Differences between using a workbook in the browser and in Excel

When you open a Microsoft Excel 2010 workbook in the browser, the workbook opens in a Web-based viewer, or – if you are using Excel Online – a Web-based editor. This viewer and editor support most features of an Excel workbook, but not all. In addition, they support some features differently than Excel (the desktop program). To open a workbook that contains features unsupported by the Web-based viewer or editor, open the workbook in Excel.

The following sections summarize the differences between Excel 2010 features in Excel and in the browser.

In this article

Supported file formats

Features fully-supported when opening a workbook

Features that prevent a workbook from being opened

Differences in worksheet functions

Features that might display differently in a workbook in the browser

Features that might behave differently in a workbook in the browser

Unsupported interactions 

Supported file formats

Workbooks in any of the following file formats can be opened in the browser:

  • Office Excel 2007 Macro-Enabled Workbook (.xlsm)

  • Excel 2010 Workbook (.xlsx)

  • Excel 2010 Binary Workbook (.xlsb) file format

By using Excel Web App, you can open a workbook in Office Excel 2007 97-2003 format. However, you cannot open this workbook by using Excel Services.

Features fully-supported when opening a workbook

The following table describes features that are fully supported when you open a workbook in the browser:

Feature

Comments

Functions

All Excel worksheet functions, with a few exceptions. For more information, see Differences in worksheet functions in this article.

Dates

The Windows and Macintosh date systems.

Excel tables

Excel table data, column headers, calculated columns, total rows, structured references, and styles.

Cells

Cell values, including merged cells and cell content overflow.

Names

Defined names and named ranges.

Calculation

Calculation and recalculation settings, including automatic, automatic except tables, manual and iterative calculation settings for ranges or entire worksheets.

Charts

In general, charts, chart ranges, and PivotChart reports are fully supported when you open a workbook in the browser. However, you cannot open a chart in a workbook in the browser if that chart is part of a group of charts. In addition, you cannot open a chart in a workbook in the browser if the chart contains external references.

Formatting

Cell and cell range formatting, in workbooks, and number formats. In addition, conditional formatting is supported.

Connections

Connections to external data sources, including OLAP PivotTables.

What-if analysis tools

The results of using Goal Seek, Data Tables, Solver, and Series analysis tools.

Consolidation

Consolidated data from ranges.

Data sources

SQL Server, OLAP providers, OLEDB providers, and ODBC drivers. Note that not all data from external sources can be refreshed on the server.

External References

Excel Services not update external references (links). Instead, it displays the last known value for the reference.

Slicers

Slicers that were created in an Excel 2010 workbook can be displayed. However, if a workbook in the browser contains one or more slicers that are part of a group, you cannot open the workbook.

Sparklines

Sparklines that were created in an Excel 2010 workbook can be displayed.

Features that prevent a workbook from being opened

The following table describes features that prevent a workbook from being opened in the browser. To open a workbook that utilizes any of these features, open it in Excel.

Feature

Comments

Legacy macro languages

Microsoft Excel 4.0 Macro Functions and Microsoft 5.0 dialog sheets.

Controls

Form toolbar controls, Toolbox controls, and all ActiveX controls.

XML

XML maps and embedded smart tags.

Security and privacy

Workbooks, worksheets, or ranges with protection, and workbooks that have Information Rights Management (IRM).

Ink

All ink features including drawing, writing, and annotations.

OLE and DDE

Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) objects and Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) links.

Displayed formulas

Workbooks saved with the formulas that are displayed.

Data validation

Preventing invalid data entry and creating drop-down lists.

Data sources

Data retrieval services for Microsoft Business Solutions, Windows SharePoint Services lists, Microsoft SQL Server, external data ranges (also called query tables), and tables linked to Windows SharePoint Services lists.

Queries

Parameterized query tables.

External references to UDFs

External references (links) to user-defined functions (UDFs) in internal VBA projects, or UDFs in add-ins.

Comments

Display of and adjustment of comments.

Consolidation

Consolidated data from PivotTable reports.

Digital signatures

Visible and invisible digital signatures in a workbook.

