Excel Online – Shapes break editing spreadsheets


A customer recently moved several Excel Workbooks from Google Sheets to Office 365 (and Excel Online). These were complex sheets with lots of linking worksheets, formulas, etc. and on the surface seemed to be fine. However, one weekly operation was to take a copy of an existing worksheet and making it “this weeks” worksheet. It was then linked via formulas to several other sheets. Once this happened however, the next time Excel Online was opened (they use Excel Online vs. Excel 2016 because several people work in the sheet at once), the following would appear and the only workaround was to make a copy (which was no fun at all).

Excel Online - copy due to shapes or other objects

Error Message: To edit in the browser, a copy of the file will be created without the following features: Shapes or other objects

 So What

This problem presented itself not at first, but as a new week started and a spreadsheet was copied to become “the next week”. At the core of the problem was that the spreadsheet being used had an object in it that was not visible (And likely there a long time and unnoticed … or produced somehow in Google Sheets).  Finding it at first was not easy.

Finding Shapes in Excel online worksheets

Now What

The trick is to find the little buggers.  Here’s how:

  1. In Excel (software, not the browser), Click on “Find & Select” and the choose “Selection Pane”
  2. Press CTRL+G which brings up the “Go To” dialog and then click on the “Special…” button
  3. Choose the “Objects” radio button and click OK. You will need to do this by the way, for each worksheet
  4. Identify the objects on the right hand selection pane and delete them (mine were called “AutoShape 14” for example

That’s it. A pain but once cleaned up, it seemed to do the trick.

Here’s a Quick Video on the steps