Best/Favourite Excel version

Which is your favourite Excel version and why. Include all the factors you feel are important.

For me its 2003 no question. Its much more stable than previous versions. Has all the features of a proper spreadsheet (proper UI for example).

I’ve seen all kinds of mess with previous versions, but my 2003 install has been rock solid, no matter how dumb I’ve been. It is possible to crash, but it recovers more cleanly than previous versions.

If your favourite spreadsheet app is not Excel, which is it and why?

I have been meaning to try Lotus and Quattro pro for ages, but just never seem to get around to it.

In fact here are my top 5 spreadsheets in order:

  1. Excel 2003
  2. Gnumeric
  3. OpenOffice Calc
  4. Excel 95 (such a step forward from 4.0)
  5. Lotus 3.something – the dos one where \ (/?) did menus and : (?) did formatting – what a step from the previous

Whats yours and why



20 Responses to “Best/Favourite Excel version”

  1. Giles Says:

    Well, of course I’d say Resolver One :-D

    Of the others, I’d definitely agree with you that Excel 2003 is the best release they’ve done. 2007 is a pig to use by comparison. OO Calc does what it says on the download button and is free, which is great – I used it for our internal spreadsheets back before we could use Resolver One for everything. I’ve not used Gnumeric but I hear its numerical accuracy is gold-standard.

  2. Harlan Grove Says:

    Good luck trying Lotus 123. The last version IBM, which bought Lotus Development Corp years ago now, sold was the one with 123 Release 9.8. No compelling reason to upgrade from 9.6, the first version with 65,536 rows in the worksheet grid (up from 8,192 in 9.5 and all prior versions back to 2.0 – 1.x releases had only 2,048 if anyone cares). Anyway, 9.8 came out in either 2001 or 2002, and given IBM’s dabbling in the OpenOffice code base for it’s rechristened Symphony (a product Lotus introduced in the early 1980s, then scrapped in the early 1990s when they bundled 123, AmiPro and Freelance into SmartSuite), 9.8 is the final 123 release. All the 9.x versions were disappointing. The 7.x (97 Edition) releases sucked worse because they were the first versions to include LotusScript as an alternative macro facility. The most polite thing I can say about LotusScript is that it make StarBasic in OpenOffice look good.

    As for Quattro, I may be one of the 1,000 or so fools who bought the Linux version of WordPerfect Office 2000. Maybe if I had installed the Corel Linux distribution that came with it rather than try to install it on a Red Hat 6 system I could have saved myself hours of fighting to get the font rendering system it used up & running. I also tried out WordPerfect Office 2002 for Windows. Easier install, but Corel had come up with what has got to be the world’s most useless and bug ridden help system. When was the last time any of you crashed an application by pressing [F1] to check online help? Then there was PerfectScript. Syntax and Quattro object model looked nicer than LotusScript and 123’s object model, but the ‘development environment’ was worse.

    In other words, no pressing reason to try the latest versions of 123 or Quattro unless you enjoy self-abuse. IMO, no reason to try the new Lotus Symphony either. In terms of its spreadsheet, it’s Calc 1.x with a few buggy and very disappointing extra functions meant to approximate the power of Lotus 123’s @DSUM etc functions (which allowed for criteria EXPRESSIONS as 3rd arguments, the one 123 feature that completely outshown any remotely comparable Excel functionality).

    FWIW, Excel 2003, Lotus 123 Release 5, Xess 5 (Linux), Quattro Pro 2 and (FWIW) VP Planner 2 are my favorite versions of spreadsheets I’ve used a fair amount. Excel was enhanced by the addition of VBA. 123 was ruined by the addition of a very poorly conceived object model more than by LotusScript.

  3. Harlan Grove Says:

    Re Gnumeric – it does have the most accurate numeric functions of any spreadsheet I’ve used. Part of the reason for that is that they use the R Project’s code base for statistical and some ‘special’ mathematical functions. Gotta love open source! Beyond accuracy, Gnumeric avoids many overflow/underflow situations where Excel fails. There are all too many situations where Excel returns #NUM! where Gnumeric returns correct numeric results.

    It took a lot of academic abuse to get the Excel team finally to fix Excel’s VAR-related functions. I’m not holding my breath waiting for them to fix MOD, GEOMEAN or the discrete probability distribution functions. Actually, I don’t blame the developers. I blame the bean counters who can’t see sufficient return from fixing them.

