As part of the Excel team’s work to increase the number of rows and columns in Excel 12, we also increased a number of the other “limits” in the product. This work falls into a two categories.

First, we increased a number of limits to support our “big grid” work. These are limits that we increased to make sure that all of Excel’s features could scale to handle more rows and columns. A lot of folks have already asked about these sorts of limits in comments to my first post, in emails, and in comments on other blogs and websites. For example, we increased the number of rows allowed in a PivotTable from 64k to 1 million (2^20 to be precise), we increased the amount of memory that Excel can use from 1GB to the maximum allowed by Windows, and we completely eliminated the limit on the number of rows of a column or columns that can be referred to in an array formula.

Second, we took the opportunity to increase a number of other limits that our customers had asked us to increase over the years. For example, we increased the number of colours allowed in a single workbook from 56 (indexed colour) to 4.3 billion (32-bit colour), and we increased the number of characters that can be stored and displayed in a cell formatted as Text from 255 to 32k. We increased the number of levels of sorting possible on a range, and the number of conditional formats possible on a cell. Some of these limits – like the number of levels of sorting possible on a range – obviously require UI changes; I will discuss those in later posts when I cover the other work we have done in those areas.

Here is a list of all of the major changes we made to Excel 12 in the area of limits.

The total number of available columns in Excel

Old Limit: 256 (2^8)

New Limit: 16k (2^14)

The total number of available rows in Excel

Old Limit: 64k (2^16)

New Limit: 1M (2^20)

Total amount of PC memory that Excel can use

Old Limit: 1GB

New Limit: Maximum allowed by Windows

Number of unique colours allowed a single workbook

Old Limit: 56 (indexed colour)

New Limit: 4.3 billion (32-bit colour)

Number of conditional format conditions on a cell

Old Limit: 3 conditions

New Limit: Limited by available memory

Number of levels of sorting on a range or table

Old Limit: 3

New Limit: 64

Number of items shown in the Auto-Filter dropdown

Old Limit: 1,000

New Limit: 10,000

The total number of characters that can display in a cell

Old Limit: 1k (when the text is formatted)

New Limit: 32k or as many as will fit in the cell (regardless of formatting)

The number of characters per cell that Excel can print

Old Limit: 1k

New Limit: 32k

The total number of unique cell styles in a workbook (combinations of all cell formatting)

Old Limit: 4000

New Limit: 64k

The maximum length of formulas (in characters)

Old Limit: 1k characters

New Limit: 8k characters

The number of levels of nesting that Excel allows in formulas

Old Limit: 7

New Limit: 64

Maximum number of arguments to a function

Old Limit: 30

New Limit: 255

Maximum number of items found by “Find All”

Old Limit: ~64k (65472)

New Limit: ~2 Billion

Number of rows allowed in a Pivot Table

Old Limit: 64k

New Limit: 1M

Number of columns allowed in a Pivot Table

Old Limit: 255

New Limit: 16k

Maximum number of unique items within a single Pivot Field

Old Limit: 32k

New Limit: 1M

Length of the MDX name for a Pivot Table item; also the string length for a relational Pivot Table

Old Limit: 255 characters

New Limit: 32k

The length at which fields’ labels are truncated when added to PivotTable; this also includes caption length limitations

Old Limit: 255

New Limit: 32k

The number of fields (as seen in the field list) that a single PivotTable can have

Old Limit: 255

New Limit: 16k

The number of cells that may depend on a single area before Excel must do full calculations instead of partial calculations (because it can no longer track the dependencies required to do partial calculations)

Old Limit: 8k

New Limit: Limited by available memory

The number of different areas in a sheet that may have dependencies before Excel must do full calculations instead of partial calculations (because it can no longer track the dependencies required to do partial calculations)

Old Limit: 64k

New Limit: Limited by available memory

The number of array formulas in a worksheet that can refer to another (given) worksheet

Old Limit: 65k

New Limit: Limited by available memory

The number of categories that custom functions can be bucketed into

Old Limit: 32

New Limit: 255

The number of characters that may be updated in a non-resident external workbook reference

Old Limit: 255

New Limit: 32k

Number of rows of a column or columns that can be referred to in an array formula

Old Limit: 65,335

New Limit: Limitation removed (full-column references allowed)

The number of characters that can be stored and displayed in a cell formatted as Text

Old Limit: 255

New Limit: 32k

For those of you that read this far, thanks. Next post I will step back a bit and review all the areas where we have made feature investments in Excel 12. It is a pretty big list, and I am excited to share it with you.