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Spreadsheet skills: version aversion

This month, in our series of articles providing solutions to common issues encountered by finance professionals, we look at the many different versions of Excel for PCs (Mac versions are not dissimilar) and explain how you can ensure your version is bang up to date.  By Liam Bastick, director (and Excel MVP) with SumProduct Pty Ltd.


I know it’s probably a little late in the day, but how do I know which version of Excel I have? How can I ensure that whichever version it is, I have the latest version?


This is a question that keeps cropping up. To be honest, I always thought 'What version of Excel do I have?' was easy to identify but the sheer volume of similar questions suggests otherwise. Apologies to our Mac users, but we are going to stay PC even if that’s not politically correct (although Mac software is not entirely dissimilar).

Let’s go back to the beginning and work our way forward…

Excel 2003 (click on image to expand) version-aversion-1  

If you have this still, you are opening yourself up to a whole world fraught with danger. Recognised as a version of Excel with drop down menus rather than the Ribbon, it’s no longer supported by Microsoft and that can mean a nice open backdoor for all sorts of nasties such as trojans, worms and other types of malware. It doesn’t matter what update version you have: it’s out of date – get it sorted before it sorts you. 

Excel 2007 (click on image to expand)

Recognised by the fact ‘File’ has been replaced by the wondrous ‘Office button’, there was good and bad associated with this radically remixed version of Excel. It was the first version to come with the Ribbon and it freaked out a lot of experienced users.

It was meant to make life easier for mums and dads with big, friendly icons everywhere (albeit of inconsistent size) to click on with a mouse. But no one could find anything and resorted to learning the Excel 2003 keyboard shortcuts to make the damned thing work. A complete reworking of Excel, it did come with a lot of bugs pre-loaded, such as conditional formatting that could appear anywhere and objects that resized when you dared to print the worksheet or scroll up or down said sheet.

It wasn’t all bad news though. Excel add-ins from earlier versions of Excel still tended to work in this version without automation errors proliferating everywhere, which bedevilled later incarnations of Excel.

If you are still using this version, to find what issue of Excel 2007 you have, go to Office Button -> Excel Options -> Resources (ALT + T + O + R) and review the final item in the list, ‘about Microsoft Excel 2007’. There’s slightly more detail if you click on the ‘About’ button too (especially if you have forgotten who you are or who you stole the laptop from), but not much.

Note that ‘get updates’ is the first button in this list.

Excel 2010 (click on image to expand)

Now this is more like it – and many readers agree, given how popular it is and it is still out there in the marketplace. Excel 2010 brought back the ‘File’ tab, which gave us the backstage for the first time.

Excel 2010 came in two flavours: 32-bit and 64-bit for those needing more grunt in their spreadsheets, which became the norm for all variants subsequently. Excel 2010 ironed out of its predecessor’s bugs and introduced the world to Power Pivot, Power Query, Power Drill and others. OK, maybe one of those add-ins was just made up…

To locate which version of Excel 2010 you have, go to File -> Help:
(click on image to expand)

Note that ‘Check for Updates’ is the final item in the list in the middle column too.

Excel 2013 (click on image to expand)

This version of Excel introduced us to British Racing Green and file tabs that LIKE TO SHOUT AT YOU.

(click on image to expand)

It’s the first version of Excel that the Microsoft marketing team really got its teeth into too, with versions to suit everyone as long as you bought the top of the range version. What could possibly be confusing about having variants called Office 365, Microsoft Office Student, Microsoft Office Amateur (for those seeking to enter the Olympics), Microsoft Office Professional, Microsoft Professional Plus and Microsoft Office Pro Plus (sounds like medication)? Consultants made a fortune worldwide advising their clients of what version to get (see our very own which version of Office 2013?). Woe betide you if you lived in Turkey or Australia as local distributors at first tried their utmost to make the good stuff virtually impossible to get hold of.

Sorry, rant over. To find out the update version you have, again, head for the back stage, File -> Account -> About Excel button:

(click on image to expand)

Checking for updates becomes a little inconsistent here, depending upon the version you have.  In the version displayed above, you will have to go to Windows Update to update the version. In other versions, it can be located at File -> Account -> Product Information. Here, you will locate Update Options where you may select Update Now from the list. If you cannot locate this, click on Enable Updates first.


Excel 2016

And so we get up to date in our quest for updates. Excel 2016 got rid of the capital letters and seemingly Power Query too, as it became part of the furniture in Data -> Get & Transform

(click on image to expand)

Excel 2016 variations weren’t particularly less difficult to comprehend than Excel 2013 (please see our discussion for more details), but it was easier to check for updates.

(click on image to expand)

The version could be identified by going to File -> Account -> About Excel button whereas updates could be managed from File -> Account -> Office Updates button. Simple!

Word to the wise

It should be noted that whatever version of Excel you have, you need to keep it up to date. Not only will this ensure you have the latest functions and features, it will also ensure that any potential security issues are locked down by Microsoft. If you find your IT department has disabled the ability to update, make sure you have an urgent discussion with them. Tell ‘em CIMA sent you…

If you have a query for the spreadsheet skills section, please feel free to drop Liam a line at or visit the SumProduct website.

Useful links

In this issue

Explore the benefits of CGMA on our new website 
- How a company’s culture can limit data breaches: read CGMA Magazine
- Take advantage of our mutual recognition agreement (MRA) with CPA Australia before new study requirements come into effect on 1 January 2017
- Access a tailored package of products to help you meet your CPD needs with CIMAplus

Jobs and careers 

Engagement takes over as key employee measure 
- Try our salary calculator tool 

Training and development 

Spreadsheet skills: version aversion
Develop your skills with CIMA Mastercourses – our range of CPD training courses"> 
Explore online CPD training when and where you need it with CIMA on demand

Resources and guidance 

Six practical tools management accountants keep coming back to
‘Data as the weapon in the war for talent’: how does ASDA use a people plan to analyse and drive business?
- Four ways to improve transparency within your organisation 
The AICPA | CIMA Competency and Learning website supports your continuing professional development needs – explore today
Download the latest edition of FM magazine 
- Read our CGMA Global Management Accounting Principles  
Browse a wide range of online learning topics at with Harvard ManageMentor – a free resource for CIMA members

News and events

CIMA and The Hackett Group complete Global Business Services career development offering 
- Register now for the ‘Joining the dots – decision making for a new era’ webcast – 6 December 2016 
- Register for the ‘BEPS: the dawn of a truly global standard’ webcast, free for CGMAs – 1 December 2016 
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