Excel Versions Explained

It's important to know which version of Excel you are using

As I write this, there have been 29 different versions of Excel, stretching from 1985 to the present day, on three different operating systems.

Each version of Excel has been significantly different to the last, and the Mac and Windows versions are still very different today. If you need to learn Excel, it’s important to know exactly which version you are using and make sure that you are using a course to match!

This article explains the differences between all of the versions of Excel and which courses you should use to learn them.

Table of Contents

Excel 2016 and Excel 365

Excel 2016 is very different to all of the previous recent versions of Excel for two reasons:

  1. The Mac and Windows versions are both called Excel 2016, even though they are very different.
  2. If you are an Office 365 customer, you will receive updates from the internet that can make your copy of Excel very different from a non-365 user.

Excel 2016 and Excel 365 for Windows

With Excel 2016, Microsoft began to release regular feature updates via the internet instead of only adding new features when an entirely new version is released. These new features were only provided to Office 365 subscribers, so users with boxed retail copies now have a very different version of Excel to Office 365 users.

Fortunately, our courses are regularly updated to explain any differences between the Office 365 version and the boxed retail versions of Excel. If you are a Windows user with Excel 2016 or Excel 365, you should use our Excel 2016 course.

Excel 2016 for Mac

With Excel 2016, Microsoft decided to give the Mac and Windows versions the same name for the first time since the year 2000. Despite this, the two programs are still quite different, owing partly to the different user interface of the iOS operating system.

You can see a list of the differences between the Mac and Windows versions of Excel 2016 here.

Like the Windows version, Microsoft also release feature updates for Excel 2016 for Mac via the internet and our courses are regularly updated to explain any differences. If you have Excel 2016 for Mac you should use the Mac version of our courses.

Excel 2013 (Windows)

Excel 2013 was only released for Windows computers, and introduced the new Flash Fill feature, Slicers, and 50 new functions.

If you need to learn Excel 2013, you should use our complete Excel 2013 course.

Excel 2011 (Mac)

Excel 2011 was only released for Apple Mac computers. It was the last version of Excel for Mac that had a separate name to its Windows counterpart.

Like Excel 2010 for Windows, this was also the 13th version of Excel for Mac, but version 13 was skipped for superstitious reasons and Excel 2011 was declared to be version 14.

We don’t offer a course for Excel 2011, but we do offer a complete course for Excel 2016 for Mac. If you want to use our courses to learn on an Apple Mac computer, you should upgrade to Excel 2016 first.

Excel 2010 (Windows)

Excel 2010 was only released for Windows computers. It introduced several new features, including multi-threading support, sparklines, Ribbon customization and the back-stage view.

Although Excel 2010 was actually the 13th version of Excel, Microsoft skipped version 13 and officially declared it as version 14, entirely because 13 is considered an unlucky number!

If you need to learn Excel 2010, you should use our complete Excel 2010 course.

Excel 2008 (Mac)

Excel 2008 was only released for Apple Mac computers.

We don’t offer a course for Excel 2008, but we do offer a complete course for Excel 2016 for Mac. If you want to use our courses to learn on an Apple Mac computer, you should upgrade to Excel 2016 first.

Excel 2007 (Windows)

Excel 2007 was only released for Windows computers.

Excel 2007 was a significant leap forward from earlier versions, introducing the new Ribbon interface and changing the file format from the familiar .xls to the new .xlsx and .xlsm files. This change meant that Excel files could store over 1 million rows (when they were previously limited to 16,384) and vastly improved security. Excel’s charting features were also greatly improved in this version.

Surveys at the time showed that the majority of users didn’t like the new interface, but Microsoft persisted with the Ribbon and most users now probably wouldn’t want to go back!

If you need to learn Excel 2007, you should use our complete Excel 2007 course.

Excel 2004 (Mac)

Excel 2004 was only released for Apple Mac computers.

We don’t offer a course for Excel 2004, but we do offer a complete course for Excel 2016 for Mac. If you want to use our courses to learn on an Apple Mac computer, you should upgrade to Excel 2016 first.

Excel 2003 (Windows)

Excel 2003 was the final version of Excel to use the old ‘WIMP’ interface, which stands for “Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer”. If you used it, you might remember the drop-down menus and icons at the top of the screen.

Excel 2003 was also the first version of Excel to include the Tables feature, although it was much improved upon later.

We don’t offer a course for Excel 2003, but we do offer Excel 2016, 2013, 2010 and 2007 courses. If you are using Excel 2003 you should upgrade to a more recent version to learn Excel.

Older Windows versions (2002, 2000, 97, 95, 4.0, 3.0, 2.0)

Earlier versions of Excel stretch all the way back to Excel 2.0, which was released in 1987. Some of the most familiar features of Excel date back surprisingly far!

AutoFill was first introduced in Excel 4.0, which was released in 1992.

VBA and Macros date back to Excel 5.0, which was released in 1993. The flexibility of VBA meant that Excel became a significant target of macro viruses until Excel 2007 revamped the file formats to improve security.

The Office Assistant “Clippy” was introduced in Excel 97, but most users found it extremely annoying! It was switched off by default in Excel 2002 and removed entirely as of Excel 2007.

If you’re using a very old version of Excel it’s probably time to upgrade! Our courses can help you get up to speed with any of the more recent versions of Excel.

Older Mac versions (2001, 2000, 98, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1)

It’s a little-known fact that the very first version of Excel was only released on the Mac, although Microsoft had an even earlier spreadsheet product called Multiplan, which was used on MS-DOS and other console-based operating systems.

The first Windows version of Excel was actually a port of the Mac “Excel 2”.

While Microsoft have recently released Excel 2016 for Windows and Excel 2016 for Mac under exactly the same name, they have actually done this before with Excel 2000, which was released for both Mac and Windows.

If you’re using a very old version of Excel for Mac it’s probably time to upgrade! Our Excel 2016 for Mac courses can teach you everything you need to know to use the most recent versions of Excel.

OS/2 Versions (2.2, 2.3, 3)

OS/2 was an operating system developed by Microsoft and IBM in 1985. It was taken over by IBM exclusively in 1992, but three versions of Excel were released for OS/2 in the meantime.

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