Excel user considering switching to a Mac


My 2006 Dell has almost had it so it’s time for a new Desktop.

After 20 years I am considering switching from Windows to an iMac for two reasons, (1) everyone tells me Mac's are great and (2) I’ve got Windows 8 on my new Notebook and I hate it.

My concerns are that my main usage of the computer (for work) are Excel and Outlook.

On Excel I make extensive use of keyboard shortcuts, such as F4 (repeat key) and old remembered ALT combinations (such as ALT, I, C inserts a column, that sort of thing).

These shortcuts, ingrained in my brain over 20 years are considerably faster than mouse equivalents, so I worry about losing those.

I also make a lot of use of both the Windows Delete and Backspace keys, and the numerical keypad, and I currently have a cool Logitech illuminated keyboard that helps me work in low light. (doesn’t seem to be an exact equivalent for Mac and Logitech won’t guarantee my Windows keyboard work would on a Mac).

I’ve heard you can run the Windows version of Excel using ‘Parallels’ on the Mac but I wonder will it be exactly the same as in Windows? Will all the features and shortcuts come across just like I was on a Window machine?

I'd be interested in any feedback please.

I need some convincing.  :-)

Who is Participating?
byundtConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I have been running Windows versions of Excel on a Mac with Parallels for almost a decade. I do so because I love the hardware quality of the Mac--especially in comparison to the Compaq, Dell and HP computers I used to use at work. You will love the screen, keyboard and trackpad, each of which has "best of breed" quality.

Mac Excel has been a stepchild of the Windows version since Excel 97, reaching its relative nadir with Excel 2008, which gained the big sheet of Excel 2007 but lost VBA. Excel 2011 restored VBA, but still runs slower as native software (in my opinion) than Excel 2010 or 2013 do in emulation with Parallels.

I am currently using Excel 2013 in emulation with Parallels 9 on a 2009 MacBook Pro. I think the speed is plenty fast enough for the computationally heavy workbooks I use in my engineering day job. All of Windows Excel's keyboard shortcuts work, excepting only those that use the Windows key which doesn't exist on a Mac keyboard. Since I use a Mac laptop, I really miss having access to the ALT + 0xxx numeric keypad shortcuts for characters like degree sign, superscript 2 & 3 and em dash.

On my laptop, the Delete key works like a backspace. If I hold the fn key down, the Delete key works as a forward delete. Likewise, if I hit a function key, I get the "system control" feature like adjusting screen brightness. But if I hold the fn key down, then it works just like a Windows function key. I consider this tradeoff to be acceptable.

Since you are looking at an iMac, you should be aware that it comes with a wireless keyboard that doesn't have a numeric keypad. But if you do a custom order, you can get it with a wired keyboard complete with an integrated numeric keypad--as a no charge option. The wired keyboard also includes page up, page down, home and end - and full-size arrow keys. It is not illuminated, however.
Steven HarrisPresidentCommented:
I may be taking to this in another way, but I'll go ahead:

What are your frustrations with Win8?  Have you looked into the 8.1 upgrade yet?  One of the biggest features I despised was the Start Page, but I circumvented that with Strat8.

Now getting back to your actual query:

From what I understand (I am not a Mac user) is that you will lose of the function keys and short-cuts keys when using Parallels, as some of the keys are reserved for the virtual client.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
If you run Windows in Parallels on a MAC then you have Windows and can run whatever version of Office you wish.

Have you tried Office for MAC?  It should work and then that is the way I would go.

If you need Windows Office, then why not just stay with Windows?

I have Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit running on my ThinkPad with Office 2013. It works great.

If you can tell the difference between my Windows 8.1 desktop, Windows 7, VIsta, XP, 2000, NT4, and Windows 95 desktops, you are better than me. I made them all the same.

So there is really no reason not to use Windows 8.1.  

However MAC and Office for MAC should work as well.

.... Thinkpads_User
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Scott Fell, EE MVEDeveloper & EE ModeratorCommented:
I used to be an excel power user on a pc.  When vista came out, I switched to a mac after many years but I also did not need to use excel to the degree I was used to.  However, when you are used to using fast keyboard short cuts on the pc, you will have frustration going to the mac as they don't exist.   Also, if you need to do any type of vb scripting, that will not be available on the mac.

Now I am almost ready to get a new computer and I have been using both iMac and mac book pro and I am not a big fan of either mac/pc at this point.  I just want something that works and I will go with what will be the best value as I think both mac and pc have what I need.

If excel is important to you, stay pc.  If outlook is important to you, stay pc.  

I have had both my mac's for over 5 years now and they do run well.  I have gone from osx 10.5 to 10.8 always waiting until they get the kinks out before upgrading and never had a problem.  Plus, the os upgrades have been under $30 bucks and now the newest is free.

However, a new mac book pro is going to set you back $1200.  You can get 2 or 3 decent pc lap top's over that 5 year period for that same price.
Sigurdur ArmannssonConnect With a Mentor Designer Commented:
You can also boot a mac as a pc computer (after preparing it and installing Windows etc.).

It's like having two computers so you have to restart to get between the windows and mac versions.

