When Microsoft Office launched 2010, Excel was probably the program that had been least changed - but this has not made people any more confident about using the application. For some, it was the painful memories of using macros in the 2007 version that set them off. Including shapes or charts in your macro recording could leave the final file with huge function gaps or, even worse, a blank recording.

With Excel 2010, however, you can compose graphics-inclusive macros without fear of any glitches making their way into your spreadsheets as Microsoft have ironed out the macro monsters.

And if security was a worry, then rest easy. Previous security problems have now been dealt with in an enhanced Protected View. Any Excel document or Excel-readable document with suspicious origins is automatically opened in Protected View, disabling macros and add-ins that may cause a threat. Once you choose to disable Protected View, then you can edit your document. Any spreadsheet that you download from the internet or receive as an email attachment is automatically filtered to Protected View before opening.

Excel 2010 has a revised version of the Ribbon interface, and the 2007 Office Button has been replaced by a more traditional File menu. The Ribbon does offer more enhanced customisation options, and you can even pin common functions to a quick menu that sits above the Ribbon. This is particularly welcome by anyone who thinks that they will never find the command or function they use regularly amongst the new groups and tabs.

However, the return of the File menu to the Ribbon doesn't mean a return of the File menu that many were used to in pre-2007 versions of Excel.

The File tool brings up the Backstage view, which completely hides your active worksheet and shows a full screen set of controls. These controls in Backstage view include options you associated with the old File menu such as saving options, printing and document templates.

But now there's even more - for example, you can save your Excel worksheets to Skydive, Microsoft's free online storage service. Skydive offers a unique sharing option, as you can keep a version of a spreadsheet on an easily accessible web drive. To use Skydive, you do need a Microsoft Live ID, easy obtainable if you already use Hotmail and MSN Messenger. Backstage also contains the Help menu, a permissions editor and the options menu that allows you customise the Ribbon.

Also new to Microsoft Excel 2010 is the Shared Workbooks function, which allows multiple users to open and edit the same Excel file simultaneously. So, if your organisation shares a common spreadsheet that many employees need to update, usually a file stored on a shared network drive such as a weekly timesheet, collaborative editing means that you will not get locked out if someone else has the same file open.

Sparklines and Slicers are two new Excel 2010 features that are also sure to bring tears of joy, rather than woe. Sparklines are miniature graphs that fit inside single worksheet cells; and Slicers let you build conditional displays into pivot tables.

With these new enhancements, users really can increase their productivity (and reduce anxiety) by upgrading their skills to gain the real benefits of 2010.