Attached toolbars

Custom toolbars attached to the workbook by using Office Excel 2003 before the workbook was converted to Excel 2007.

PivotTables

PivotTables that are based on the Scenario analysis tool. In addition, you cannot open PivotTables that are based on ADO recordsets, or PivotTables that contain server-based page fields.

Scenario manager

Workbooks that contain scenarios that were defined by using the Scenario Manager feature.

Cell watches

Workbooks that use the Watch Window to monitor and report on cell contents.

Certain custom document properties

Workbooks that contain document properties that sync to changes in a cell.

Pivot tables with uncommitted writeback.

Workbooks that contain PivotTables with uncommitted writeback operations.

Top of Page

Differences in worksheet functions

The following table describes the differences in return values for those functions with limited support in the browser.

Function

Return value in Excel

R eturn value in the browser

HYPERLINK

An active link that you can click and follow

One of the following:

  • An active link that you can click and follow, if the All Workbook Interactivity and Workbook Navigation properties are configured.

  • An active link to another Web page or document. If the All Workbook Interactivity property is configured, but the Workbook Navigation property is not, you can click and follow this link, but not to a location in the workbook.

  • An inactive link text string that you cannot follow, if the All Workbook Interactivity and Workbook Navigation properties are not configured.

RTD

Real-time data from a program that supports COM automation

If there are values stored in the workbook that have been returned by the RTD function, those values are displayed.
If there are no values stored in the workbook that have been returned, a #N/A error is returned.
If, upon recalculation, an attempt is made to start the RTD function, a #N/A error is returned.

SQL.Request

The results of a query that is connected to an external data source

If there are values stored in the workbook that have been returned by the SQL.Request function, those values are displayed.
If there are no values stored in the workbook that have been returned, a #N/A error is returned.
If, upon recalculation, an attempt is made to start the SQL.Request function, a #N/A error is returned.

CHAR

A character specified by a number, and a block character for a nonprinting character.

A character specified by a number, and a blank value for a nonprinting character.

CELL

Information about the formatting, location, or contents of the upper-left cell in a reference.

Information about the formatting, location, or contents of the upper-left cell in a reference.
Cell information about color, file name, format, parentheses, prefix, protect, and width is not supported and returns a #VALUE! Error.

INFO

The path of the current directory or folder on the client computer.

A #VALUE! error.

The following volatile functions might return different values when they are calculated on a server computer for a workbook in the browser than when they are calculated in Excel on a client computer.

Function

Return value in client

Return value in the browser

NOW

The date and time on your client computer.

The date and time on the server computer.

TODAY

The date on your client computer.

The date on the server computer.

RAND, RANDBETWEEN

A random and therefore different number each time it is run.

A random and therefore different number each time it is run.

Top of Page

Features that might display differently in a workbook in the browser

The following table describes features that might display differently on a workbook in the browser.

Feature

Comments

Hyperlinks

Supported, but controlled by configuring different combinations of the All Workbook Interactivity property or the Workbook Navigation property.

Fonts

Fonts are usually the same style and size on the server as they are on the client. If a specific font is not available on the server, then the server might substitute another font.

Charts and PivotChart reports

Charts and PivotChart reports are displayed as static images. However, if you interact with a chart or PivotChart report by sorting, filtering, and so on, the data on which the chart or report is based is refreshed, and a new static image displayed.

Line borders

The following line borders are fully supported: all line colors; continuous- and double-line styles; solid, diamond, and dashed lines; thin, medium, and thick line weights. The following line borders are partially supported: triple- and double-line styles; dashed borders, including dashes composed of solid, diamond, square dotted, dash-short-dash, long-short-dash, and dash-short-dash-short-dash segments

Color gradient directions

Horizontal and vertical color gradient directions.

Cell fill color

Any fill colors might display differently, depending on browser settings.

Cell alignment

All cell alignments except vertical justify and vertical distributed alignment. These two alignments are replaced with vertical center alignment.

Cropped images and sheet background images

Files that contain one or more cropped images. The Web-based viewer can load a file that contains sheet background images, but does not display those images.

