Track Changes in Microsoft Excel–Essentials

One of my wife’s colleagues recently asked about whether it’s possible to track changes in an Excel spreadsheet. It certainly is, though it works a little differently than in Word, say.
Turning the feature on in Excel is quite easy–simply go to the Review tab in the Ribbon, slide over to the Changes group, and click Track Changes.
Review Tab, Track Changes
Almost immediately, we see one of the differences between this and the Word version–we are told this will put the document into Shared mode, allowing others to open and edit the file at the same time. We also want to decide which specific changes to highlight.
Highlight Changes dialog box
Usually it’ll be When and Who. By not checking Where, we’re saying we want to see where *all* changes are being made, which is normally desirable. And we almost always want to track changes on screen, though it’s possible to list changes on a new sheet. (Sometimes, for business situations, it’s quite helpful to do the latter, but being able to track and accept or reject onscreen is often immediately useful.)
Once the feature is on, any changes we make will be tracked. A marker will appear at the upper left of the cell(s) in question, to let us know something’s different. Whenever we save, the markers disappear.
More names added
But the program still tracks changes. Whenever we’re ready, we can review them and decide to officially accept or reject them.
Accept-Reject dialog box
And if something changes after that..no matter how many times, the feature will still follow along.
Uncle Vlad added to list

So we can definitely track changes in Excel. The nature of the program requires that it function a little differently than in other members of the Microsoft Office, but not so much that the average user would have trouble with it.

The one downside to tracking changes in any of the Office programs is the feature is a little memory intensive. This isn’t nearly as much of a problem as it might have been a few years ago, what with the faster processors and less expensive memory we can get now.

Access vs Excel—Which should we use for what?

Most people find Microsoft Excel fairly easy to learn—it has a fairly gentle learning curve, the fundamentals only take a short time to pick up, and the program is actually fairly versatile—it’s not just a ledger book on steroids. Microsoft Access, on the other hand, can be kind of intimidating. Some folks hear the word “database” and, to quote the Joker, “they start losing their minds!” The whole idea of a database program is scary because there’s more to learn, more to set up before you can use it, and more to manage even when it’s working fine.

So let’s just ask the question: When should we use each one?

To answer this, we need to understand what each one can do. Excel is a spreadsheet program. Even though information on one sheet can talk to info on another, it’s primarily meant to do math-related things. So if all you need is the equivalent of a sheet of graph paper to visually organize, say, a personal or house inventory, Excel does pretty well. You could use Word for this same purpose, and have about the same amount of work, if you don’t want to use Excel. Formatting and other aesthetic things are only about as hard as in Word, so it’s almost as if you built a giant table in Word and jotted stuff in it. Or if you want to budget monthly, quarterly, and annually, and have all of those update each other, great.

On the other hand, if you need to track something more complicated, such as information on the employees of a small (or large) company, you may run into trouble with Excel. The problem is, you may need to have three or four kinds of information that all relate to the employees, but are not directly related to each other: Personal info (home address, birthday, family), office info (building, floor, office number, phone number, business email), health plan (HMO, policy type, policy number), and maybe transportation (car make and model, parking spot, bus route, commute time). Yet all of these need to tie together, as it were. You might have each of these connect to the others through, say, the employee ID number or Social Security number—make that ID part of each of the four categories so they have a common element. This is where the term “relational database” comes from—the different categories of information nevertheless relate to each other, like a baseball team where each player has a separate job, but all cooperate to play and win.

If this idea makes sense, that we separate the types of information but allow them to relate through one item, then you understand one of the main concepts of the relational database. Like Access.

So the basic answer to the question is, If you have just one kind of information (or several that are unrelated), you can store each chunk on a separate worksheet in Excel and probably have no trouble. But if the different subsets (or as Access would call them, data tables) are related after all, using Access to store the information and work with it would actually be worth the extra time and effort. As a bicycle is good for getting around by yourself, but a pickup truck can haul some serious cargo by comparison, so Excel and Access. (Sort of.  🙂  )

As a postscript, the reason I’m not bringing up PowerPivot here—which lets us do some database-ish things in Excel—is that it’s a different tool again from Access, though it is useful. And not everyone knows about it, or how it works. We do teach it at SkillForge, but again, it’s a somewhat specialized tool, whereas Access is a more general database application and has more multi-user features, making it more suitable for business database work.

