Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login

Excel, still Microsoft's best product?

undoubtedly. of course it came after visicalc, but by now it is not hyperbole to say that a large part of the world economy runs through excel spreadsheets.

and it is really hard to displace. the optimisations in that tool are amazing, you don't realize it's performance until you try the alternatives.

some argue it is the OS of finance. definitely shares its spot with SAP FI/CO. a controller will give up any tool before letting go of MS Excel.

it is the number one reason of companies being reluctant to using iPads. how will i edit my spreadsheets? what about macros? i need this to capture expenses, forecasts, etc.

if MS releases MS Office/Excel for iOS, Surface is dead.

Visicalc was first, but I think it was Lotus 123 that really made spreadsheets popular; it was absolutely huge back in the day.

Yes. Excel took a long time to topple Lotus 123, but Lotus's failure to move to a GUI quickly enough saw Excel win.

DOS Microsoft Word was before Excel I think.

It was a similar story with Word Perfect, their failure to move to a GUI basically handed MS Word market dominance. Their belated port of the DOS UI was very awkward at first, and the move to 32-bit in 95 was the final straw.

The "original" Word, before Windows, was available for DOS and Xenix - I actually saw some systems using Word on Xenix in '88.

I've actually used MS Word on Windows 1.0 (around 1985ish I think).

It was .... well, basically unusably horrible. As you typed, it would swap stuff in/out from floppy disk; as you might imagine, this made even just entering text an excruciating experience.

Luckily for MS, systems eventually got more memory and hard disks...

The time I saw MS Word deployed on a Xenix box it didn't work terribly well - was fine on the system console but was barely usable on serial terminals as the make of terminals (Wyse something or other) had Alt keys which did nothing. And, as far as I recall, the Alt key was pretty important in Word.

Of course, this wasn't Microsoft's fault - rather the idiotic salesman who had sold all of this without checking with anyone whether it would work or not.

I think Quattro was the #2 (behind Lotus) for a while - ahead of Excel. Borland just seemed to have an uncanny talent for running products into the ground.

Borland certainly did, but they also had plenty of bad luck.

Just as they were getting close to finishing Quattro Pro, their head offices were hit by the 1989 World Series Earthquake (they were very close to the epicenter).

Apparently, many of their computers survived the earthquake itself but were rained on by the damaged sprinkler system and covered in mushy ceiling tile debris. They commandeered a tennis court to try to dry off, clean and revive as many of the computers as they could

They did end up releasing Quattro Pro, but then were soon sued by Lotus.


Reminds me of their word processor Sprint. Quite a fancy product of its time:


Lets reverse your last point: when MS releases Office for Surface, iOS is dead in business.

If they hit that mythical $199 price point which is rumored (unlikely) and it ships with Office RT, then there is no better tablet proposition out there.

Windows Phone leper colony reporting in. I got a bright idea to take a spreadsheet that I use for tracking my workouts and uploading it to skydrive so that I could punch my workout in after I finished. It turns out the mobile version of Excel doesnt support a number of formulas and macros like the desktop version does. I think i read that Excel for Office on RT will have the same limitations. I will probably end up getting the ultrabook version of Surface (sans keyboard) for this reason and for pen input for OneNote.

There are a ton of people out there who used to think they needed office, and have been using iOS happily without it. Microsoft made a huge mistake not releasing Office for iOS as soon as they could -- these people would all have bought it and remained convinced it was indispensable.

Now, most of them won't care (and probably figured out that Office wasn't actually very good at its core functionality, like word-processing and creating presentations, compared to cheaper, easier-to-use alternatives). In any event, the strangehold MS had over the enterprise where even people who didn't want Windows were forced to use it, is broken.

So... dream on.

I definitely prefer Google Docs for presentation creating and non-reference heavy word processing, but I find spreadsheets is where Google Docs comes up short compared to Microsoft's product.

I get the feeling you've never used Office for anything serious?

I think the parent commenter was merely stating that a large portion of Office users realize that what they're doing isn't "serious" - despite it being critical to their uses, it's something that doesn't require the full power of a desktop Office suite (and thus can be done without Microsoft).

Fact is, even Surface won't be as mobile as something that fits in your pocket - and I seriously doubt Microsoft can or even wants to make (perhaps a stripped down) Office into a $10 smartphone app.

Office should run pretty much unmodified on the Surface Pro. What happens on the Surface RT is a somewhat more interesting question though.

I don't think MS needs to lower the price that much for businesses, given that a full licence of Office probably costs about that. Checks website, oh it's $499 for 1 user, 2PCs (obviously bulk discounts will be massive, but still).

No it's $199.99 for one user one pc or for two PCs, one user $279.99:


(It's $499 if you want access and publisher but most people don't)

USD $199 is currently about GBP £122. We have VAT added at 20%, which makes the cost almost £150. GBP price is £190 (1 install, 2 is £240).

Guess this is when you get a VPN.

I'm interested how exhaustion of rights works in these situations can one of you [hypothetically] purchase the download for me and resell it to me in the UK?

If you transfer it first to your UK server then presumably there would be no import duty or VAT to pay as it's a personal transaction?

You can just buy an OEM copy here. It's cheaper. Just buy a USB stick with it for £1 and you get it for £159 without all the hassle.

Office is significantly lower than $499 or even $199 for PC's under their normal business licensing arrangements. Less than $50 for most larger businesses.

For most of those people, it's simply the only software they're moderately competent with. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I wonder how much Excel has ended up shaping our world because of the point of view it implies.

Yup... I used to have a boss who was a linguist by trade, who used Excel as his general-purpose programming language of choice, simply because it's what he knew the best.

He was pretty good at it, so the stuff generally more or less worked fine, but it was a constant source of amusement for everybody else...

