Microsoft says I should be more creative with Excel, so I took the bait

Are these Microsoft suggestions really things you'd ever do? Except for, perhaps, one of them.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
Two people looking at laptop with graphs

Sudoku, anyone?

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It must be hard to be really, really good at one dull thing.

If you're the greatest toilet brush maker in the world, it's surely not easy to launch, say, a soap dispenser or a showerhead.

So I welled up with sympathy on hearing that Microsoft is desperate for you to take one of its dullest, most successful products, and actually enjoy using it.

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I received an email, you see, from the company, with a hearty New Year's twist. The subject line was, "Try one of these creative ways to use Microsoft Excel this year." 

I confess I'd never thought I'd see a sentence that included the words "Excel" and "creative," unless that sentence was, "If you're just not creative at all, you might actually enjoy using Excel." 

Yet here is Microsoft with six suggestions that may inspire you to greater heights or merely drift your mind to a wintery woe.

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Firstly, Microsoft would like you to use Excel to track your fitness.

Don't desperate fitness people already have fancy watches and apps to do just that? Don't they adore sharing their performance data with their fitness trainers, significant friends, or just every other fitness obsessive in the world? 

The mere idea of Excel somehow dramatizing or even enlightening one's fitness numbers seems quaint.

If that doesn't grab you either, how about using Excel to play Sudoku? I always thought people used Sudoku to play Sudoku, and there's surely nothing playful about Excel. How would Excel enhance the Sudoku experience? I have no clue.

Also: The 5 best fitness trackers 

Microsoft's third suggestion is equally sedentary: Follow your sports bracket.

Oh, I suppose.

I think Microsoft is specifically referring to the NCAA Tournament, without actually naming it for legal reasons. Again, though, Excel for that? Aren't there a hundred prettier little apps that give your bracket a more glorious look? Or am I simply not giving Excel sufficient credit?

Microsoft is undeterred. If you don't want to use Excel for your sports bracket, how about using it to plan your vacation? I actually clicked on that link from the email and found, oh, the Trip Planner with the word "worksheet" in parentheses.

I don't want planning my trips to be work. I want them to be fun. And the templates Microsoft offers here look anything other than a day at the beach.

Also: The 5 best trip planner apps

Was Microsoft getting desperate here? I fear it's possible. Especially as its next idea was "Create Pixel Art."

I have no idea what this has to do with Excel as, when I clicked on the link, it took me to a TikTok of illustrations from circa 1978. One was of a waffle, I'm told, because waffles have rows and columns.

This wasn't working on me. It just wasn't. It wasn't working on everyone on the TikTok page either, as there were comments, such as "Can't open Microsoft Edge help" and "How do I get the TPM 2.0 Stick for Windows 11?"

I was feeling spent. None of these creative Excel activities felt appealing. None of them screamed at me to change my less than Excel-lent ways.

But there was one more suggestion to go. This would surely be the most creative of all. You have the leave the best for the end, surely.

Well, suggestion No. 6 was: "Organize Your Week. Stay on top of your to do list and make time for what's important."

Also: The 6 best to-do list apps

Ah. Oh.

I felt Microsoft had run out of ideas. I know a lot of people use Excel for organization, so I struggled to see how this idea was in any way creative.

Please, it may well be there are many people around the world who are immensely adept at using Excel for all sorts of exciting things. Why, Microsoft itself even holds an Excel championship for truly exciting people. Like actuaries, I think.

I fear, though, that for very many people, Excel is just a dull, efficient, utilitarian thing, and it will always be so -- until ChatGPT makes it redundant, I suppose.

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