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Mac Excel 2008 vs Excel 2004 Performance Test
Posted: Jan 24, 2008

(from a reader mail - I don't own Mac Office 2008 personally.-Mike)

I thought I would share with you and your readers some alarming performance issues I have been having with Excel 2008. I have a 1.83 GHz Core Duo MacBook running 10.4.11 with no "haxies" or performance issues in any other applications. I have Office 2004 which of course runs via Rosetta emulation.

As Office 2008 is Intel native, I was expecting a speed-boost over 2004. However, I have found that creating and editing charts is over four times slower in 2008 as opposed to 2004!

As an example comparison, I have a spread-sheet containing three columns of data, each 1201 cells long. One column is "X" data, the other two are "Y" data - for building an X-Y chart with two lines on one graph.

I performed a sequence of operations using this .xls file in Excel 2004, and then repeated the same operations in Excel 2008. In each case, Excel 2004 or 2008, Activity Monitor and TextEdit were the only programs running on the system (apart from Finder and the usual background processes. I do not have any "haxies" such as A.P.E.)

First I ran the tests in Excel 2004, then I rebooted my laptop and ran the tests in Excel 2008.

Unless otherwise stated, the time quoted is the time taken from the moment the operation is initiated to the moment Excel is ready for further user input. The amount of RAM being used by Excel immediately after a given action has been performed, as reported by the "real memory" column of Activity Monitor, is also quoted. The sequence of operations was as follows:

1.) Launch Excel (timed from clicking the dock in the icon to the moment at which Excel is ready to accept user input).

2.) Open the .xls file (timed from the moment the "open" button is clicked in the "open file dialogue" to the moment the file is completely loaded).

3.) Make an X-Y chart with a smoothed line. In Excel 2004, this requires the use of the "chart wizard", but in 2008, the "gallery" is used. In 2008, the gallery generates a chart using the defaults, i.e., it delivers the same result as 2004 would if the "next" button were to be pressed in the "chart wizard" repeatedly without making any modifications. Therefore, in Excel 2004, the time quoted is the time taken from the moment the "chart wizard" button is pressed to the moment the new chart appears on the sheet and Excel is ready to accept user input again, the "next" button being clicked as soon as possible along each step of the chart wizard. For Excel 2008, the time quoted is that taken from the moment the "charts" button is pressed to the moment the chart has appeared in the sheet and Excel is ready for user input.

4.) Update the chart so that it appears in its own sheet.
5.) One of the X-Y lines is moved to a secondary axis.
6.) Label each axis.
7.) Change font for X-axis.
8.) Change font for first Y-axis.
9.) Change font for second Y-axis.
10.) Change number format of X-axis and scale to logarithmic.
11.) Change range and number format of first Y-axis.
12.) Change range and number format of second Y-axis.
13.) Change line and marker style for line 1.
14.) Change line and marker style for line 2.
15.) Save file under new file name.
16.) Close file.
17.) Quit.

The results are as follows:

For Excel 2004:
1.) 16.89 seconds, 67.36 MB
2.) 1.47 seconds, 75.72 MB
3.) 13.66 seconds, 84.50 MB
4.) 13.88 seconds, 87.41 MB
5.) 9.28 seconds, 89.03 MB
6.) 30.82 seconds, 93.81 MB
7.) 8.24 seconds, 95.02 MB
8.) 5.96 seconds, 98.9 MB
9.) 5.06 seconds, 99.23 MB
10.) 17.19 seconds, 100.34 MB
11.) 10.74 seconds, 101.06 MB
12.) 14.26 seconds, 101.91 MB
13.) 11.62 seconds, 103.96 MB
14.) 8.30 seconds, 104.69 MB
15.) 8.48 seconds, 106.86 MB
16.) 0.5 seconds, 103.82 MB
17.) 1.69 seconds.

Total time: 178.04 seconds (2 minutes and 58.04 seconds)

For Excel 2008:
1.) 24.78 seconds, 72.63 MB
2.) 1.83 seconds, 73.14 MB
3.) 24.53 seconds, 209.01 MB
4.) 24.19 seconds, 227.94 MB
5.) 77.09 seconds, 374.86 MB
6.) 202.22 seconds, 374.04 MB
7.) 24.49 seconds, 373.97 MB
8.) 20.66 seconds, 374.05 MB
9.) 19.28 seconds, 374.00 MB
10.) 47.78 seconds, 403.24 MB
11.) 84.21 seconds, 405.23 MB
12.) 101.66 seconds, 405.35 MB
13.) 43.16 seconds, 359.18 MB
14.) 42.55 seconds, 311.45 MB
15.) 34.27 seconds, 312.31 MB
16.) 0.4 seconds, 302.83 MB
17.) 1.47 seconds.

Total time: 774.57 seconds (12 minutes and 54.57 seconds)

I hope that these results make it clear as to why I am currently deeply unimpressed by Excel 2008. I hope that Microsoft are aware of these issues and are working hard to correct them.

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