Quantrix is used a great deal in finance, and I have the impression that it is used more than Excel by people who need to have confidence that their financial models are correct.

I wasn't precise enough, I meant financial departments within companies of all areas. Finance as in banking of course has its special tools - but I would be surprised if Excel is not used for anything quick and dirty.

MS Excel is not precise enough in a lot of areas, you can't compare it to something like SPSS for statistics for example - but it's good enough.

The entire Office suite is a good product with few realistic competitors. For all the criticisms, it does exactly what many businesses need. And the de-facto requirement for good Office compatibility keeps businesses on Windows.

Let's also add that it's very cheap for what it is.

Office 2010 Home and Business 2010 (Outlook, Word, Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint) is £159GBP inc tax. It has a usable life of ~5 years. That's £2.65GBP/month (about the same as two loaves of reasonable quality bread a month)

> That's £2.65GBP/month (about the same as two loaves of reasonable quality bread a month)

Reminds me of one of my favorite analogies from a TV news report: "And the new widget weighs in at just 2kg; that's about the same as 2 1kg bags of flour"

http://www7.buyoffice.microsoft.com/emea1/basket.aspx?cache=... says it's £190 (presumably inc VAT).

Reading the info about installs strongly suggests that unless you bought a PC with a preload then you have to buy the "2 install" version at £240 (but it's pretty opaque).

Bread is a very poor comparison as the margin per unit decreases at a far lower rate than that for non-material goods. I'm sure MS would argue they're only licensing use to you too - perhaps "it's not much more than a TV license" would be better?

OEM. Only fools buy retail. Buy it with a £1 USB stick and it's fine: http://www.scan.co.uk/products/microsoft-office-home-and-bus...

Everything is licensed. Even bread. You have to give it back one day via the toilet or the grave.

>Everything is licensed. Even bread. //

I'm largely with you WRT philosophy of 'ownership'.

However in the current legal framework this is wrong and I strongly disprove of the thrust by companies to force more sold products to be treated as licensed - thus for example preventing resale, [non-copyright infringing] sharing and the like.

I consume bread I don't give it back in a materially unaltered way.

You don't need to buy hardware with this; the quoted "OEM" price and part number are retail (compare with Amazon, for instance). It is locked to a single PC like traditional OEM products, however, and doesn't include media. The ordinary retail package is transferable, can be installed on two PCs at the same time, and includes a DVD.

You can transfer the oem stuff - just phone them to activate it.

According to me the one product that is best from Microsoft is Exchange.

For example there are a lot of organizations that are shifting to Linux and OpenSource (LibreOffice and similar), but Exchange is the one software that cannot be replaced.

On the client side Excel is probably the best they've put out. Overall, I think that ActiveDirectory and the integration they achieved in Windows Server 2000 with the Windows 2000 desktop could be the best thing that Microsoft has ever produced.

That, and Word. Still light years ahead of the competition.

After all these years and Word still can't kern worth a darn. Would love to throw away LaTeX for something easier to use, but Word is not it. Excel is special if you need it, PowerPoint is almost as good as Keynote now. Visio seems like it hasn't been updated in 10 years; OmniGraffle is so much better.

Different strokes for different folks. Visio is the one piece of software I miss from Windows. I hate OmniGraffle as its boolean operations are pathetic and it seems to think it knows where to put stuff instead of where you put it. Visio also has so many more shapes.

Using Visio is like stepping back to 1999. They could have at least updated the renderer, added better magnets and auto positioning... It's bizarre looking at a old-style renderer bolted onto a metroish UI in 2013. What are their designers thinking?

Visio was the best diagramming tool in 1999, it's still popular in the enterprise, biz types love it; omnigraffle is more for designers, engineers who use macs, different markets to be sure.

The content is more important than the presentation for most users.

Visio is a piece of shit I will say.

I prefer Pages to Word, and my requirements are far more extreme than most people's. Pages even seamlessly handles Word's change tracking (i.e. you can load a Word doc with change tracking going, make changes, and they will flow back to Word or to other Pages users seamlessly). All this and Pages doesn't waste gobs of screen real estate on "ribbons" and other useless crap.

Word obviously supports Microsoft automation stuff that's unique to its own ecosystem, but aside from that and index generation, Pages is actually ahead of Word. (Not "light years", but heck it's a word-processor.)

I'm quite happy on 500+ page word documents here, tracked across 30 users on SharePoint. I was not happy with Pages a couple of years ago - it did a shitty job of import/export losing styles and even text sometimes.

Don't like Ribbons? Double click one of the groups and they go away http://officeblogs.net/UI/sizepics/RibbonCollapsed.png

And I don't know how you can complain about that when Pages is full of horrible trays...

Got to be said I like the ribbon, going back to LibreOffice on the home Linux box is like heading back to the last century.

That's because Libreoffice is basically a clone of Word.

Pages isn't "full of" trays. You can use them or not, and by default not.

For anything other than typing up a paper, I hate Word. It is awful with graphics and formatting is a pain in the ass. When it comes to working with images and text in Word, I almost feel like it would be easier (and less of a hassle) to hand code it in HTML with CSS and then print that instead of doing it in Word. The last few months have been torturous because my fiance and I have been using Word to create our wedding invitations. If that is light years ahead of the competition, I seriously think I need to write a word processor and profit!

You're using the hammer to put the screws in there. Use the tight tools for the right job.

Papers: LaTeX or Word with a proper template (you actually have to know a lot about how to use Word for such things to be effective.)

Wedding invitations: Publisher

Everything else: Word.

That makes sense. The problem is that since it is a one off thing the cost of Publisher ($139.99) would've offset the savings of making the invitations at home. But I will keep that in mind for the future.

Just snag the 30 day trial :-)

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact