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Excel 2019 for Mac vs Excel 2019 for Windows​

Excel 2019 for Windows and Excel 2019 for (Apple) Mac are very different products

You could be forgiven for thinking that the (confusingly named) Excel 2016 for Mac (suitable only for Apple computers) was “just the same” as Excel 2016 for Windows. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The Excel 2019 for Mac version has a reduced feature set and a radically different user interface to the Excel 2019 for Windows version.

For many years Mac users have asked us to create a version of our best-selling Excel courses for the Mac version of Excel. We’ve finally done this with the release of our Excel 2019 Essential Skills and Expert Skills books specifically for the Apple Mac OS X version of Excel 2019. You can find out more about the new Apple books by clicking here.

The list below is not a complete analysis of every difference between the Windows and Mac versions. It only lists the differences relating to the skills taught in our Excel 2019 for Windows and Excel 2019 for Mac OS X courses.

Important: Microsoft release regular updates that may implement missing features or change the way that Excel 2019 behaves. This information was true as of October 2017, but the product may have changed since this list was compiled.

Features available in Excel 2019 for Windows that are not available in Excel 2019 for Mac


Default file location setting

The Windows version of Excel 2019 enables you to set a default location for saving your files. This setting is not available in the Mac version.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 1-8 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Automatic Flash Fill

The Windows version of Excel 2019 tries to automatically detect when you are entering values that could be filled down and automatically uses Flash Fill where appropriate. The Mac version never automatically uses Flash Fill, but you can invoke it manually when you want it.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 2-18 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Autosaved Versions of a workbook

The Windows version of Excel 2019 automatically saves ‘draft’ copies of your workbooks as you work, enabling you to retrieve an older version of a workbook even if you didn’t save your changes. This feature is not available in the Mac version.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 1-10 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Quick Analysis

The Windows version of Excel 2019 shows a ‘smart tag’ below selected cells that enables you to quickly create totals, charts, tables and sparklines. The Mac version does not include this feature.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 1-9 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

The Mini Toolbar

The Windows version of Excel 2019 shows a small toolbar when text is selected, allowing you to easily change font styles, sizes and colors. The Mac version does not include this feature.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 1-5 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Multi-item Clipboard

The Windows version of Office 2019 includes a multi-item clipboard that allows you to copy and paste several different things at the same time. This feature is not included in the Mac version, but there are OS X add-ins available that provide this functionality.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 3-7 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Redo drop-down menu

The Windows version of Excel 2019 offers a drop-down menu for both the Undo and Redo options, enabling multiple actions to be quickly ‘undone’ or ‘redone’. The Mac version only offers the drop-down menu for the Undo option, meaning you must ‘redo’ actions on at a time.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 3-8 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Pictures in comments

The Windows version of Excel 2019 enables pictures to be placed within cell comments. This is not possible with the Mac version of Excel.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 3-9 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Default template location setting

The Windows version of Excel 2019 enables you to set a default location for saving templates. This setting is not available in the Mac version.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 3-14 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Effects Sets

The Windows version of Excel 2019 enables you to customize your workbook’s visual style using a Color Set, Font Set and Effects Set, but the Mac version only allows the Color Set and Font Set to be changed.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 4-8 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Custom Color and Font sets

The Windows version of Excel 2019 allows you to fully customize themes by creating custom Color Sets and Font Sets. The Mac version does not allow new Color Sets and Font Sets to be created, so themes can only be created from the preset options.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 4-12 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Live Preview

The Windows version of Excel 2019 contains the Live Preview feature. This is used in many different places throughout the Excel application to show a preview of the effect an option will have when you hover the mouse cursor over it. For example, hovering the mouse cursor over a Theme will preview how the Theme would look if it was applied. The Mac version does not contain this feature.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 5-9 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Fill Effects in cells

The Windows version of Excel 2019 allows you to apply a gradient fill to cells. This is not possible in the Mac version.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 4-10 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

View Side by Side

The Windows version of Excel 2019 contains a View Side by Side option that allows you to easily compare two workbooks, even when many workbooks are open. This feature is not available in the Mac version, although workbooks can still be compared by using the Arrange feature.

View Side by Side is demonstrated in Lesson 6-2 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Arrange is demonstrated in Lesson 6-1 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Synchronous Scrolling

The View Side by Side feature from Excel 2019 for Windows contains a Synchronous Scrolling option that allows you to scroll through two workbooks at the same time. This feature is not available in the Mac version of Excel 2016.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 6-2 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Forecast Sheets

The Windows version of Excel 2019 contains a new Forecast Sheets feature that is able to automatically detect seasonal changes and forecast future values based upon a confidence factor. This feature is not available in the Mac version of Excel 2016.

This feature is covered in our Excel 2016 Essential Skills course.

Find & Replace Formats

In the Windows version of Excel 2019, the Find & Replace dialog offers the ability to find cells based on their format (for example, the background color) and to replace the format of cells that are found. This option is not available in the Mac version.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 6-8 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Full-sized print preview

The Windows version of Office 2019 allows you to see a large print preview of the workbook, including the ability to zoom in and out. The Mac version displays a small print preview that cannot be zoomed.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 7-1 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Ribbon Display Options

The Windows version of Office 2019 contains a Ribbon Display Options menu that allows the Ribbon to be completely hidden, freeing up more screen space than is possible by simply minimizing the Ribbon. This feature is not available in the Mac version.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 1-17 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Chart Data Labels from a Range

The Windows version of Excel 2019 allows you to select a range of cells to be used as data labels within a chart. This is not possible in the Mac version.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 5-19 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Chart filters

In the Windows version of Excel 2019, it is possible to apply a chart filter to quickly select the data that should be displayed in a chart. Chart filters do not exist in the Mac version, but you can still change the data that is displayed within a chart by using the Select Data Source dialog.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 5-10 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Error printing

The Windows version of Excel 2019 allows you to choose how errors should be displayed when printing a workbook. This setting does not exist in the Mac version, so errors will always be printed exactly as they are shown.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 7-13 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Key tips

In Excel 2019 for Windows, holding down the Alt key displays ‘key tips’ for every item on the Ribbon, enabling every command to be accessed using keyboard shortcuts. Key tips are not available in the Mac version.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 1-15 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

XPS document format

Excel 2019 for Windows is able to save workbooks in the XPS document format. XPS is a Microsoft alternative to the PDF format. The Mac version cannot save to XPS format.

The XPS format is explained in more detail in Lesson 1-7 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Protected view

Excel 2019 for Windows automatically opens files that were downloaded from the internet in protected view. Protected view disables editing and other features to protect you from viruses. The Mac version does not include protected view.

This feature is explained in Lesson 1-5 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Quick Analysis

The Windows version of Excel 2019 shows a ‘smart tag’ below selected cells that enables you to quickly create totals, charts, tables and sparklines. The Mac version does not include this feature.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 1-9 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Evaluate Formula

The Windows version of Excel 2019 includes an Evaluate Formula dialog that allows you to see how formulas are calculated step by step. This feature does not exist in Excel 2019 for Mac.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 3-1 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

External data source drivers

The Windows version of Excel 2019 is able to connect to any ODBC data source. The Mac version can only connect to SQL Server data sources by default, but 3rd party drivers are available that enable other data sources to be used.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 5-3 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Watch Window

The Watch Window is a feature of Excel 2019 for Windows that enables you to monitor the values of cells anywhere in the workbook. This can be useful in complex workbooks with many interconnected worksheets.

The Watch Window is not available in the Mac version of Excel 2019.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 4-15 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Commands not in the Ribbon

Excel 2019 for Windows contains many ‘hidden’ features that are not shown on the ribbon. These include the Speak Cells features that enable Excel to audibly read the values from cells, as well as many other special features.

Excel 2019 for Mac does allow some ‘hidden’ commands to be added to the ribbon, but many of the features available in the Windows version (such as Speak Cells) are still unavailable or non-functional.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 4-16 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Saving Ribbon customizations

Excel 2019 for Windows allows Ribbon customizations to be saved to a file, enabling customizations to be transferred between copies of Excel.

It isn’t possible to save and load Ribbon customizations in the Mac version of Excel 2019.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 7-20 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Allow Users to Edit Ranges

In the Windows version of Excel 2019, it’s possible to add multiple passwords to a workbook that each have access to different cells. This can be useful if a workbook has several users that should be given different access rights.
Excel 2019 for Mac only allows a single password to be created for each workbook.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 7-12 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Digital Signatures

Excel 2019 for Windows has the ability to apply a digital signature to a workbook. These are used to prove the identity of the author and certify that a document can be trusted.

It is not possible to apply a digital signature to a workbook using Excel 2019 for Mac.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 7-13 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

ActiveX Controls

ActiveX controls are alternative versions of the form controls. They are rarely used, and are intended to be used with the VBA programming language.
ActiveX controls are not available in the Mac version of Excel 2019.

ActiveX controls are explained in more depth in Lesson 9-1 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Trusted files and folders

The Windows version of Excel 2019 allows you to define a list of trusted files and folders. Files that are trusted or saved to a trusted folder can be opened without any warnings, even if they contain macros.

It isn’t possible to define trusted files and folders in Excel 2019 for Mac, so a warning will be shown every time any macro-enabled workbooks are opened.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 9-14 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Macro security settings

Excel 2019 for Windows allows you to choose between several settings for macro security. Macros can be completely disabled, enabled after showing a warning message, only enabled for digitally signed workbooks, or always enabled.

Excel 2019 for Mac does not have the ability to enable macros for digitally signed workbooks.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 9-13 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Relative references in macros

In the Windows version of Excel 2019, it’s possible to record macros using either absolute or relative references. Absolute references mean that the macro will always affect the same cells every time it runs.

Relative references mean that it will affect cells relative to the position of the active cell when the macro runs. Relative macros are very useful when you need a macro to affect different cells each time the user runs it, instead of always affecting the same cells.

It isn’t possible to record a macro with relative references Excel 2019 for Mac, so all macros use absolute references.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 9-15 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

OLAP pivot tables and relationships

Standard Excel pivot tables can only summarize data from a single table, while OLAP pivot tables can draw their data from multiple tables. To make this possible, relationships must be created between the data tables, creating what is known as a data model.

OLAP features are only available in Excel 2019 for Windows, so none of these features can be used in the Mac version of Excel.

Excel 2019’s new OLAP, 3D Maps and Get & Transform features are covered in Session 9 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

3D Maps

Excel 2019 for Windows has the ability to display data on a 3D map of the world. This is useful for presenting data that is tied to geographical locations.
3D Maps cannot be created in Excel 2019 for Mac.

3D Maps are covered extensively in our Excel 2016 Expert Skills book.

Get & Transform

Get & Transform (previously known as PowerQuery) is now included in Excel 2019 for Windows.

Get & Transform allows you to connect to external data sources and perform many different transformations upon them, including unpivoting summarized data, appending several data sources together and setting data types.

Get & Transform is not available in Excel 2019 for Mac.

Get & Transform is covered extensively in our Excel 2016 Expert Skills book.

Range name scope

Excel 2019 for Windows allows range names to have either worksheet or workbook scope. Range names with worksheet scope can only be referenced within a single worksheet, while workbook scope allows them to be referenced anywhere in the workbook.

In Excel 2019 for Mac, all range names have workbook scope, so you cannot define a range name that only resides in a single worksheet.

Range name scope is explained in Lesson 4-2 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Paste names in dialogs

The Paste Names feature enables quick insertion of range names.

In Excel 2019 for Windows, this feature can be used to insert range names into cells, dialog boxes and task panes.

The first release of Excel 2019 for Mac did not allow this feature to be used in dialog boxes. This behavior has been improved by subsequent updates, allowing Paste Names to be used in the Formula Builder task pane, but it is still unavailable in most dialogs.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 4-7 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

‘Data entered in a table is invalid’ error checking rule

Excel 2019 for Mac contains 8 error checking rules.

