Since the release of Microsoft Office many moons ago, Excel has been the primary tool used in businesses across the globe and many owe the success of their companies to this application. However, does the latest upgrade warrant the extra investment when everyone is comfortable using their older version and keeping everything just the way that it is?

Those small changes could cause a whole lot of head scratching in the office as people grapple their way around. Many users generally stick with their older, familiar versions but are they missing out on time-saving benefits which could increase productivity even more? Let's take a look at some of the new functions and find out for ourselves...

Upon first impression, you can clearly see that the interface has been given a good spring clean and has a much crisper and fresher feel. But besides being easier on the eye, how has it improved in terms of function?

The Ribbon: Now for many, the ribbon which first made its appearance in 2007 was either a blessing or a curse, 90% of our most used commands were frustratingly tucked away out of arm's reach and took a long time to get to grips with. Excel 2010 has given an element of control back to the user as it allows them to customize the ribbon by changing the command and adding/hiding tabs. Going one step further, you could even rekindle the old days by replicating that much loved toolbar of Excel 2003. If you have set up the perfect ribbon settings for your business, you can even export them for duplication by your colleagues onto their computers.

Excel 2010 also pays homage to the 2003 version by replacing the Office button with the good old familiar 'File' menu. It also runs just as fast as many found the 2007 release to be a little sluggish.

The Slicer: This is a new command located under the PivotTable tab which takes filtering to the next level. Instead of just displaying somewhat vague "Multiple Items" in older versions, the slicer has been introduced to finely tune data reports by extracting every selected value from a Pivot Table to make data easier to analyse and interpret. A perfect feature for large tables as the slicer takes all the effort out of having to perform a series of Sorts and then using undo to bring your table back to its original format.

Filtering at lightning speed: Creating filters and wading through heavy data has never been easier than with the new added search feature which helps you to surge through thousands of entries in an instant. For example, if you wanted to locate one item from a 40,000 product list, you can find it faster than turning a page! I keyed in the word 'mouse' and the PivotTable showed me all of the items this company had for a computer mouse in just three clicks.

Sparklines: Watch it add tiny, one-celled charts to your spreadsheet. This is an excellent way to see a visual graphical representation of a set of figures using a method which you can easily identify with. Visual flow charts are embedded into just one cell to show an instant pattern for instant interpretation.

Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot add-on: By integrating the PowerPivot, you can analyse and model massive amounts of data and work with it inside your Excel workbooks. This will enable you to incorporate data such as reports, corporate databases, worksheets and data feeds. Use this information with your colleagues or simply to compare, analyse, explore or calculate data using PivotTables, slicers or any of the other new features. Whether you are working with small rows or masses of data, the response rate is quick and accurate.

New and improved Solver: There have been a number of changes made to Solver to make it easier for beginners to take advantage of this valuable function and for more advanced users to find solutions to even more complex problems. For those who are unfamiliar with Solver, it is a 'what-if' tool which allows you to view outcomes from many different angles according to the constraints that you set.

Now you can access Excel 2010 through any web browser whereas in 2007, users were limited to using the Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010: This is one of the most talked about features as you can now access your work any time you wish from anywhere.

So why not give Excel 2010 a try? One thing in life which is certain is change and with technology moving forward at such a phenomenal rate we are going to have to embrace these advances at some time in our lives in order to keep up. If you need a rock that is solid and reliable for the maintenance of your office data, you should certainly think about downloading this easy to handle new and improved version which has some unbelievable new features just waiting to impress you.