Here's a neat time-saver in Excel 12.  Let's say that you have some numbers somewhere in the Excel grid, in this case monthly sales figures for the branches of a store:

Sales data in the Excel grid

Now, let's say I wanted to quickly find out the average or total sales for some or all of my store branches.  In Excel 12, I simply multi-select the sales figures of the store branches to compare and look down in the status bar at the bottom of the screen:

Math in the Excel status bar

As I select numbers in the grid, the status bar automatically updates with the most commonly computed simple formulas.  The status bar can display Average, Count, Numerical Count, Minimum, Maximum, and Sum.

Even discontiguous selections work just fine; you can CTRL+CLICK many different cells from different parts of the grid and the status bar will display the calculated values for only the selected cells.

This feature can be a big time-saver, especially for doing quick throw-away calculations.  The update speed, as you'd hope, is nearly instantaneous.  (I guess when home PCs contain processors which can perform billions of instructions per second, adding up a few thousand numbers isn't really so taxing.)

The Excel team blogged about this feature a few weeks ago and included some other tidbits about the new Office 12 status bar I'll be talking about more later this week.  They included some cool pictures of the new charting engine at work in the same post.

Smart, simple improvements are an important (and sometimes overshadowed) element of the revitalization of the Office user experience.