Excel Weaknesses: A Wishlist For Much Needed Improvements

By Chris Newman •  Updated: 08/29/17 •  6 min read
Ways To Improve Excel Features

As Microsoft continues to persuade people to sign up for their Office 365 subscription in lieu of purchasing individual copies of Office, I am hoping that the Office team moves towards sending out more updates on a regular basis (similar to how Google does with their Chrome browser).

With this in mind, I wanted to take the time to air some of my grievances with Excel. While Excel is an awesome program and the Microsoft team continues to develop amazing updates, it seems like there are a bunch of little tweaks they could make that would go a long ways in helping us daily users become more efficient.  Here is my current list:

1. The Concatenate Function

One of the functions that always has annoyed me is the CONCATENATE function. It only accepts individual cell addresses instead or range references. For example =CONCATENATE(A1:C1) is NOT valid, while =CONCATENATE(A1,B1,C1) is. In my mind, this function is useless, since writing =A1&B1&C1 is much quicker.

Oh, and adding an optional delimiter input would be a nice touch too 🙂

[SOLVED] - Excel 2016 introduced the CONCAT() and JOINTEXT() functions!

2. Case Sensitive Cell Formatting

I love using dates as my headers for months. What really annoys me is you can't make a cell format for JAN. You would think by using "MMM" the formatting would capitalize the three-letter abbreviation for the month....but it doesn't. I wish Cell Formatting was case sensitive so "MMM", "mmm", "Mmm" each would output different formats.

3. Updated Userform/ActiveX controls designs (they are ugly!)

If you have ever seen an Office userform, you might think it was created a long time ago...we are talking about 1990s old! It would be great if Microsoft could either update the appearance of the whole suite of userform and ActiveX controls or add more customizing capabilities so we can bring them up to date ourselves.

4. Center Across Ribbon Button

It has been well documented that people should stay away from merging cells and use Excel's Center Across functionality. So why don't we add a button right below Merge & Center for Center Across? There's even room for it!

Center Across Instead of Merge Center

FYI, I took matters into my own hands and created an Excel add-in that does this for you. You can learn how to download it for free here.

5. Unhide Multiple Worksheets

Why can we only unhide one worksheet at a time? At least let us use the Ctrl key to select multiple sheet names from the list.

6. Ability to Remove Cell Styles

Have you ever received a file with (literally) thousands of Cell Styles stored in it? This can cause errors in your spreadsheet and makes the file size HUGE. So why can't we just have a button that lets us reset/remove all these useless things?!

Does anybody even use cell styles anyways?

7. Paste Special Row Height

Why can we paste special column width but not row height?

8. Custom/More Icons in the QAT

Have you ever been frustrated when you spend a bunch of time creating this super awesome macro and then when you go to add it to your Quick Access Toolbar, you can't seem to find an icon that makes sense? You then cycle through the 30-some icons over and over again.....then you just say screw it and pick the smiley face.

It would be nice to have the ability to upload our own icons or at least have the ability to call any of the icons from the Microsoft Icon Library.

Also, it would be nice if we didn't have to have those default green circle icons for the features that didn't make the ribbon cut so they don't have their own unique icon. How are we supposed to tell one green button from another?

9. Custom VBA Functions Recalculate Reliability

I would love to use custom VBA functions within my spreadsheets, but I am always scared to use them because I never know if they will automatically recalculate when changes occur to my numbers. I know you can write code to make the function volatile, but I always seem to have problems getting it to recalculate every time.

10. Turn Off Page Breaks

I understand the concept behind the page break indicators, but they really annoy me. They annoy me some much, that I have a dedicated macro for turning them off in my QAT. I wish there was an option where I could permanently turn off page breaks so I never have to see them again!

11. Tabbing In Text Boxes = Too Long

I absolutely love to use text boxes to add instructions to my workbooks. One thing I can't comprehend is why when you TAB inside a text box, it equates to 28 spaces (yes, I took the time to count out the spaces just for this article). I wish tabbing was a bit more reasonable...maybe around 4 spaces for each tab? Just a thought 🙂

12. ENTER Key Disabled Inside Text Boxes

Why won't the ENTER key on your keyboard's 9-digit number pad function go to a new line inside a text box????

13. Inserting Copied Rows Multiple Times In A Row

This also occurs while copy/inserting entire columns, but I get very frustrated when I need to copy 3 specific rows and insert them into the middle of my spreadsheet multiple times. Excel will only let you insert copied rows once, then you have to re-copy the rows and repeat. This can be super time-consuming!

14. Use Arrow Keys To Move Chart Data Labels

Have you ever had a bunch of trend lines and needed to include data labels? Nine times out of ten when you add the data labels, you need to manually move them so they don't overlap each other. Unfortunately, the only way to nudge the labels is by using your mouse. Why can't Microsoft allow the arrow keys to move the data labels when they are selected individually?

Time To Air Your Own Grievances!

Now that I've laid out my own list of wishes, it's time for you to share yours! Leave a comment below and I might even add it to the article list! Hopefully one day some Microsoft developers stumble across this article as they search for new ideas to improve Excel (you never know, it could happen). I look forward to reading through your ideas!

[UPDATE] Microsoft Now Has A Website For This!

As of November 2015, Microsoft has set up a Feedback website solely dedicated to gauging the popularity of feature requests for Excel. This leads me to believe that the Excel developers are planning to start releasing added features on a more frequent basis now that they have a large subscriber base through Office 365. I've added some of the Excel weaknesses I'd like to see addressed to the site, so if you have a couple of minutes adds some votes to what I've posted so we can get these things fixed! 

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Chris Newman

Chris Newman

Chris is a finance professional and Excel MVP recognized by Microsoft since 2016. With his expertise, he founded TheSpreadsheetGuru blog to help fellow Excel users, where he shares his vast creative solutions & expertise. In addition, he has developed over 7 widely-used Excel Add-ins that have been embraced by individuals and companies worldwide.