How to Use COUNTBLANK in Excel

Some of the Excel functions, such as IF, come into play all the time, even outside business. They’re versatile and can do a lot. But others seem a little abstruse, or out in left field.

One question I occasionally get from business people in Excel is something like, “How do I make sure someone has filled in all the cells where I need data to, say, calculate an average correctly?” (Think “tax form” or W-4, for example. You want to make sure certain spaces are filled in regardless.)

In some situations, you might use a function like ISERROR, and incorporate it with IF to test if there IS an ERROR when you perform a calculation:

=IF(ISERROR(AVERAGE(D2:D10))…

…so that if performing the calculation glitches, you can have the formula show a message to this effect.

=IF(ISERROR(AVERAGE(D2:D10)),”There’s a blank cell there”…

Otherwise, perform the calculation.

=IF(ISERROR(AVERAGE(D2:D10)),”There’s a blank cell there”,AVERAGE(D2:D10))

Using ISERROR with AVERAGE

 

But this doesn’t quite solve the problem, because even if just one of the cells has data in it, there won’t be an error as far as Excel is concerned.

Formula finds one cell with data and calculates average

 

So we need to call a function that looks for ANY cells being empty, and lets us know. It’s called COUNTBLANK. (Sounds like some kind of strange nobleman–Count Blank, from some tiny hamlet somewhere….)

 

=IF(COUNTBLANK(D2:D10)>0,”Missing Data in D2 thru D10″,AVERAGE(D2:D10))

COUNTBLANK finds missing data and tells user

 

What it does is pretty simple, though. It COUNTs the BLANKs in a range, and can let us know how many there are. IF (as you see in the above formula) there are any (“COUNTBLANK(D2:D10)>0”), we want to see the TRUE result from the IF (the message about missing data); if not–that is, if the test is FALSE–then we want it to calculate the average. We’ve told the program to perform the calculation only IF the COUNT of BLANK cells is NOT greater than 0, and let us know if there are any blanks so we (or the user) can correct this.

COUNTBLANK finds no missing data

 

Of course, guaranteeing that only numbers get filled in is another matter. But there are a few different ways to take care of this, such as Data Validation. The important thing is, MISSING data are a problem, as the result isn’t an accurate one. And letting the user know about this is the big thing.

Adding Power View to the Excel Ribbon

In recent years Microsoft has included several add-ins to boost Excels usage in the world of Business Intelligence. They include Power Map, Power Query, Power Pivot, and our topic of discussion today, Power View for Excel 2013.

Each of these ship with the Professional Edition of Excel 2013 but need to be added through the Options Panel. After going through this process I was more than surprised to find Power View was still unavailable. So this posting will help those of you experiencing the same dilemma I faced recently.

First things first. This is what my Insert tab looked like after the Power View add-in was…added in.

insert-tab-no-powerview

Normally there would be a Reports group that included one control, Power View. As you can see it doesn’t appear on this tab or any other tab.

Here are a couple of additional screen captures to show that it had been selected and does show up in the Add-In area of the Options Panel.

com-addins

options-dialog-box

I had gone through the necessary steps just as I had with Power Pivot, Power Map, and Power Query. They were all working yet Power View wasn’t available.

It took a while but the solution was found in a posting dealing with Excel 2016. Those steps are what we will go through now.

First we are going to customize the ribbon by adding a Reports group to the Insert tab. That is done by going to the File tab and selecting Customize Ribbon.

customize-ribbon

Make sure Insert is expanded and selected under Main Tabs, and then click the New Group button under the Customize the Ribbon section on the right side of the panel.

new-group

Now we will rename the group by clicking the Rename button in the same area as the New Group button.

rename-group

Now we need to find Power View in the Choose Commands from section on the left. It will be in the Commands not found in the ribbon menu option. It is Insert a Power View Report.

insert-a-power-view-report

That’s it. Click on OK at the bottom of the Options Panel and head back to the Insert tab. There it is on the far right side of the ribbon.

One additional thing, you will need Silverlight installed for Power View to work.

power-view-is-available

 

 

Excel – Hide Records with Zeroes in Pivot Table Calculations

One of the most asked questions of beginning, and sometimes seasoned, pivot table users is “How do I hide the entries in a pivot table whose totals equal zero?”  On first blush, this seems like an easy feat, but users quickly discover that it’s not as easy as predicted.  There are ways to sort the source data and then exclude the entries with zero values, but that task of sorting and filtering the source data would have to be performed each time the source data is updated.  This is not an appealing prospect.

