Whenever a new version of an established program comes out many people um and err about whether or not to upgrade. If you have been using a particular edition of the software for a long time you wonder if it is worth the hassle of relearning basic commands and features. Will they have tampered with the user interface? Will it take forever and a day to locate cell alignment?

These are all valid concerns but the general consensus is that Microsoft have excelled themselves (no pun intended) with the latest version of their Office suite. Yet, as with all upgrades, there are certain things that work differently in Excel 2007 to its 2003 counterpart. When a workbook created in Excel 2003 is opened up in the current version users will notice that several features are no longer supported.

Excel 2003 relied heavily on auto-format when formatting data whereas Excel 2007 is rather more sophisticated. There are now style galleries for tables, cells and pivot tables which provide the user with more choice and variety of predefined templates as well as the facility for customising styles. Auto-format can still be used but it needs to be added to the Quick Access Toolbar.

The insert row command from 2003 has disappeared; now you just have to press TAB to insert rows of data or alternatively cut and paste.

One of the major changes is the new referencing structure which creates a defined name at the same time as the table is created. This means that names created manually in Excel 2003 workbooks may not be recognised by this new structure and may therefore need renaming.

Two-way synchronisation between Excel and SharePoint has also bitten the dust. After the data has been exported to SharePoint changes made on SharePoint will emerge on Excel but not the other way around. The new SharePoint data will overwrite what is in Excel when Excel is refreshed.

The vastly increased workbook size in Excel 2007 can also cause some problems since full row and column references created in Excel 2003 now relate to many more rows and columns than the original workbook will have intended. Similarly, names used in formulas in Excel 2003 may prove incompatible with formulas in Excel 2007 as they may conflict with the newly expanded list of cell references. In many cases Excel 2007 will alert the user to this potential hazard and automatically prefix incompatible names with an underscore ( __ ). However, external references do have to be changed manually.

Users of Excel 2003 may balk at the changes made to their beloved program but in many cases theses are things that can be rectified. Where they cannot be it is generally because the new method of doing things is more focused and efficient. Nonetheless it is well worth enrolling on a course to teach you more about these changes and how to adapt to them as it would be a real shame to miss out on all the benefits that Microsoft Excel 2007 has to offer.