Today, for all you managers and other high achievers who want to use Excel to out-smart the competition, we’re talking about the new Solver for Excel for Mac 2011. For those who aren’t familiar, Solver is a what-if analysis tool “on steroids” that you can use to find profit-maximizing or risk-minimizing solutions, by automatically adjusting multiple input cells. You won’t find Solver in the box with Excel 2011, but you will find it at www.solver.com/mac as a free download.
Solver has been a unique and powerful add-in for Excel in Office for Mac and Windows since 1990 – but it briefly disappeared from Excel 2008 for Mac, due to the absence of VBA. Popular demand from Solver-less Mac users motivated a cooperative effort between MacBU and Solver developers Frontline Systems to bring it back, using AppleScript and XCode in lieu of VBA.
The new Solver, like Excel for Mac 2011, is greatly enhanced over its predecessor, and it offers functional parity – and full compatibility – with Solver for Excel 2010, which was also significantly enhanced over earlier Solver versions for Windows. It has essentially all the features of Premium Solver for Education, a Frontline Systems product that has been bundled with more than 35 textbooks and widely used in MBA education.
Here’s a look at the new Solver for Mac layout:
For the mathematically inclined, Solver now includes both faster linear programming, mixed-integer programming, and nonlinear optimization solving methods, and also an Evolutionary solving method, based on genetic algorithms. It also features multistart methods for global optimization and a new “all different” constraint that can be used, for example, to model the classic Traveling Salesman Problem.
But for the not-so-mathematically inclined, what is Solver good for? Here’s the key idea: You can use Solver to allocate scarce resources optimally. The resources may be raw materials, machine time or people time, money, or anything else in limited supply. The “best” or optimal solution may mean maximizing profits, minimizing costs, or achieving the best possible quality. You have to build an Excel model that correctly describes the problem, but then Solver does its magic automatically.
The methods behind Solver are also used every day across major industries, including commercial airlines, shipping, agriculture, financial services and more. With payoffs this big, it’s no wonder Mac users have been asking for even more powerful Solver versions that can handle bigger problems – with tens or hundreds of thousands, or even millions of individual resource allocation decisions in a single model.
Those users will be happy to know that for the first time ever, Frontline’s Premium Solver Platform, the best-selling (but not free) Solver product for Excel for Windows, is available for Excel 2011 for Mac. You can find out more about it at http://www.solver.com/xlsplatformmac.htm.
So, Solver might be for you, even if you’re not a math geek – as long as you’re willing to put some work into a good Excel model. Getting Solver, though, isn’t hard at all – once you’ve got your very own Office for Mac 2011, just click on over to www.solver.com/mac, download and install it in under a minute, and try it out. The standard Solver is free, and a number of people have built Solver models that actually saved their companies millions of dollars – that sounds like a pretty good return on investment.
As always, please share your experiences and questions here!