Microsoft Excel has become a crucial tool in the international workplace, providing basic database functionality, along with spreadsheet and calculation tools. While it is currently the market leader for spreadsheets, the history of excel shows that throughout the 1980s and 90s it faced significant competition from rival software platforms like Lotus Notes, Mosaic TWIN and the Paperback VP Planner. The original Microsoft spreadsheet program was called Multiplan - which began development in 1982 - but it was never as financially successful as Lotus Notes.
Interestingly, Excel was first developed for the Macintosh operating system beginning in 1984. It made use of graphical menus and the mouse, innovating strongly relative to the other major competitors at the time. Drop-down menus and a point and click interface helped to make it more usable to non-technical workers, and in turn helped to influence graphical user interfaces in other software and operating systems at the time.
As such, when Windows was launched in 1987, Excel was one of the most important and popular pieces of software for it. The early exploration of the graphical user interface for Windows had already been conducted and market tested by earlier versions of Excel. While it was certainly not the first spreadsheet software package, it was the first to provide a powerful combination of usability and functionality to business clients of all sizes.
Lotus was relatively slow to bring Lotus 123 to Windows, failing to predict the popularity of the operating system.
One of the major turning points in Excel was the inclusion of Visual Basic for Applications in 1993, which greatly increased the functionality of the software. In turn, it also encouraged a generation of professionals to learn the programming language, further solidifying the long term demand for Excel over other spreadsheet suites.