Excel 2019 for Windows offers one additional error checking rule, called: Data entered in a table is invalid. This rule is only relevant when connecting to data that is stored on a SharePoint server.

Error checking rules are demonstrated in Lesson 4-11 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Pivot table Defer Layout Update option

Excel 2019 for Windows offers a Defer Layout Update option when editing pivot tables. This allows you to fully configure a pivot table without anything appearing on the worksheet, and without any calculations being performed. This is useful when working with very large data sets that could take a long time to calculate.

The Defer Layout Update option is not available in Excel 2016 for Mac.

This feature is demonstrated in our Excel 2016 Expert Skills book.

‘Always create backup’ save option

When saving a workbook, Excel 2019 for Windows offers the Always create backup option. If this option is enabled, a separate backup version of the workbook is created whenever the workbook is saved.

This option is not available in the Mac version of Excel 2016.

This feature is explained in Lesson 7-9 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Select all search results in pivot table filters

Excel 2019 for Mac offers the ability to perform a search within a pivot table filter. However, it does not offer an option to select all search results, so they must be selected individually.

Note that this feature is available in standard filters; it is only missing from pivot table filters.

Excel 2019 for Windows offers this option in all filters, including pivot tables.

This feature is demonstrated in our Excel 2016 Expert Skills book.

Features that behave differently in Excel 2016 for Windows

Cmd shortcut keys

Many features of Excel 2019 for Mac can be accessed by holding down the Cmd key and pressing another key (for example Cmd+B makes the selected cell bold-faced).
Windows computers do not have a Cmd key, so the Ctrl key is used instead.

Keyboard shortcuts are demonstrated in Lesson 1-15 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Fn shortcut keys

If you are using macOS (OS X) with its default settings, you need to hold down the Fn key to use the F keys at the top of the keyboard within Excel (for example Fn+F4 to make a cell reference absolute).

Windows computers do not usually have a Fn key, so you do not usually need to hold it down to use the F key functions. Some Windows laptops with compact keyboards are an exception to this rule and may still require you to hold down a Fn key.

Ribbon and Menu Bar

Excel 2019 for Windows does not use the Menu Bar that is used for many commands in Excel 2019 for Mac. Instead, all commands are accessed via the Ribbon.

This means that Excel 2019 for Windows has additional Ribbon options to enable access to commands that are in the Menu Bar in Excel 2016 for Mac.

The Excel Ribbon is demonstrated in Lesson 1-12 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Chart templates

Chart templates are accessed via a dialog launcher on the Ribbon in the Windows version of Excel 2019. In the Mac version, chart templates are accessed via the Menu Bar at the top of the screen.

File tab and ‘Backstage View’

In Excel 2019 for Windows, the Ribbon contains an additional tab called File. This tab takes you to Backstage View which contains options for saving, printing and sharing, as well as more advanced Excel options.

These options are accessed via the Menu Bar in Excel 2019 for Mac.

Backstage view is demonstrated in Lesson 1-1 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Minimize Ribbon double-click

In the Mac version of Excel 2019, clicking the selected Ribbon tab minimizes the Ribbon. In the Windows version, the Ribbon is minimized by double-clicking any Ribbon tab.

If the Ribbon is minimized in the Mac version of Excel 2019, it can be restored by clicking any tab. The Windows version requires you to double-click a tab in order to permanently restore the Ribbon.

Minimizing the ribbon is demonstrated in Lesson 1-12 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Task pane docking

The Mac version of Excel 2019 allows task panes to either be ‘floating’ or docked to the right side of the screen. The Windows version allows task panes to be docked to either the left or right side of the screen (as well as being floating).

