What Are the Differences Between Excel for Windows and Excel for Mac?

Written by ken burnside Google
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Microsoft Excel was first written for the Macintosh, with version 2.0, brought over to Windows. Since then, Excel for Mac has generally followed a year or so after the Excel for Windows version updates, with some slight differences in capabilities. Some of these differences are reductions in features, and some of these features are driven by the different user interfaces of the operating system.

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User Interface

Excel 2007 for Windows converted Excel to the Ribbon interface, where drop down menus were converted to tabs that changed palettes of organised icons at the top of the window. Excel 2008 for Macintosh did not follow this convention, and Excel 2010 for Windows refined it -- replacing the "Office" button with the "File" tab. Excel 2011 for Macintosh brought this user interface to the Mac, but because of how Mac OS X sets its user interface conventions, the old style menus are still available at the top of the screen.

Visual Basic

Because Mac OS X has a built -in scripting environment with AppleScript, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) tools for Mac OS versions of Office applications have traditionally lagged behind the version of VBA on the Windows platform. For example, in Excel for Mac 2004, the VBA engine was based on VBA 5, while Excel 2003 used VBA 6. Excel for Mac 2008 stripped out all VBA support (though third-party workarounds existed). Excel for Mac 2011 uses the same version of VBA that Excel 2010 does for Windows, meaning macros are likelier to work across platforms.

File Formats

Excel for Mac 2008 brought with it the .xlsx file format, which Is XML based, and is the same format used by Excel 2007 for Windows. There were some issues with Mac OS X "Type" attributes on files that cropped up with Excel 2008, which would, after Service Pack 1, cause a glitch: double clicking a file would launch Excel, but not open the file. This was fixed with an Excel 2008 update, and those fixes were integrated into Excel 2011 for Mac.

Missing and Reduced Features

The PivotTable functionality for Excel for Mac is still much less robust than the same function in Excel 2010; in particular, Excel 2011 for Mac PivotTables do not have the live database imports of the Windows version, or as many tools for slicing and dicing the data. The Power Pivot tools in Excel 2010 for handling very large data sets is also not present. Excel for Mac 2008 matched Excel 2007's numbers of rows and columns, and like Excel 2010, Excel 2011 improved performance with large data sets tremendously.

Conclusion

Excel for Mac 2008 is, in many ways, inferior to Excel for Windows 2007. Excel for Mac 2011 is much closer in feature sets to Excel for Windows 2010.

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