Users of Excel 2003 will find several changes (almost all of them improvements) to Excel 2007. The layout is the most significant change, and sometimes users have trouble finding their way around and learning where the most commonly-used tools for their spreadsheet are. Here are a few elements to look out for when you're making the transition between Excel 2007 and an earlier version.

In Excel 2007, active cells - that is, the one you are going to put the data in - are outlined in black. This wasn't always the case in previous versions, and when it was, it wasn't as obvious. This way, you always know where your cursor is to start inputting data.

Simple layouts such as the command bar, rows and columns all follow the same format as previous versions. This is for obvious reasons - databases and spreadsheets follow this same universal layout, so that people can at least start entering data correctly. The setting out of worksheets (and their individual tabs) is also very similar to previous versions, using the tab format for you to switch between current worksheets being used in one document.

There's a quick access menu that is customisable in Excel 2007. Whereas before, you had to know and follow a certain number of menu patterns and clicks to get to the same command, you can now edit the menu to your most commonly used items. For example, if you're an accountant and you're always using the SUM formula, you can make a quick access shortcut, rather than typing it all out every time. If you're an expert user, the only way to do this in previous versions would be to use a Macro. You can still do this, but it's usually easier to edit the quick access menu to suit your own spreadsheet habits.

Many menu items that used to be along the file/menu commands on the task bar are now semi-hidden by the Office button. This button features in every piece of software in the 2007 suite, so it's best to get to know it well. All the common options such as saving, printing, viewing and opening files are done from this button. This is also customisable, should you want to put your most frequently used items under it as a quick access method.

Another major change to Excel 2007 is the Ribbon - and this also features in all other Office programs. The technology has been updated so that Excel "knows" or can recognise working patterns that tells it what you're working on. If you're doing a basic mathematical spreadsheet, the Ribbon will show commands frequently used for this style. If you do repetitive tasks in Excel (as many of us do on a daily basis) then Excel will always show you the most frequently used options, to save you time. Again, happily, this is also customisable to suit your own tastes. This is a particular benefit if you have to work with other people's data - they can set the menu out their way, send it to you for review or editing, and you can open it with your own favourite commands already at hand.

Overall, if you're already familiar with Excel 2003 or earlier, it will (hopefully!) not be a large leap for you to start using Excel 2007. If you feel like you need a refresher - some training on the more advanced changes (other than layout) will help you a great deal. Excel 2007 is all about customising and running the program according to your preferences - which is always a welcome step in the world of spreadsheet creation.