Task pane docking is demonstrated in Lesson 3-7 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Copying worksheets by dragging and dropping

In Excel 2019 for Mac, you can create a copy of a worksheet by holding down the Alt key and dragging it to the location where you wish to create a copy. Excel 2019 for Windows behaves the same way, except you must hold down the Ctrl key.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 6-3 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

Help system

In Excel 2019 for Mac, the help search system is accessed via the Help menu on the Menu Bar. Excel 2016 for Windows replaces this with a ‘Tell me what you want to do’ option on the Ribbon.

This feature is demonstrated in our Excel 2019 Expert Skills book.

Find & Replace ‘look in’

The Find & Replace dialog contains a ‘look in’ menu that allows you to search in values or formulas. The ‘look in’ feature is available in Excel 2019 for Mac, but only in the Find dialog; it is not present in the Replace dialog. Despite this, the Replace dialog will behave according to the selected ‘look in’ option if you set it in the Find dialog before switching to Replace.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 6-8 of our Essential Skills for Windows course.

PivotCharts

PivotCharts are now available in Excel 2019 for Mac, but with fewer features than the Windows version. In the Windows version of Excel 2019 it is possible to expand and collapse categories and adjust filters within the PivotChart itself, without needing to return to the pivot table it is based on.

Formula Builder task pane

In the Windows version of Excel 2019, the Formula Builder task pane is replaced by the Insert Function dialog.
The Insert Function dialog has the same purpose and features of the Formula Builder, but appears as a floating dialog instead of a task pane.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 3-3 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Insert Name feature

In the Mac version of Excel, you can quickly insert a range name by clicking: Insert > Name > Paste from the menu bar at the top of the screen.
In the Windows version of Excel, this feature is accessed using the Ribbon command: Formulas > Defined Names > Use in Formula.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 4-2 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Name Manager

Excel 2019 for Windows offers a separate Name Manager dialog that enables you to view and edit all of the range names that have been defined within a workbook.

In the Mac version of Excel 2019, these features have been included in the Define Name dialog.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 4-4 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Error checking dialog modality

The Mac version of Excel 2019 does not allow you to interact with the workbook as long as the error checking dialog is open (in other words, it is a modal dialog).

Excel 2019 for Windows allows you to make changes to the workbook while the Error Checking dialog is on-screen. This will pause error checking, requiring you to click a Resume button when returning to the dialog.

The error checking dialog is demonstrated in Lesson 4-12 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Editing embedded Excel objects

In Office 2019 for Windows, it’s possible to edit an embedded Excel object within a Word document without leaving Word.

In Office 2019 for Mac, editing an embedded Excel object always launches a separate Excel window.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 8-7 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Locked workbook notifications

When a workbook is locked for editing by another user, you are prompted to open the workbook in read-only mode.

The Windows version of Excel 2019 allows you to choose whether you want to be notified when the other user closes the workbook. Excel 2016 for Mac defaults to this option, so you will always be notified when a locked workbook becomes available for editing.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 8-11 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Manual pivot table sorting

Manual pivot table sorting is possible in both the Mac and Windows versions of Excel 2016.

In Excel 2019 for Windows, this feature must be specifically enabled. Manual sorting is always enabled in Excel 2016 for Mac.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 5-6 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Range name bug

Excel 2019 for Windows contains a bug where the Apply Names feature (shown in: Lesson 4 3: Use range names to make formulas more readable) does not always work correctly.

This bug is not present in Excel 2019 for Mac, so range names should always be applied to formulas without problems.

You can see how to work around this bug in Lesson 4-3 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Filtering pivot tables by multiple values

Excel 2019 for Windows defaults to only allow a single value to be selected in a pivot table filter. To select more than one value, the Select Mutiple Items option must be enabled.

Excel 2019 for Mac always allows multiple items to be selected in pivot table filters.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 5-7 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

Recommended PivotTables

When creating a pivot table, Excel 2019 for Mac offers the Recommended PivotTables option. This option automatically creates a pivot table based upon your data that should be useful for general purposes, but it will create the same generic pivot table each time.

Excel 2019 for Windows offers a choice of several different recommended pivot tables when this option is used, instead of always using the same template.

This feature is demonstrated in Lesson 5-1 of our Expert Skills for Windows course.

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