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Vanilla Excel is powerful Mini Excel Tutorial: Use Boolean Logic to Process Complex Data Mini Excel Tutorial: Use Boolean Logic to Process Complex Data Logical operators IF, NOT, AND, and OR, can help you get from Excel newbie to power user. We explain the basics of each function and demonstrate how you can use them for maximum results. Read More , precise, and performs miracles with data Mini Excel Tutorial: Using Advanced Counting and Adding Functions in Excel Mini Excel Tutorial: Using Advanced Counting and Adding Functions in Excel Counting and adding formulas may appear mundane compared to more advanced Excel formulas. But they can help you save a lot of time when you need to collect information about the data in your spreadsheet. Read More . And it can do even more for you and your data!

You can power up your Excel experience with add-ins. Ranging from data visualization 4 Data Visualization Tools For Captivating Data Journalism 4 Data Visualization Tools For Captivating Data Journalism Words and numbers are not enough. In the end, visuals will capture and convince your audience. Here are the tools that will help you turn your data into something great. Read More to external databases Excel Vs. Access - Can a Spreadsheet Replace a Database? Excel Vs. Access - Can a Spreadsheet Replace a Database? Which tool should you use to manage data? Access and Excel both feature data filtering, collation and querying. We'll show you which one is best suited for your needs. Read More , you’re bound to find something to push Excel into overdrive.

What Are Excel Add-Ins?

Excel add-ins extend the functionality of the software. They aren’t limited to Excel either. You can find add-ins for Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, SharePoint, Publisher, and now even Outlook. We are hoping to see the list grow when Office 2016 arrives with Windows 10 later this year When Does Windows 10 Come Out, How Can You Get It & What Happens to the Technical Preview? When Does Windows 10 Come Out, How Can You Get It & What Happens to the Technical Preview? Windows 10 is coming soon. Still confused about how the upgrade will work and wondering about the timeline? We have some answers, although more questions remain. Read More .

Excel actually comes bundled with just over a handful of popular add-ins–you just have to know where to look to activate them. Try File > Options > Add-Ins and see what is already available to your copy of Excel. Note the Manage drop down box, and the Go button? Pressing Go brings us to the Add-Ins installation/activation page. I’ve selected the Analysis ToolPak and the Solver Add-In. Once installed, these add-ins introduce new functions to the Data tab, under Analysis.

Excel Addins

Add-ins come in slightly different flavors, too:

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  • Excel Add-ins: These include those included in the Excel installation, and those added later via a .xll file.
  • Downloadable Addins: These include add-ins downloaded from Office.com, and usually extend the functionality of Excel, for instance granting greater communication and analytics with SQL Servers.
  • Custom Add-ins: These include custom, third-party Excel add-ins, Component Object Model add-ins, automation, VBA, and .xll extensions. Most custom add-ins require installation, rather than simply activating.

Information on installation or activation can be found on the add-in download page, and there is a large amount of literature online should you come unstuck at any point.

Apps for OfficeMicrosoft is slowly phasing out the term “add-ins” in favor of the popular and more relevant term “apps Microsoft Office Leaps Into a New Era with Touch First Apps & New Desktop Suite Microsoft Office Leaps Into a New Era with Touch First Apps & New Desktop Suite Office has been the gold standard for office suites for a very long time. Microsoft is working hard to keep it that way as it's expanding to new platforms and technology. Read More .” If you sign into Office, the Apps for Office button will appear in the Insert tab. Opening it up provides a direct link to the Office store and all of the add-ins and apps to be found there.

Let’s look at some of the best add-ins for Excel.

Power BI

A business is only as good as its data. And some businesses have all the data. Extracting maximum value from your data can empower your business, allowing you to make informed, direct decisions backed up with empirical evidence.

It can be a little tricky to get used to, and it does have its own, separate interface, but it will enable you to build beautiful data analytics dashboards Visualize Your Data & Make Your Spreadsheets User Friendly With An Excel Dashboard Visualize Your Data & Make Your Spreadsheets User Friendly With An Excel Dashboard Sometimes, a simple spreadsheet format isn't engaging enough to make your data accessible. A dashboard allows you to present your most important data in an easy-to-digest format. Read More you can share with the entire company. And people will be impressed, especially if they haven’t seen it before. You can consult the detailed Power BI support pages to get started or when you’re stuck.

Send to Power BI

A nice little add-in that allows you to send your data directly to the Power BI dashboard and analytics tool.

Bubbles, Radial Chart, and People Graph

Excel is an excellent data visualization tool Show, Don't Tell! Create Interactive Data Visualization With Tableau Public Show, Don't Tell! Create Interactive Data Visualization With Tableau Public Raw numbers and spreadsheets make you yawn? With Tableau Public, free for Windows & Mac, you can turn .xls or .txt data into meaningful visualizations such as graphs and charts. Read More and the charts included in the base design are extremely useful. Sometimes though, we just want something a little different. Here’s where Bubbles is useful, providing you a fun, immediately accessible interactive data visualization experience. Expand on the example table, or insert your own data to see what it can do. And play with the colors. Fun data times.

