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How can we improve Excel for Windows (Desktop Application)?

Restore MDI file handling (open all files in one window); Kill SDI (each spreadsheet opens in a seperate window)

In the good versions of Excel (prior to 2007) one could open multiple workbooks in the same window. Now, one has multiple instances of Excel (and every other Office app) whenever one opens more than one document / spreadsheet. Quite stupid.

(2016-04-27 Dan [MS] - updated title to fix MDI/SDI usage - they were previously being used "backwards")

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    LilBro shared this idea  ·   ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
    Accepting Votes  ·  AdminExcel Team [MSFT] (Admin, responded  · 

    Thanks for all of the votes – the team has definitely taken notice of the activity around this issue. We moved to SDI as a result of customer requests, but it looks like we’ve got work to do to really nail the use cases people care about. From a read over the comments, I see a number of cases that we will want to investigate further as we think through MDI vs SDI. We’ll get someone from the team to take a deeper look, and we may reach out to some of you for more clarification as we go. Thanks again for all the voting and passion here!

    John, Excel


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      • Doug Reid commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        @Roy. Sorry been tied up with 16 hour works days. Thanks for your registry information. It unfortunately did not work for me due to my version (Office 365 Home).

      • Marcia Kastrup commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Just one more idea I just had, maybe you guys, as you move on for example to Google sheets, can start and host your own forum that would help specifically non-pros like me transition from Excel to the alternative. Who knows, maybe you can make a business out of it, and help everyone in the process. I am sure there is enough Excel users as sick as I am of it, enough to form a good following to your site.

      • Marcia Kastrup commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Roy again, thank you for your thoughtful analyses of what is going on, and giving a view for the future. 12/10 "Something I've seen as a topic here, bearing on the discontent with the subject..."

        I am not a pro like you, or Alan Odom, and others on this thread. But my work is heavily dependent on Excel and has been badly affected by this issue. I am just here to make sure MS knows, we are all really disappointed, and just waiting for a way out of this mess - really stupid changes. And also to read what pros like you say, hoping you will point to a solution.

        As my hope that MS will do something about it nears its end, my hope remains strong that you guys will continue in this forum as you encounter solutions such as going to Google sheets, or others, so that I can be informed as to where to go, as I will happily leave MS.

        So please realize you have followers. You might just help us by leading the way out of this mess.

      • David Portwood commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I am still trying to do freelance work using MS Excel as platform for database applications, but now I have to explain why the client will have to endure screen flicker when opening another workbook to lookup data (or whatever other reason). I say, "It's just cosmetic; functionality and performance will not be affected." This is true, but... Bottom line, SDI is a reason for trying to cram everything into one workbook. This, of course, encourages a very poor programming practice. I'm looking even now at a bid asking for help making a workbook of size 15+M less awkward to use. The solution, of course, is to distribute the data across multiple workbooks and replace formulas and functions with VBA equivalents - but then you run into the problem of screen flicker because the macro will be constantly opening/closing workbooks to access data. Sure, the app still works, but it works ugly. Microsoft, get a clue. You had a really good thing going. For me, all I need is focus not to jump to another workbook when that workbook is opened. I should think it's a simple update to the VBA and workbooks.add() methods. Add a param to these methods control whether the workbook is opened visibly or not, or if focus moves to the new workbook or not.

      • Alan Odom commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Very poetic Roy – I can hear the rally cry!
        I started my career in the early days of Excel (just after Lotus), so I’ve been fortunate to grow and adapt with Excel as they’ve made continual improvements.
        Until the MDI/SDI fiasco, I’ve been supportive of the minor learning curves with new releases. I guess the time is near, to fully embrace Google Sheets and start the learning curve that will carry the next 20 years

      • Roy commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Something I've seen as a topic here, bearing on the discontent with the subject, that I'd like to point out is NOT necessarily what people have said it to be:

        "The investment of time in switching to a new spreadsheet would be just so huge that I have to have satisfaction here, or live with suckiness forever."

        Well, for those not old enough to have gone through it, people said that about Lotus and Wordperfect once upon a time.

        More tellingly, Lotus and Wordperfeect said that about Lotus and Wordperfect.

        What are those programs? Something used in WWII to break German codes? Maybe Apollo used them for the lunar landings? No. Those programs were given to us by God as the only things that could ever be used, but they are gone now. Admittedly, a large part of that was an aspect of monopoly power, but I'd say Google, at least, is in a position to do the same thing. And guess what? Their spreadsheet is free too.