There is actually a very easy way to not display pivot table records that equal zero. (more…)

Excel Hidden Camera Tool – Great for Dashboards

If you are an Excel user who likes to create charts, design dashboards, or just likes to play with neat toys in Excel, this tutorial is going to be right up your alley.

Excel contains (in a super-secret place) a hidden camera.  “But why would I need a hidden camera in a spreadsheet program?”  I’m glad you asked.  If you have ever created a chart on one sheet, but you need the chard displayed simultaneously on a different sheet, and you don’t want to make two of the same thing, the camera tool will solve this problem.

First thing’s first; we have to find the camera before we can put it to creative use.

(more…)

12 Excel Keyboard Shortcuts for Every User

Keyboard shortcuts are a great way to improve the speed at which documents are built, regardless of the application.  It seems like there is a keyboard shortcut for just about every feature Excel contains; and there may be that one guru in the office that knows them all.  But most of us fall somewhere between Guru and Labrador retriever (hopefully, closer to the former.)

The good news is that it’s not an “all or nothing” proposition when it comes to keyboard shortcuts.  Knowing just a few of the most productive keyboard shortcuts will serve you far better than knowing none at all.

So let’s get this show on the road!

  1. CTRL+SHIFT+L – Turn On/Off Filter Controls

Filters are of tremendous use when analyzing large numbers of records in a table, but you are only interested in a select set of records that met a specific criteria.  Activating your filters is just a CTRL-SHIFT-L away.  This keyboard can also be used to turn off all of the filters and display the entire list.  (Filters are on by default when you convert a straight table to a Data Table, and not always desired.)  Finally, if you hit the “L” key twice (CTRL-SHIFT-L & L) you can effectively clear the current filters to start fresh with a new filter query. (more…)

Excel – Conditional Formatting with Subtotals

If there has ever been a more “You’ve got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” moment, it’s the blending of Conditional Formatting with the Subtotals tool in Excel.

If you have ever used the Subtotals tool to group information you have probable been impressed with its ability to group data by some changing event (like States) and have those groups aggregated and then structured into a collapsible outline.

Before Subtotals

CondFmt1

After Subtotals

CondFmt2

But the one shortfall when it comes to the Subtotals tool is that there are no built-in artistic styles that can be applied to give the list a bit of pizazz. (more…)

Using Excel MODE Function to Return a Text Response

Excel’s MODE function is a great tool for returning the most frequently occurring number in a set of numbers.  But what if you want to return the most frequently occurring word in a list of words?

MODE with Numbers

Using the MODE function in Excel is quite simple; you point to a list of numbers and MODE will tell you which number occurs the most often.

Mode1

In this list, the number “4” appears more often than any other number.

MODE with Words

As you can see, the MODE function does not work very well when pointing to a list of words.

Mode2

The function returns a “#N/A” error message.

Not to fear; MODE can be made to return words, but it take the combined efforts of SEVERAL functions, none of which are MODE!  (How odd does THAT sound?) (more…)

Excel – Mixed Pivot Table Layout

Excel – Mixed Pivot Table Layout

Microsoft Excel Pivot Tables is one of the greatest inventions known to man; second only to those buttery mints they bring you in fancy restaurants.  Even the greatest of ideas are not without their issues.  Take for example the Report Layout feature in Pivot Tables.  Excel gives the user three options with which to display hierarchically (wow; that’s a hard word to spell) related data.

  • Compact Form
  • Outline Form
  • Tabular Form

Let’s examine what makes each layout unique.

Compact Form

All row-based data is combined into a single column, one row per line item, and indented to reflect the position within the hierarchy.

PivotLayout01 (more…)

Excel – Convert Names to Email Addresses

Converting Names into Email Addresses

Suppose you have a list of names, perhaps a roster of employee names, and you wish to generate email addresses for these individuals. If you work at a company that has an established standard for email addresses (i.e. first initial of first name with last name) then you have a few options. The preferred strategy depends largely on the version of Excel you are using as well as the naming pattern used in the emails addresses.

Flash Fill (Excel 2013 / Excel 2016)

If you are not familiar with Flash Fill, this tool allows you to type a pattern next to existing data and Flash Fill will repeat the pattern for the remaining data but on a per-record/per-line basis.

