Microsoft's unveiling of Excel 2007 was a major software event, so complete and wide ranging were the changes made to key operational procedures and usability. Gone was the confusing array of disjointed functions and in their place came the concise, logical Ribbon. This now indispensable toolbar also upgraded the dull grey aesthetics of old with vibrant, exciting colours and slick contours. Also you could just do more on Excel 2007; the option to create mammoth workbooks with near limitless capacity was finally available to all.

So what could Microsoft possibly do to enhance the experience of using Excel in its latest version? Inevitably given the revolutionary nature of Excel 2007 the adaptations in the 2010 version are smaller and less dramatic. However, this does not mean that these changes are insignificant or merely cosmetic.

The key emphasis in Microsoft Excel 2010 is on quicker, more accessible means of filtering and analysing data and the two major developments in this area are inspired. Firstly, there is the introduction of Sparklines. These are charts that are displayed within cells that summarise a particular range of data and provide an 'at a glance' method of analysing the trends and patterns of said set of data. You can choose between win/loss, line or bar charts as well as customising them with options such as colour coding. These Sparklines are unobtrusive yet highly valuable as a fresh way of viewing critical information and will doubtless become standard in subsequent versions of Microsoft Excel.

The other crucial development concerns making filtration systems within Excel more sophisticated and comprehensive. The rather severe sounding Slicer controls enhance pivot tables by making them more interactive. If you have a number of categories of data within your pivot table Slicer controls allow you to filter the results by any of these categories, thus radically altering the overall picture of the information presented based on whatever criteria specified.

In addition to these two enhancements there is the new PowerPivot plug-in which compliments the enlarged capacity of Microsoft Excel 2010's workbooks. Previously, if you had constructed an enormous workbook with countless rows and columns of data it could be a tough job navigating through it all to get to the section you wanted. PowerPivot speeds the process up considerably as it is able to swiftly search and analyse vast amounts of data, flagging up relationships between data sets and highlighting patterns hidden from the human eye.

With fewer bugs and faster processing than its predecessor Microsoft Excel 2010 is a smoother, more complete program and one that every professional will want to own. As with all software updates it can take a while to understand and appreciate the advances that have been made and this is why it is advisable to undertake a course that will highlight these benefits and teach you to utilise them in the most effective way. When you have got your head around the new, improved Microsoft Excel creating authoritative, comprehensive workbooks will become second nature and you can really take control of your data.