        MS had better get it right. I ditched 123 for Quatro Pro, learning curve be d*mned and then Quattro Pro for Excel because they broke them, literally, broke and not paying bills, but still learning curve be d*mned. I gave up Locascript for WordStar and then Wordstar for Word, learning curves be d*mned. All of them lesser programs, at the time of shifting, than what I had been using.

        And another for the record: the competition uses Windows, unlike MS in competition back then so no advantage to MS there. Arguably, because I hate it, but have no power to change it and it must change to this for society's sake anyway, the fact that Google has built to use the cloud (storage and app farms, to anyone who remembers Lotus and Wordperfect, "magic" to anyone who remembers Locascript and Wordstar) while MS is slumping its way there, in poorly conceived ways, and maybe not for another decade (the threatened sea changes in their engine, vis-a-vis the seven new wonder-functions, which it is hinted will make using older versions impossible as backward compatibility isn't part of the functions but rather a backward compatibility ("xlfn.") engine that is NOT mentioned despite being pretty revolutionary (and in place for a little while now) and that can be clipped out of the program in a second. With a SNIP... no more effort than that... no more backward compatibility.

        At that moment, several hundred billion spreadsheets would be dead... except that Google stands ready to help. Lotus and Wordperfect all over again.

        And in the coming move to a big iron cloud that you only interact with, seldom running things at your own desk, and having incredible implications for the cell phone market as well (important in itself, but also a thing utterly beyond MS control, which is how ideas win - Blu-Ray won the moment its capacity increased significantly as suddenly why would anyone buy a few hundred million computers with 60% of the optical storage - nothing to do with movies like the HD people aimed at - the whole second, unrelated market thing is massive in economics), Google is poised, like MS remembers itself, to go from a few percent of the market to 90% in a couple years, then enjoy 20-30 years resting on their laurels, milking it. If they make the milking choice, knowing their end would come similarly, someday.

        So a big iron cloud, with no Windows needed, and a competitor built on that model... what is MS's profit going to do under those circumstances?

        Or they can do a wee bit of work and satisfy both sides of this issue (there is an argument in here the OTHER way around, though it gets little interest as they are winning right now and not anticipating having to argue their side again). Stave off the liquidators a while longer.

        Or not. But it is not actually that hard to shift major programs. We've done it before, as a society, and we will do it again. Here? Maybe? If we have to. It's a pain, but not an unending one and makes room for a whole new generation to rise bringing new (old) ideas with them. So... whatever MS. IGNORE us. P*ss on us with mendacity (read ol' Johnny's message to us) and outright lies. See where it gets you.

        I will have a perfectly functional spreadsheet to use whether it is yours or Google's. To steal from NFL Films: "YOU make the call."

      • Alan Odom commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        @John; @John, Excel; @Excel Admin; @Microsoft; @Excel Product Manager; @Any Microsoft employee willing to respond to our questions and concerns

        It has been nearly 9 months since we’ve been updated on this issue - please provide a status update.

        As a recap, here are the reasons why I (and post who have posted below) want MDI restored:

        1. Stability
        * I experience ~3X Excel crashes in 2016 (SDI) as compared to 2010 (MDI)
        * Microsoft claims Excel is more stable, but my experience is the exact opposite

        2. Screen Space / Real Estate
        * Drastically reduced screen space when each workbook requires its own Ribbon, Quick Access Toolbar and Formula Bar
        * 4 workbooks arranged in MDI – 896 visible cells; 4 workbooks arranged in SDI – 560 visible cells. This is a 63% reduction of space. This is not a linear relationship – you lose a larger amount of space with each additional workbook.
        * At most, you can only work with 2 workbooks arranged Horizontally
        * Arranging Vertically compresses the Ribbons to a point of complete uselessness
        * Using multiple monitors should not be a solution for a poorly designed/downgraded product (SDI)

        3. Toolbar to Workbook Confusion
        * One Ribbon + Quick Access Toolbar + Formula Bar to control all workbooks is far less confusing (MDI)
        * In SDI, each workbook remembers its own Ribbon setting creating additional work with redundant tasks. If you want to cycle through ~10 workbooks and change anything (Font, Page Layout, View), you must change the Ribbon on all 10 workbooks. Then, if you want to change something different, you must change each Workbook Ribbon again. This is massive waste of time/productivity
        * WebEx screen sharing is virtually impossible and difficult to share a desired workbook (see J. Summie comment on 26-Oct-2018).

