The world of nature is awash with examples of the dominance of one species over another; from weeds taking over a flower-bed, to the grey squirrel forcing out the weaker red, survival of the fittest is nature's law. Yet this law sometimes applies itself to the non-natural world of technology, where one innovation can force out a rival because of superior design of the former, or weaknesses of the latter.

In the 1980s a technological war broke out as VHS and Betamax slugged it out for dominance in the booming home video market. At about the same time as VHS was blowing Betamax out of the water, another technological battle had broken out; one that would see an established product pushed almost to extinction by a more dominant rival.

Lotus 1-2-3, the so-called 'killer application' that had dominated in the early part of the decade, soon found itself in decline as Microsoft Excel marched on unhindered, like so many of the aforementioned grey squirrels into the territory of the red. But why did this happen; was it down to Lotus's weakness, Excel's strength, or a bit of both?

Given that Microsoft Excel went on to corner over 90% of the spreadsheet applications market, it is safe to say that its strength was a major factor in it becoming the dominant force.

Surprisingly, the first Windows version of Excel was actually called Excel 2, as there was already a Version 1, which had been developed for the Mac, released in 1985. Since then the application has grown in strength with each new version that was released offering new and improved features, some of which were revolutionary, but many of which were merely simple improvements on former functions. For example, Version 3, launched in 1990, had many new features, including toolbars, drawing tools, 3-D charts and a whole lot more, while Excel 97 introduced such innovations as multiple undo and redo, AutoCorrect and Page Break Preview mode.

So with the opposition taken care of, the designers at Microsoft could sit back and reflect on a job well done, right?


If anything, they became even busier, and when version 12, Excel 2007, came out it was chock-a-block with fantastic new features. It was much bigger, featuring a staggering seventeen billion cells to each worksheet, the number of columns shot from 256 to 16,000. And if you were struggling to manage on the 65,000 rows that Excel 2003 could handle, then how would you feel about having over a million at your disposal?

The operation of Excel 2007 was also made easier: while the graphics got better, the process of creating them was simplified so that impressive visuals could be produced with only a few clicks. And after you had created those visuals, how about putting on the style with features such as soft edges, metallic finishes and bevels. It is a world away from the flat bright colours of early Excel charts.

So now we have Excel 2010 upon us with its Sparklines and Slicers. As each new version continues to improve, it does make you wonder what Excel 2050 will have to offer.

You can keep up with all the latest developments to Excel and other Microsoft Office products by enrolling on a training course. After all, in today's rapidly changing world of office technology, you need to be fit to survive.