Parallels on the other hand intergrades windows and mac os and pc applications run like they were (almost a natural) part of the mac environment.

If you turn over to the Excel 2011 (mac) you can add missing keyboard shortcuts in System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard shortcuts.

If 2003 2007 2010 2013 on pc and 2004 2008 2011 for mac series continues, Office 2014 should be next and will probably be much like 2013 on the pc.
Glen_SydneyAuthor Commented:
Thankyou for all of the feedback so far, it is very helpful.

In Excel for Windows I use the ALT key a lot to get to the access keys needed to drive the ribbon with a keyboard only (i.e. the letter in the menu item that used to get underlined in older versions of Excel).

Like for example I know that ALT, E, S, V gives you Paste Special.

Might sound strange but I have memorised a lot of these years ago and can type them very quickly.

Am I right in thinking that on a Mac there is no equivalent keyboard access to the Ribbon because there is no ALT key on the Mac keyboard …… even if running Excel for Windows in Parallels?

What happens if I was to plug a Windows keyboard into the iMac, would the ALT key work then in Parallels?

Thanks again.
Sigurdur ArmannssonDesigner Commented:
The Alt key on the mac is called Option and in fact it says usually alt on the keyboards.

In my opinion Apple should start using then name Alt all the time. It would make life much easier for most.
Sigurdur ArmannssonDesigner Commented:
And yes, as far as I know Alt/Option would work mostly in the same way when using Parallels. There are a few keys you might have to change. Parallels has customizable keyboard shortcuts.
Scott Fell, EE MVEDeveloper & EE ModeratorCommented:
I don't know about parallels, but on office 2008 for mac the alt key does not work like you expect.  My opinion about Parallels or having to dual boot, if you need the pc to do what you want, then buy a pc.   If you buy a mac and want to run windows, you still have to purchase windows, Parallels.  If it is that important to you and there is nothing you need that can only be done on a mac, then get a pc.
Further to sigurarm's Comment regarding the relationship of Mac versions of Excel with the Windows versions, I recently attended a presentation to the MVPs by Microsoft's Mac team on the next version of Excel. While I can't go into any details, I think you will be pleased with the planned changes. If they deliver on everything mentioned, I'll be first in line to buy a copy--and you should be second.
Scott Fell, EE MVEDeveloper & EE ModeratorCommented:
byundt - I hope that is true...
Glen_SydneyAuthor Commented:
I'm now finding a fair bit on the Internet about remapping keys so as to retain familiar shortcuts e.g. to put 'CTRL+C' back to where it should be   :-)   although I'm not sure if that includes the possibility of using the ALT key to activate the ribbon in Excel under Parallels (either using the iMac keyboard or better still my Windows keyboard which I'd like to keep because it is illuminated).
With Parallels, CTLR + C works just like it does on a Dell. I use CTRL + C and CTRL + V all the time. And fn + ALT will display the keyboard shortcuts above the ribbon.
Glen_SydneyAuthor Commented:
Ah, that sounds promising, thank you.   Do you know if the same would apply if I brought my Windows keyboard with me to Parallels?

It would be great if ALT would display the Excel keyboard shortcuts above the ribbon without the needing the FN key, mainly because on the extended Mac keyboard that I'll need (for the numerical keypad) the FN key seems to be way over to the right near Home, End etc.

I'm fussy, I know, sorry for all the questions, I just want to be very sure before I make the final decision! :-)
byundtConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I just launched Excel 2003 in Parallels 9 so I could see the menus respond while I investigated your question. I can confirm that the ALT key shortcuts work as expected to simulate menu clicks. ALT +EC opens the Edit menu and selects the Copy command. ALT + EP opens the Edit menu and selects the Paste command. And now that I know that particular sequence, it also works in Excel 2013.

I did not need to press the fn key. Though my Mac laptop does not have a dedicated ALT key, the Option key is labeled with "alt" in small print so you know that's the one to use in Windows programs. This key is also in the expected place in the keyboard: the second key to the left of the spacebar.
Glen_SydneyAuthor Commented:
That is excellent news.   Thank you so much, you are very kind.

If it works like that on a Mac keyboard in Parallels I'd think a Windows keyboard should do similarly.
Glen_SydneyAuthor Commented:
Thankyou for your advice.   With much trepidation I switched to an iMac, installed Parallels, Windows 8.1 and my trusty Office 2010.

The first week has been like trying to learn an entire new language whilst working full time at the same time.

Slowly I'm settling into it after much googling of "How do I now do this .....?"

An app called KeyRemap4MacBook saved my sanity by putting my CTRL, ALT and WIN keys back where they should be in Mac OS X, and by making the arrow keys, HOME and END keys do what they are supposed to do (speaking as a 20 years Windows user of course).   :-)

XTRAFINDER restores some Windows Explorer functionality (and common sense) into Mac's Finder (yes, pressing ENTER really can open a file!).

There's a few quirks that I need to try to sort out, but for the most part the really important thing (to me) is that when I'm in Excel with Parallels it is as if I am working on a Windows PC, ...... all my favourite shortcuts..... they are all there!

Now I just hope it works out in the long run.
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