What is Excel and what can I do with it?
Excel is a calculator. You can add with it. This is short and true, and misses the point completely.
Outside of Windows, Excel is the most successful software ever. Tens of millions of people use it every day as part of their work or at home. It is used to store information, sort, filter, present, and oh yes, calculate. It’s used to make shopping lists, budgets, and to design the upcoming manned mission to Mars. Of the millions of daily users of this amazing product, only a tiny fraction of a percent know how to do more than sum a column of figures. That’s tragic, when you consider the depth of capability Excel offers to analyze and visualize data and to solve problems.
If you have the ability to understand a problem, this blog is designed to help you judge whether Excel would be a useful tool for solving the problem. It will illuminate dozens of simple, yet powerful techniques that once understood, will enable you to direct Excel in unexpected ways. If you have never used Excel before, if you use it every day and wish you knew how to lighten your workload, even if you are an expert, you can be an Excel Hero and this blog will show you the path.
I have been using Excel since the very beginning and Lotus 123 before that. As a consultant, I have crafted literally thousands of projects, solving problems for businesses large and small using Excel and Access. This blog will draw from that experience and teach you how to do things that you likely never imagined before.
Most activities with Excel can be classified into three broad groups. 1. IMPORTING information (data) into Excel. 2. Manipulating data for ANALYSIS. 3. Polishing the data for PRESENTATION and reporting. Some projects focus in just one of these categories; others will require all three.
As you will discover, any given task in Excel will likely have many different solutions. I once won a formula competition on MrExcel.com’s Challenge of the Month
. There were over 500 unique formulas to solve the contest problem entered by people the world ’round. Over 500 solutions to one problem! I was honored that MrExcel.com’s readers chose my formula as the best of the bunch.
What I want you to learn is that there may not be a “best” method for doing a task, but some are clearly better than others. I would say that a method is better if it is interactive, faster, shorter, easier to maintain (because you are the one that will maintain your projects), or simpler, and in that order.