  4. Charles Says:

    Excel 2003 for stability, and Excel 2002 for performance:

  5. Hazel Says:

    I echo Charles for Excel but for sheer usability that I can understand I’d end up going right back to Supercalc (via Lotus 1-2-3 4-DOS)

  6. Bob Phillips Says:

    Notwithstanding what I said about 2000, my favourites are

    1. 2003 – the recover capability is oft-used, and it supports XML (oh, I forgot, I still haven’t figured out a use for it yet)

    2. VisiCalc – first spreadsheet I ever met, and I was knocked out

    3. Lotus 1-2-3 – some version back in the 80’s (forget which), I grew up on that one

    4. 97 – I was using 97 when I first convinced my business that Excel could do a serious job plugged into their multi-million pound enterprise system – they were knocked out

    5. haven’t really got one – haven’t used any open-source spreadsheets in earnest

  7. dougaj4 Says:

    I still run 123 Rel 9.5 (all the 9.x versions have essentially the same features, and 9.5 was the first one that was reasonably bug free), and it gets my vote for favourite, mainly for nostralgic reasons, but I still prefer the interface to any version of Excel, and I still use the old DOS style menus (and the old macro commands) about half the time. I’m aware of Harlan’s gripes with Lotus Script, and I’m sure they are all valid, but I think it’s going too far to say it is worse than StarBasic. I’ve done useful projects, still in use today, with Lotus Script, but I never succeeded in getting anything useful out of StarBasic.

    I’m going to put Excel 2007 second. It should really be first because I’m using it about 95% of the time now. I don’t find the ribbon as objectionable as most, and I think there are real improvements in several areas, most notable (for me) being help when entering functions.

    3rd spot goes to Gnumeric for reasons given by others.

    Historic favourite is a dead heat between 123 2.1 (first one with reasonably comprehensive macro language) and 3.1+, the first DOS version of 123 with reasonable formatting capabilities, and had reasonable performance, after the dead slow to stop version 3.0. In many ways it was just as good as anything on offer today.

  8. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    The latest version is always the best which means in my case Excel 2007!

    Kind regards,

  9. John Walkenbach Says:

    I agree with Dennis. If I could have only one version, it would be Excel 2007. Sure, it has lots of problems, but they all do. I’ve pretty much forgotten how to use the menus in previous versions. It’s all a matter of what you’re used to, and I’m used to ’07. And I expect many improvements in the next version.

    Let the stone throwing begin…

  10. jonpeltier Says:

    Except for a half hour trying to use 1-2-3 in about 1990, and an hour total in various versions of Open Office/Star Office, I’ve only ever used Excel. In order of how much I’ve liked them, I’d probably rank them:

    2003 – the latest & greatest
    97 – the one I’ve used the most
    2000 and 2002 – tie
    5/95 – the first with VBA, but I didn’t use it yet
    4 – I cut my teeth on XLM
    2007 – one step forward, five steps back

    Dennis – The latest is usually the best, and it’s expected to be the best, but we’ve been trained to wait until at least the first SP before upgrading.

  11. sam Says:

    1.2002- Developer Version
    3.2007- With Classic Menus

  12. Dennis Wallentin Says:


    Thanks for reminding me – it’s also what I have been trained to but new habits push me in the other direction.

    However, ever since MSFT and other vendors changed from versioning like Excel 2.1d and DOS 5.0 to year models I have the impression that we pay less attention to it then in the past.

    Kind regards,


    Sorry Simon – Excel 2007 :-( …….. Take away the Ribbon and it’s got a lot going for it. And as I’ve said before I can live with the Ribbon.

    I’ve done a lotta work using E2007 and I really like it now. But it was a lot of effort to get to that point and I can sure see how people who don’t do this for a living would find the stretch and probably not worth all the effort.

    I’m not sure how this is going to work going forward because as you’ve pointed out here, the Ribbon is cropping up throughout the M product set and ain’t ganna go away.


  14. Rob Bruce Says:

    Anyone remember /File > Combine > Copy > Named-Range in 123? No messing about opening files to get at their data, or fiddling with constructing link formulae, or complex ADO, just a few keystrokes and *blam* your data’s there. I built a whole weekly logistics reporting system around that once.
    When is Excel going to catch up with this?


    “Anyone remember /File > Combine > Copy > Named-Range in 123? ”

    I wrote a 1-2-3 “program” starting in 1985 that uses this technique to bring data ranges in and out of a template. There are still 6 companies using that exact program to this day (??) Really they are because they’re too cheap to pay me to do it in today’s technology ……

    I have alwasy missed that ability in Excel. It would have been a big asset over the last 20 years for me.


  16. Simon Says:

    I don’t mind the ribbon at all. If they had kept commandbars and shuffled everything around, and stopped us unshuffling them I would have moaned just as much.

    Sounds like the overriding view is most people prefer the version they are most familiar with.

  17. Rob Bruce Says:

    Dick: “they’re too cheap to pay me to do it in today’s technology ……”

    Why should they when today’s technology obviously isn’t as good as that from twenty-five years ago? ;-)



    and they’re small companies who who don’t care what’s cool – just what works.


  19. jonpeltier Says:

    Dick –

    “I’ve done a lotta work using E2007 and I really like it now.”

    Bet you don’t make too many charts.

  20. Methods In Excel » The cost of Office Says:

    […] Simon recently stole my post idea [:-)] with his “Best/Favourite Excel version” it got me thinking what spread sheet offered the best value. I quickly came to the conclusion […]

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