Text rotation

Text rotation is supported, along with cell and column header content overflow, horizontal or vertical left alignment for positive rotation (+) and horizontal or vertical right alignment for a negative rotation (-)

Bidirectional text

Fully supported when a set of characters from one language is displayed.

AS conditional formatting

Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services (AS) conditional formatting is limited to the following: font color; fill color; font flags, such as bold, italics, underline, and strikethrough; and format strings, such as number formats.

Office 2010 3-D graphic effects

Office 2010 3-D graphic effects, such as shadow, glow, warp, bevel, soft edges, recolor, and reflection are either removed or converted to an alternative effect.

The following 3-D charts are not supported: 3-D surface, wireframe 3-D surface, contour surface, and wireframe contour surface.

Features that might behave differently in a workbook in the browser

The following features might behave differently in a workbook in the browser.

Feature

Comments

PivotTable reports

Report filtering, member selection, expanding (drilling down), collapsing (drilling up) levels of data, sorting, filtering, and displaying and hiding subtotals.

Find Button image

Finding text, numbers, and dates by a case-sensitive match, and finding by the partial contents of a cell.

Outlining

Outlining that include displaying and hiding details.

Calculation

Automatic and manual calculation. However, circular references cannot be resolved. Instead, the workbook displays a message that there is a circular reference. In effect, the circular reference is cancelled to prevent the calculation from degrading the server performance.

Undo and Redo commands

Undo and Redo are not available when more than one person is editing the workbook at the same time in the browser.

VBA

If a workbook contains Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code, you can open it for viewing in the browser. However, you can’t edit the workbook in the browser, nor can any VBA code it contains be viewed or executed.

Save

Changes are saved automatically when you edit the workbook in the browser.

Unsupported interactions 

The following table describes interactions that are not supported for workbooks in the browser.

Feature

Comments

PivotTable reports

The Detail Group and Show Detail options (also called drill-through) for OLAP data, member search, Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services actions, or using the field list to add, rearrange, or remove fields.

PivotChart reports

Interacting directly with a PivotChart (because it is a static image).

Asynchronous evaluation of Cube functions

Asynchronous retrieval of data when a Cube function evaluates and the display of the #GETTINGDATA message before all data is retrieved. All data is retrieved synchronously before the view is displayed or redisplayed.

Find Button image

Finding by the underlying data (as opposed to the formatted data and by a case-sensitive match).

Replace

Replacing text and values after using Find Button image .

Advanced selection

Selecting an adjacent and nonadjacent cell range or the entire worksheet.

Calculation

Changing the calculation setting of the workbook once it is loaded.

Filtering and sorting

Sorting and filtering by color, and saving a filter or sort to the workbook in Excel Services.

Go To

All Go To operations.

Managing panes

Split and Freeze panes.

Zoom

Adjusting the view of a worksheet by a percentage of the actual size.

Hyperlinks in charts

Clicking and following hyperlinks in charts.

Table column headers

Replacement of worksheet column headers by Excel table headers when scrolling headers out of view in a scrolling region.

Cell fill patterns

All fill patterns.

Color gradient directions

Diagonal up, diagonal down, and corner-to-center color gradient directions.

Text rotation

The cell fill or pattern is not rotated with the text, diagonal borders display as though the text was not rotated, and horizontal or vertical alignment other than left alignment for positive rotation (+) and right alignment for a negative rotation (-).

Bidirectional text

Mixing right-to-left and left-to-right bidirectional text characters that have a different glyph (or character shape) orientation, such as ((left parenthesis) and ) (right parenthesis), is not supported in vertical text.

Nonprinting characters

Text with a 7-bit ASCII (a subset of the ANSI character set) value of 0 through 32, and any characters not supported by Extensible Markup Language (XML) version 1.0.

Page layout headers

Page layout headers and footers.

SSAS Tooltips

Tooltips of Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services member properties.

XML

XML expansion packs.

Top of Page

Expand your Office skills
Explore training
Get new features first
Join Office Insiders

Was this information helpful?

Thank you for your feedback!

Thank you for your feedback! It sounds like it might be helpful to connect you to one of our Office support agents.

×