Excel Bubbles

The second data visualization tool is the Radial Chart. Again, it’s easy to use and offers you a new way of analyzing your data How to Use an Excel Pivot Table for Data Analysis How to Use an Excel Pivot Table for Data Analysis The pivot table is one of the single most powerful tools in the Excel 2013 repertoire. It is frequently used for large data analysis. Follow our step-by-step demonstration to learn all about it. Read More . I would stick with the default colors–the Night Vision offering makes my eyes bleed.

Excel Radial Chart

The third data visualization tool is People Graph, a nice little tool akin to an infographic design developed by Microsoft. Comes with 16 different shapes, 7 themes, and 3 chart types to bring your data to life.

Excel People Add In

Databurst

Databurst is a really pretty and well programmed interactive multiplatform visualization tool. It supports filters, slicers, formulas, hidden columns, and more, and you can access it from your desktop, tablet, or mobile.

Excel Databurst

As a bonus, Databurst includes a number of sample weather and geographical datasets–but they don’t quite compare to my breakfast analysis, included in the image.

Quandl

Sometimes you just need more data, and if you’re looking for serious volume these add-ins will give you those extra records you crave, you data-fiend, you. Quandle gives you that data functionality, granting you access to their massive range of datasets. You can also cross-reference the dataset with graphs found on their site.

Excel Quandle

Pro-Tip: Follow the on page instructions for advanced search within the Quandle add-in–it’s worth it if you’ve something specific to find.

DasData

Now, I haven’t had a chance to use this add-in, but it certainly looks very interesting. It pulls data from your IoT connected devices and displays them within a worksheet for you to manipulate, and allows you to share your personal datasets using JSON or XML. Best of all, it works in real-time, so you know exactly what your devices or sensors are doing every minute of the day.

Vertex42 Template Gallery

We recently wrote about the productivity boost you’ll find using Excel templates An Excel Template for Every Occasion An Excel Template for Every Occasion Skip the steep learning curve and sort your life with the power of Excel templates. We have compiled a selection of auto-updating templates to track budgets, manage projects, and more. Read More , and many of the best templates 10 Excel Templates To Track Your Health and Fitness 10 Excel Templates To Track Your Health and Fitness Read More in that article came from Vertex42. This add-in consolidates many of their best templates into one single, handy Excel app. You can even try it in your browser first. Use it!

Vertex42 Excel Templates

Audible Charts

This is really, really cool. Anyone who loves data visualization must give this a try. The Audible Charts app lets you listen to your data. The higher the number, the higher the pitch. Have a listen and look:

Excel Audible Charts

Slightly (completely) novel, but interesting nonetheless.

Bing Maps

Bing Maps plots location data from your worksheet onto a Bing Map, providing basic location based data visualization. In my quick mock up below you can see select MakeUseOf employee locations by country, but this can be narrowed down by Zip/Postcode, street addresses, states, counties, and much more.

Excel Bing Maps

If you have location-based relational data, you can multiple select columns and insert pie charts over your specified locations.

Roundup

We’ve covered data visualization, business intelligence, templates, audio visualization, and dataset importing. But there are many more Excel add-ins and apps out there for you to find, and as with most things Excel, if you’re thinking about something useful, chances are someone has read your mind.

Have you used Excel apps or add-ins before? What are you favorites? Let us know below!

  1. Jo
    September 15, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    This page has proved useful, yet infinitely ANNOYING because of the ads and links that break up the article. E.g. there are three of these huge link thumbnails before the first add-in is introduced.

  2. Thomas
    September 8, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    You can also use the Power-user add-in to create Mekko charts, automate formatting, manage merged cells, clean formulas and other advanced features for Excel

  3. PlusX
    April 25, 2016 at 7:47 am

    PlusX Excel Add-In (www.plusx.me)

  4. Maxwell Winter
    July 13, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    If you're genuinely interested in good visualization add-ins (or apps, or whatever) for Excel you should also include some that aren't available in the Microsoft app shop. One example could be Zebra BI (https://zebra.bi/). It's not as innovative as for example the audible charts but much more practical when it comes to business purposes like best practice reporting, etc. You should check it out!

  5. Chris Worthington
    June 16, 2015 at 8:43 am

    Hi Gavin, where are they available? I downloaded a "bubbles" add in for Excel 2010 and it was radically different.

  6. Gavin Phillips
    June 12, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Sorry if it reads like that. It isn't meant to be. There are a vast many addons for Office 2010, and even for earlier versions, in handy to read formats like this article. You'll have to download and install them manually, is the only difference. The activation process I outlined is still largely the same.

    Thanks for reading!

  7. Neil Watson
    June 12, 2015 at 10:37 am

    Nice selection but some of us are still using Office 2010. This list could be seen as an advertorial for Microsoft's app shop?

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