        4. Navigation Between Workbooks
        *With MDI, Ctl+Tab and Ctl+Shift+Tab worked flawlessly to cycle (forwards/backwards) through all open workbooks in a single instance of Excel. Using the same key combinations in SDI, I always see a screen “blip” of the last used non-Excel program – why? For example, with two work books open in MDI you can hold Ctl-Tab down and it will cycle between the two rapidly (I would do this to see differences between files). With SDI, I always see the blip of a non-Excel program in the mix.

        5. Links (across workbooks)
        * Ability to update links between workbooks is less flexible – sometimes you want links to update and sometimes you do not. In the past, we could easily open a new/separate instance of Excel and prevent links from updating between workbooks. Now, it is far more difficult to open a new/separate instance of Excel and it is more confusing to work between 2 instances

        6. VBA – macro instability
        * Running macros between multiple Excel Workbooks is not consistent in SDI – sometimes it will choose the next workbook, sometimes it does not. There are a lot of comments on this topic. I can only imagine the countless hours of VBA work that have been destroyed by the forced SDI

        7. Closing Workbooks
        * With MDI, you could close and save ALL workbooks with a couple of mouse clicks. In SDI, you must close and save each workbook individually. If you have ~10 large workbooks open at once this will require you to stay engaged in the process as you will be forced to wait for each workbook to save, so you can save and close the next workbook (another massive waste of time/productivity).

        8. Minimize/Maximize Workbooks
        * Per Kary Williams post on 6-Aug-2018, working with 12 workbooks, with MDI you could use 3 mouse clicks, but with SDI it now takes 18 mouse clicks. Do you think the customer desires to use their mouse more? Kary was one of the lucky ones to revert back to 2010… but we’ll see her on this post in the future.

        9. Excel alternative?
        * 2010 is the only alternative at this point but will Microsoft will end support on 13-Oct-2020 (unfortunately, my I/T team will not put 2010 back on my PC)
        * Office 2019 – I have not determined if MDI will be restored, but given the absence of feedback from John (the admin of this page) I am not optimistic.
        * Other products (e.g. Google Sheets) requires a massive time investment to learn a new product. I’m not afraid to learn something new, but it is difficult to carve the time out of my day. Most of the products I’ve explored have some limitations/deal breakers compared to Excel. Even with the massive downgrade from MDI to SDI, it is still a better product in my opinion.

        In summary, I totally agree with an earlier comment regarding the decision to force the SDI platform on all Excel users. This decision did NOT have input from a moderate/advanced Excel user – it came from people who spend more time in Word and PowerPoint.

      • AnonymousAlso commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I started using Google Sheets some. I really like it's cross platform ability, the UI with the android app was big selling point. Simple sheets with inline formula work quite well.

        I would like to hear other options. VBA gets the job done, a real alternative needs to do something like this. Hmmm... wonder what might happen if Google Sheets started to support python scripting?

      • Niefer commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I voted too. Only 17 votes though.

        Which other spreadsheets can be considered? Excel is miles ahead of "other spreadsheets".

      • Mimi commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I just voted on the locked thread at the MS forum.
        I think the change will come when larger corporations add up the cost of converting to SDI. If MS doesn't resolve the problem they created, there is room for other spreadsheets to step in.

      • Ken commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        This is quite interesting ... a May 2018 post on official MS forum entitled "Petition to get rid of the Office SDI, or allow users to choose between SDI and MDI" has no responses, presumably due to the padlocked text at the bottom, " This thread is locked." By whom? Presumably not py the OP...

        I'm increasingly uneasy about trusting MS to do the right thing, technically or ethically

      • Roy commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Yep, that's the one.

        In the Support article it implies/makes clear that if the entry does NOT exist, you have MDI. MAYBE that is the case in a version that has MDI for a default. Hoever, my Excel 16 has SDI as a default and I was strictly limited to File|Open or everything created a new instance. After creating the entry and giving it the value of zero, rather than no entry at all, I got some capabilities back, for instance, being able to drag a file from Explorer onto the instance of Excel and it would open in that instance where before creating the entry, it would open its own instance.

        So take the "no entry at all is the same thing" that they either say or imply with several grains of salt.

      • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        @ Doug Reid. I was able to find the following including the link to the Microsoft page, I hope it helps.

        benmess commented on Restore MDI file handling (open all files in one window); Kill SDI (each spreadsheet opens in a seperate window)
        Hi all,
        I have finally been able to make this work either way by chnaging a registery key.

