and know exactly where to find the tools and functionality that you regularly use, you will almost certainly experience some frustration to begin with when you upgrade to a more recent version of Excel and have to get used to the new 'ribbon' interface. However, my advice is ... Persevere! ... it really is worth the effort!