Excel Online – Request Was Taking Too Long

The error "Request Was Taking Too Long" when launching a workbook in Excel Online is caused when the workbook takes longer than 30 seconds to open in Excel Online.

Our Excel Rich Client team has a great article on this:

How to clean up an Excel workbook so that it uses less memory               


If you have a very complex workbook that contains many workbook elements it may take time to open.  Below is an example of a few elements that may cause your workbook to open a little slow.

1. Worksheet Protection:  Removing the worksheet protection probably isn't the best option because the purpose of this is to prevent users from being able to edit certain cells, which most likely contain formulas.

2. Vlookup Formulas:  If you remove Vlookup formuals, you may break the calculation chain of your workbook, so this most likely isn't a valid solution.

3. Defined Names:  You probably can't remove defined names, cause those may be necessary for data validation and/or an Excel Web Access Web Part that uses those Named Items.

4. Styles:  AH HA! I have seen many times where a customer has MANY excessive cell styles. To see the cell styles open Excel > Home tab > click the lower right hand down arrow in the Styles chunk.

In a new workbook, you will see the standard cell styles.

In this troublesome workbook, there were many excessive/duplicate styles (3,284 to be exact).

This one had a 11,837!

These excessive cell styles, mixed with the many other elements in this workbook (sheet protection/defined names/vlookup formulas), were causing the workbook load time to eclipse the 30 second time-out duration set by the Product Team.  So now the question is, how do I fix this?

The answer is actually quite easy if you have the INQUIRE add-in for Excel.  Just click on the Inquire tab > Clean Excess Cell Formatting.

If you do not see the INQUIRE tab, then you will need to load it.  To do this in Excel > File > Options > Add-ins > Manage: COM Add-ins > Go

...tick Inquire > Go.

It's really that simple 🙂

Additional Resources:

How to reset the last cell in Excel

Excel AddIn to reset the last worksheet cell

You receive a "Too many different cell formats" error message in Excel

Comments (4)

  1. Brian says:

    I am getting this error as well in Excel Online on OneDrive (it opens fine in Excel 2013), but the cell formatting is not the issue. What other causes might be generating this error?

  2. ck says:

    I tried to clean excess cell formatting and it still can’t open. My file contains tables, vlookup, conditional formatting.

  3. ck says:

    I tried to clean excess cell formatting and it still can’t open. My file contains tables, vlookup, conditional formatting.

  4. Joey says:

    Hello everyone. I”m having the same issue. However the problem isn’t narrowed to a cell (at least I don’t think so.) I believe that it’s something else mainly because the spreadsheet isn’t opening for the owner, and any shared participants. The error states…
    “Request was taking too long
    We’re sorry we couldn’t finish what you asked us to do because it was taking to long
    Do you want to try and open this file in excel?”

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