        See this article by Microsoft

        If you add the registry key word DisableMergeInstance and set it to 1, you get each file opening in it's own instance

        If you remove the word all files open in the same instance.

        You do not have a simple option within Excel. It is one way or the highway type thing but at least I can get it to work the way I want, which is all in the one instance.

        BTW - they have the key in the registry at HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Excel\Options
        which is actually HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Excel\Options in my case. (So I've only set it for my user login)

        I am using MSO 16.0.4513.1000 32-bit Excel 2016 Professional, installed locally (so not Office 365)

        I hope this helps some others

      • Roy commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        @Doug Reid:

        Sadly, it is no longer my most recent registry edit and it seems to have been deleted from here, a whole string of comments and comments back, 6-7-8 by different people. So I cannot say for sure.

        However, based upon memory, it was in a key in the Office structure and that key had a LOT of entries. In addition, it was a DWORD entry.

        So I will say it is the following key you want to add it to:


        or whatever corresponds in your system. It has entries for Custom Margins through Monitor Topology Fingerprint through Use System Separators.

        The name to add is, I believe (not from memory this time, but because it seems to fit best and EVERY other one there is pretty clearly not it):


        and the value to give it is zero ("0").

        (Because it is asking if you want to DISABLE merging instances which would disable all the MDI characteristics it will let you have. So 0 = False, as disbaling is NOT what you want to do, and should leave things enabled.)

        As I mentioned, it is not a return to MDI, and I went back and forth on it and deleted it too, hinking it had done nothing. Even thought it was a "ha ha" comment from a jack*ss until one of the comments had a Microsoft link for it (the real kind, one of their notes on how to work around their *****-ups, which, to be fair, though not happy, they DO come up with and offer while lots of others don't at all). Then I put it back in and suddenly caught on to the wording.

        The wording is like the way people write ballot initiatives, so a vote against turns out to be a vote for...

        Given the other stretch of comments is gone, I'm thinking this will only last so long and then be gone too. Stupid, really, given that I am less aggravated now I have this much, and one would expect others would be too, but... "beauro-think," aside from being the oxymoron of oxymorons, is a strange thing.

      • Roy commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        The registry modification DOES help out a bit. Now I can drag a file from Explorer onto the instance of Excel I have open and it will open in that instance where before the modification, it just wouldn't.

        However, that's aggravating to do. Clicking on the file in Explorer still launches a new instance of Excel. Don't get me wrong, I'm not undoing the modification but it isn't MDI.

        Further, I still can't drag an attachment onto the running instance of Excel and have it fire up. Won't open it at all. And every method of actually opening it opens a new instance of Excel. So... not MDI in the least.

        Lol, boy, they sure showed all of us "How could you not have a separate Undo stack for each file" people, didn't they? With SDI, it's completely not a problem...

        Lord, the way some people apparently think...

      • Trefor commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        @Alan Odom I just commented on the issues described in "Activeworkbook.close falsely triggers Userform QueryClose Event with CloseMode=5 (undefined constant!)"

        I think it's another one for your list. I had forgotten I had this problem back in Jan 2016 when I first ran my Excel 2010 VBA in 2013. My VBA opens multiple workbooks to extract data under the control of a central Excel Add-In. My VBA opens and closes multiple userforms which work perfectly under 2010, in 2013 userforms would just close unexpectedly leaving the user stranded mid task without a userform.

        I spent months re-writing a bunch of VBA code to get it to work in 2013, I don't recall any of it being a "fix", they were all undesirable workarounds.

        I'm still one of those lucky ones that works for a very large global company that has long ago moved to 2016/365 to still be able to use 2010. I may well be the last person in the company using 2010, the pressure is mounting, so really hanging out now for MS to fix the mess they have created here.

      • Mary commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Doug Reid - I also submitted a request to join the excel group and I did not get an approval notice, however when I clicked on the link this morning I was able to vote.

      • Doug Reid commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        @Dave Wilson. I submitted a request to join the Excel User Group yesterday, but am still waiting for approval.

      • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        A new bug in the everlasting torrent of misbehaviour of Excel2016 surprised me today.

        A workbook that has been in use since office 2007/2010/2013 is now not accepted anymore. I get an error that some functions exceed 8192 chars. I don't even know if that is teh case, but if it is, it is a problem in the new Excel version and not in prior versions.

        What a mess MS, what a mess

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