Excel's undo madness

By Nicholas Rougeux, posted on April 20, 2007 in Software

If you've used Microsoft Excel, you've probably experienced its frustrating "undo" function. It's the only program I know that still can't get it right.

I don't remember much about Excel 97 since I haven't used it in a long while but I became painfully aware of its odd undos function in the 2003 version.

In 2003, Excel tends to lose its undo stack making undos impossible. For those unfamiliar with the terminology, the "undo stack" is the number of undos one can do at any given time. For example, let's say I typed numbers into three cells. My undo stack would consist of three undos (one for each entry).

This is typical behavior in most programs and even the rest of the Microsoft Office Suite but in Excel, if I were to save a document, the undo stack is lost. Why?

The makers of Excel seem to think that after saving, nothing will ever need to be undone. This is far from true. What if I accidentally save after making some big mistakes? I guess I'm stuck. Excel also seems to lose the undo stack after longer periods of inactivity. I haven't been able to pinpoint how long it takes but it happens. Sometimes the undo stack even becomes significantly shorter after a while limiting me to only three or four undos. Why? I haven't a clue.

Another annoying quirk is how Excel handles undos in multiple documents. Let's say I'm working on two documents and I switch between them making changes periodically but I make a couple mistakes in the first one. Attempting to undo them works but also undoes every change I made in the second document during the time I made the mistakes in the first! The two documents aren't linked yet Excel thinks that I want do undo everything in all open documents instead of just the one I'm in. Why?? Why doesn't each document have its own undo stack like all the other programs out there?

When I installed Excel 2007, I was pleased to find that the mysterious disappearing undo stack had been fixed making things a lot more manageable. Unfortunately, the undo stack spanning multiple documents still exists and frustrates me to no end.

If anyone knows of a fix for this please share.

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