6 Cool Facts About Excel

If you ask people to choose words to describe Excel, chances are the answers will include adjectives such as “powerful,” “fast,” “popular,” and even “smart.”

Here’s another possibility: How about “cool”?

Don’t believe us? Read on for six of the coolest facts about Microsoft Excel.

Microsoft initially released Excel to Mac users as a strategic decision.

The major spreadsheet program at the time Excel was released in 1985 was called Lotus 123, but it was never developed for Mac users. Instead, Lotus decided to develop a new spreadsheet program for Mac users called Jazz. This is why Microsoft initially released Excel for Mac users. But in the end, Jazz failed miserably, and Excel was later released for Windows users in November 1987. Many tech history buffs believe that if Lotus had simply released 123 to the Mac instead of working on Jazz, we might all be working on Lotus 123 now instead of Excel.

It wasn’t always going to be called Excel.

Microsoft considered other names for the program including “Mr. Spreadsheet” and “Master Plan” before deciding on “Excel,” a clever hint to the many cells that make up the spreadsheets while declaring the excellence of the program. Some say that the name was chosen specifically because Microsoft wanted to suggest that its program excelled over Lotus 123.

It was the first application to use a toolbar.

Excel 3.0 is credited for introducing the toolbar, which became the standard for many desktop applications in the years to come.

It incorrectly assumes that the year 1900 is a leap year.

Surprisingly, Excel does have a few bugs; this is one of its most famous.

It actually started because Lotus 123 counted 1900 as a leap year. Excel used the same serial date system used by Lotus 123, thereby making it easier for users to move spreadsheets from one program to the other.

Although this bug could be corrected, many problems would ensue as a result, including almost all dates in Excel worksheets being decreased by one day. With 1900 as a leap year, the only incorrect dates are prior to March 1, 1900. As a result, the folks at Microsoft decided to include this bug in all the later versions of Excel.

Its rows and columns have increased.

This is probably not a surprise, but Excel can handle a lot more cells than it used to. Versions up to Excel 95 had a limit of 16,384 rows. Excel 97 through 2003 could handle 65,536 rows and 256 columns. By the time Excel 2007 came along, it offered 1,048,576 rows and 16,384 columns; that’s a total of 17,179,869,184 cells. That’s a lot of data.

The earlier versions included some incredible video games.

Apparently the developers got tired of looking at grids, because earlier versions of Excel contained some amazing Easter eggs.

Excel 95 contained a form of the popular game Doom. Users simply had to scroll to row 95, select the entire row, press the tab key once, click on the ? icon and select “About Microsoft Excel,” press Ctrl, Alt and Shift at the same time and use the mouse to click on technical support. This would bring you to a window called “The Hall of Tortured Souls,” which you could navigate to see pictures of some of the Office 95 developers.

Another Easter egg was contained in Excel 97 in the form of a 3D flight simulator. To find it, you needed to press the F5 key, enter X97:L97 in the lower text box next to “Reference,” press the tab key once, and then hold down the Ctrl and Alt keys and use your mouse to click the Chart Wizard.

Excel 2000 contained a very decent racing action game. To find it, you merely had to save a blank file as a web page, choose “publish” and “add interactivity,” open the page with Internet Explorer, scroll down to row 2000, highlight the row, press tab to make column WC active, and click on the Office icon while holding Control, Alt and Shift.

Sadly, the more modern Excel versions do not contain Easter eggs such as these; at least, not to our knowledge. According to urban legend, Bill Gates forbade developers to continue, fearing that the company might be sued.

Now that’s cool.