Despite it being the latest version, many offices haven't yet switched over to Office (and consequently Excel) 2010, either because they are budget-conscious and making the most out of the old versions before support for them is withdrawn, or they are aware that staff will need to be trained up in the new version due to the difference being marked from its predecessors.

Before you make your decision, (it is helpful to find out about) don't be afraid to find out about the features and look at how they can help your business to gain efficiencies (through improved collaborative working for staff in and out of the office, as well as streamlined processes to reduce administrative or processing time). Look at what you need and see if the software can help you to achieve that and it may even be able to offer more than you expect. So when you looking at the costs of buying software, don't forget to look at the benefits to the business in reducing running costs for example.

For this article we will look at three new, different features and their use in Excel 2010 as an example. As with any change in software, the new features in Excel 2010 are easy to get used to. The benefit and could make your office more productive in certain tasks once they have got the hang of it.

The Ribbon

This probably takes the most time to learn, as it's a world apart from the old tabbed file menus in older versions of Excel, but once you learn how to use the ribbon, it becomes obvious that it's a relatively easy tool to change almost anything about the worksheet you're on in the same place.

Don't forget that the ribbon can actually be customised to suit you, too - which is a big advantage if you have more than one department using Excel. For example, the accounting department can change their defaults to have more shortcuts to formulas and more complex number-crunching features, whereas perhaps a sales department would have it linked better to Word in order to mail out flyers and Access to keep a database of customers, all linked back into Excel.

New Pivot and Table Tools

If you've never used a new tool called "Sparklines" before then you may wonder how you lived without it, as it can produce better micro charts with the data in cells than Pivot Tables can. If you have to drill down deep and analyse data at a micro level, then these will prove invaluable.

Pivot Tables themselves have been given a makeover too. Although not new to 2010 Microsoft have added a lot more features and flexibility to Pivot Tables. The biggest difference from a working perspective is that there are more shortcuts to popular tools within Pivot Tables, so that it takes much less time to create and manipulate them than it used to do.

Tables themselves are a lot easier to draw, create and manipulate, and there are some clever features such as showing the last edited areas or better shortcuts to tools where you might want to alter the table, such as having a built-in filter if your table has a lot of data. You can also export the data to other areas, too - including back to a Pivot Table.

Protecting your data

If your office migrates to Office 2010 as well as just Excel, you'll notice that there are many more security features than there used to be, so that 2010 is probably a more secure option than 2007 or 2003. The green and red security bars that are now ubiquitous in internet browsers have been introduced into the office suite for 2010, so you can tell instantly if something isn't as it should be.

Overall, migrating to 2010 may have to wait a little longer if you have to keep a tight hold on your upgrade budget, but if and when you do cross over, there are many features waiting for you and the benefits can bring