MacOS and Excel

The recent 30 day with iPad thread got me thinking about Excel on macOS and how limiting macOS is for Excel. I am starting to learn power BI and Power Pivot and not surprised that this is not available on the Mac version. So I use VMware and use that to run Excel in a windows environment.

This is the first job where I am on a Mac platform completely and it’s been amazing except the transition to Excel.

So I thought it would be great to share some tips or workarounds when we need to use advanced Excel stuff.

One thing I learned is renaming a table can only be done in the table design tab (or the other table tab). I was so used to changing it in Name Manager, I wanted like half a day trying to find a solution. No one knew what I was talking about in various Excel boards. Argh.

The other thing is a keyboard shortcut when operating in VMware. In windows you can quick select ranges by using the shift, ctrl, and arrow keys but I think in VMware I have to hold down ctrl and cmd. Is there any way to get the keyboard shortcut to act more windows like? I’m not in front of my Mac now so could have the wrong key combo.

Also power BI is very laggy in VMware. Is there a setting I can tweak to enhance performance?

It would be great to hear any other tips and tricks.

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I use Excel for Windows using my work’s Citrix desktop, alongside SPSS and various other pro data analysis tools. I wouldn’t dream of using the Mac version of Excel either, as its missing so many crucial features. Thankfully, my university has invested heavily in hardware and infrastructure so it runs lightning fast, even off site.

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I’ve been a user of Vmware Fusion for 6 years or so and recently my IT department moved me to parallels. It’s been a significantly better experience. I am not a heavy user of windows but excel is something I need to use in windows as well as the software my own company makes to control and configure our hardware.

Parallels have got wake-sleep to be so quick now. It’s like driving a new style car that stops the engine at red lights, you just get used to it. You can really just leave it running all the time.

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Excel… oh, I remember… me (a guy with background in biology) learned R and Python and started programming like mad (which, in the end, got me a pretty good job in IT) only because I refused to use this jack_of_all_trades and at the same time, good_for_nothing tool :slight_smile: So, I owe Excel a lot - for being so bad, that I’ve never used it :slight_smile:


I hate the subscription style pricing though. Is it just the wake/sleep where you’ve noticed better performance or other areas too?

In general, it seems to be less resource intensive however it does have its moments. You’re not going to want to run for long on batteries.

In fairness to Vmware I don’t believe I was running the latest and greatest when they switched me over.

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I run Windows 10 in a Parallels VM. Excel and the rest of Office work fine. I use the Office suite extensively as that is my clients’ standard. Haven’t tried PowerBI on Parallels – but I don’t see why it would be a particular challenge. (I gave up on VMWare several years ago due to performance issues and crashes.)

Although I switch between Mac, Windows, iOS and the web versions of Excel and the other Office apps, I always return to Windows because the Office apps there are full featured. The one exception is the Outlook Web App (OWA) – if you have access to an Enterprise subscription (E3 or E5) the OWA 2019 implementation and integrations is very good.


I’m using Excel on Mac - but only as a vehicle to turn CSV files that came from elsewhere into graphs.

I find the experience immensely frustrating in a number of ways. I’d put that down to Excel rather than Excel-on-Mac.

In any case I do as much manipulation outside of Excel - such as selecting columns or arithmetic. And I’ve used Keyboard Maestro to reduce the friction in e.g. sizing graphs. (Ctrl+s resizes the graph - but I have to get to the right pane for that to even work.)

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Update. I installed Power BI desktop into my Windows 10 VM running under Parallels and opened some hefty data sets from as a trial. Seems to perform OK thus far.


I had a similar trajectory - not because Excel (and before it Quattro Pro and OpenOffice) were particularly bad but because I realized the spreadsheet data structure didn’t work for me. I didn’t need to see hundreds of numbers update at once - I needed to be able to pull out key results and be able to easily recall or replicate the way I got them, particularly as I might go months without needing to access the data, then work intensively for a week or so. A spreadsheet with all the calculations hidden away in formulas proved to be much less useful for me than well-commented R scripts which let me easily see exactly how my data was being processed.

I also found R to give me much more precisely customizable graphs and other visualization than I was getting with Excel. Much easier (for me) to tweak a few parameters in a script than to wade through all the menus in Excel.

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I realized the spreadsheet data structure didn’t work for me.

Oh, it didn’t work for more people than us.

Another problem is performance of excel - I had to work on multiple arrays with millions of numbers each and excel was performing… I would say, it was not performing at all. The problem is not excel per se - although I find Numbers much more convenient and logical for small table tasks. The problem are people why try to use it for complex calculation tasks with its semi-visual approach and quirky scripting language. It is hard to document properly and almost impossible to understand for others. It should, actually, be absolutely forbidden in science since every approach it teaches you is wrong, wrong, wrong.

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You could try PowerBI to do this but would require Windows.

A bitter battle yesterday. Trying to download a SharePoint list into excel for the Mac so I could send it to a client. I spent a lot of time in the google surf finding a number of PC solutions which don’t work for the Mac version.

A recurring response from Microsoft experts was to upvote this feature for future updates.
I have been down this rabbit hole before trying to find work with pivot tables and received the similar advice - up vote.

There are use cases where I need pivot tables. Numbers, Sheets, Open Office, Office Libre do not provide this function. Been there, tried it. It would have been nice to download, open and send the spreadsheet list to the client. But no, we do not have platform parity for this program.

Does anyone know, short of showing up in Redmond with torches and pitchforks - how we get to see the upvoting progress at Microsoft?

What function do you need in pivot tables that Sheets does not provide?

I think most people don’t bother and just virtualise windows. There is always going to be “something” that doesn’t work quite right when attempting advanced tasks on Mac versions. I look at this quite pragmatically - you want to take away that nagging concern while working “does this feature actually work on the mac version at all” knowing that microsoft have an army of windows users using all these features but only a handful on the Mac. Things get better all the time but never as fast as we would like. I’m continuing to find more and more supported via web technologies which means I spin up my VM far less often now but its still an essential part of my workflow.

Large data set of incidents that is updated daily - the pivot table gets me quick counts by category, region etc. I have not seen a quick way to filter, count, and sort this data into an easy report format that can then be charted.

I run parallels. Had to install a PC version of the app on my windows SSD so now I have two versions of excel available. The Mac & Online versions that Mac OS could access would not handle the exported query file from SharePoint.

Well I was going to write a long post about the virtues of R over Excel and then I scrolled up in the thread & realized I already had🤷🏻‍♂️


Excel ist the only reason I have a Win10-VM on my Mac…


I’ve recently switched to using Parallels instead of Citrix (which was a Remote Desktop). It is incredibly fast and lets me launch Excel for Windows from Spotlight. It also means I don’t need to even interact with Windows with Coherence mode - it just goes straight to Excel. Launch time is unbelievably fast.

I need much more than just Excel though. A lot of the applications I use for work are Windows-only and I need to test apps on Windows, so it is worth the cost for me.