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Microsoft Excel 2016 for Windows is a workhorse of a spreadsheet software, offering powerful methods for summarizing, analyzing, exploring, and presenting your data.
Excel comes as part of Microsoft Office 365: Microsoft Excel is the spreadsheet portion of the Microsoft Office applications. For $69.99 a year, get the Office 365 Personal edition, which along with Excel, comes with Word, the word-processing workhorse; PowerPoint, the ubiquitous slideshow app; OneNote, for note-taking across platforms; Outlook, a full-featured email service; OneDrive, Microsoft's cloud storage service; and Skype, for voice and video calls.
For $99 a year, subscribe to the Office 365 Home edition, which includes the same productivity apps and lets you share your subscription with four other users.
If you'd rather just buy Office and be done with it, for $149.99, you can purchase the Office Home and Student 2016 for PC edition, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.
Or buy Excel separately: If you don't need the other apps that make up the Office apps, you can get the Microsoft Excel 2016 separately for $129.99. The standalone Excel for Windows includes bug fixes and improvements, but it doesn't get you an upgrade to the next major edition of the software. The standalone version also doesn't include OneDrive services and Skype.
Tons of formulas and functions: With formulas, you can perform calculations on data in your Excel spreadsheet, such as finding the total for a row of numbers. You can quickly access formulas via Excel's formula bar.
A good part of what makes Excel so powerful is the breadth of its functions, which build on formulas. Among the most useful are the SUM, IF, LOOKUP, VLOOKUP, MATCH, CHOOSE, DATE, DAYS, FIND, and INDEX functions. Excel also comes with specialized functions for cube, database, date and time, engineering, financial, information, logical, lookup, math, statistical, text, and Web functions.
Pivot tables: Along with functions, Excel's not-so-secret weapon is the pivot table. Pivot tables let you quickly make sense of data in rows and columns by analyzing and displaying a summary of your data. Excel also comes with what Microsoft calls "slicers" -- buttons you can click to filter tables or pivot table data.
VBA: It is not the beloved Visual Basic, but Visual Basic for Applications, or VBA, lets you automate repetitive tasks and extend Excel, create custom user interactions in Excel spreadsheets, and work with other Office products. You can also add optional commands to an Excel file via Excel add-ins.
Templates: Excel offers a broad collection of templates that give you a running start in presenting your data and let you add polish to your spreadsheet files. You can choose from a range of personal templates, including a back-to-school planner, weekly meal planner, streaming show list, group event planner, money manager, and personal budget manager. Business templates range from those for a weekly assignment schedule and 12-month calendar to annual financial budget and channel marketing budget.
Office in cloud: As with the other apps in the Microsoft Office suite, Excel 2016 lets you store, sync, and edit your spreadsheets online, via Microsoft's OneDrive cloud service.
Collaborate: Through OneDrive, you share and work on spreadsheet files with colleagues via real-time collaboration on documents.
Moving across platforms: In addition to the PC version of Excel, Microsoft has spreadsheet apps for Mac, Android, iPhone, and the web via a browser.
Read: For a free alternative, check out Google Sheets.
Pay for the power: If you need an industrial-strength spreadsheet, you want Excel. But if you're just doing simple calculations, Excel's price may be a bit much, so you should consider another spreadsheet program, such as Google Sheets.
The Windows version of Microsoft Excel 2016 is a powerful, dependable spreadsheet application that can crunch just about any number. If you need the horsepower Excel offers and want to take advantage of pivot tables, the price of Microsoft's spreadsheet software is well worth it.
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