I’m excited to announce a significant improvement to one of spreadsheeting's oldest features - Manual calculation mode. Manual calculation mode debuted in VisiCalc in 1979 (44 years ago), 6 years before the first release of Excel. Since its release, the user experience has remained largely the same, until now.
Stale Value Formatting
Manual calculation mode suspends calculations, which means that the values in cells can become out of date. We refer to these as being stale. When you edit a cell in a spreadsheet, not all cells become stale, just the ones that depend on your change. Excel tracks stale cells internally, however, there's been no way to see which cells are pending calculation.
With this update, we show these stale cells by striking them out. That way you know not to rely on them until they are calculated.
While stale formatting will most often be seen in manual calculation mode, it is not limited to it. For example, you can get stale cells in automatic calculation mode if you abort a long-running calculation by pressing escape. Once the calculation resumes and completes, the stale formatting will be lifted.
When a cell containing a stale value is selected we show a warning icon. If you click on the icon, you get a handy menu with contextual actions such as triggering calculation or switching to automatic calculation mode.
Turning Off and On
Stale Value Formatting is an application setting that is on by default. If you prefer, you can turn it off via the Format Stale Values checkbox located under the Calculation Options menu on the Formulas tab.
You can see how this all works for a simple loan calculator in manual calculation mode. Notice how the edits create stale cells which calculation later clears.
Stale Formatting is currently available to users running Beta Channel on Windows. This feature will roll out to Excel for Windows first and come to the other platforms at a later date.
Don’t have it yet? It’s probably us, not you. Features are released over some time to ensure things are working smoothly. We highlight features that you may not have because they’re slowly released to larger numbers of Insiders. Sometimes we remove elements to further improve them based on your feedback. Though this is rare, we also reserve the option to pull a feature entirely out of the product, even if you, as an Insider, have had the opportunity to try it.
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