Let us take a look at the following example:

You have a list of first and last names and you wish to convert those names to an email format that takes the first letter of the first name, adds a “dot”, then adds the last name with an “@” sign and the company domain name. If we had an employee named “Fred Smith” who worked at “widget.com”, we would need to assign the email address “f.smith@widget.com” to the user.

Imagine a list like the following:

Convert01

(more…)

Excel Pivot Tables Filter by Values

If you’ve ever used Pivot Tables in Excel, you no doubt have discovered the wonders of filtering.  The ability to filter row or column items can be extremely helpful when you don’t wish to analyze all of the items in the driving data set.

filter_pivottable_values_1

But what do you do if you wish to filter by the Value-based items?  In other words, the numbers in the “connect the dots” area where row and column choices intersect.  These, on first glance, don’t appear to have sorting and filtering controls available.

filter_pivottable_values_2

Rest assured, they do exist; you just have to dig a bit to find them.

(more…)

Excel Lookup with Dynamic Input

VLOOKUP is great for returning information from a database, but one of the limitations is that the return information is static.

What if the user wishes to look for certain data one day but different data another day?  This would require either two different sets of VLOOKUP functions or the functions would need to be reprogrammed.

In the database below, the user would wish to return address information in one scenario, but return financial information in another scenario.

Suppose there are times when the user requires a mixture of the two; that would require a third set of VLOOKUP functions. This could become an ever evolving set of work.

(more…)

Automatically Refresh Excel Pivot Tables

Excel PivotTables are one of the greatest tools in the spreadsheet user’s toolkit.

However, there is one tiny bit of functionality that appears to be missing: the ability of pivot tables to automatically update when information in the source data changes.

Most user’s see this as a glaring lack of functionality. There is, however a very good reason why pivot tables do not automatically update.

(more…)

Office 2013 – Recover Unsaved Documents

Admit it; you’ve done this more than once.  You open an Office application like Word or Excel and type out your next great novel or number-crunching masterpiece.  Then, in a state of haste, you start closing windows and accidentally close the one window you intended to leave open.  One second later you realize, this was the one windows you shouldn’t have closed.  All is lost… or is it?

(more…)

Microsoft Excel – Understanding Excel Functions with Help

Admit it, you’ve used Excel functions without any idea how they work.  Someone said, “Click here for this.  Click here for that.” You’ve dutifully followed orders, blindly clicking on cells with no real clue as to why.

It’s time to lift the veil of mystery and understand why these functions are so demanding of such data.

Here is just one of many options for understanding function logic:

This first part has nothing to do with obtaining function information, but it’s a great time saving trick.  If you like to type your functions directly in the cell; press your EQUAL button [=] and start typing the first few letters of the function name.  As you type, Excel will begin to AutoComplete the function’s name. (more…)

Microsoft Excel – Convert Answers to Values FAST!

If you are new to Excel, you no doubt have already discovered the need to take a series of numbers created by formulas and convert them to fixed values.  In other words, replace the questions with the answers.  With no idea how to accomplish this, beginners usually spend great stretches of time retyping the numbers into the answer cells to make them “permanent”.

Eventually, someone who feels your pain turns you on to the technique of highlighting all of your formula cells, clicking Copy, then in the same cells clicking Paste Special…, Paste Link.

You could now not be more ecstatic.  “This is going to save me sooooo much time”, you say to yourself.

Well, guess what.  There’s an even FASTER way to accomplish this task.  Try this out: (more…)

Excel Comma Style Keyboard Shortcut

If you are an Excel user who LOVES working from the keyboard as much as possible (i.e. data entry, navigation, feature activation, etc…) then you simply MUST know of this little gem of a keyboard shortcut.

Although we have no scientific data to back up this claim, our hunch is that the COMMA STYLE is the most popular style in the Number Styles library.

CommaStyle

To save time when applying the COMMA STYLE to cells, use the keyboard shortcut CTRL-SHIFT-1

before-after

This will apply the COMMA STYLE to the selected cells.

If you want to experiment (what we call “having fun”), try the other keyboard combinations listed below for more number style options.

number-style-options

PowerPivot Tutorial


In this Microsoft Excel PowerPivot tutorial, you’ll see how to use Microsoft Excel PowerPivot to import data from multiple data sources, link the data based on common fields and finally create a PivotTable and PivotChart to quickly analyze the data. This content is from our live, instructor-led Microsoft PowerPivot Training class.

Microsoft Excel Keyboard Shortcuts

ExcelKeyboard shortcuts may seem like a throwback to the olden days, but they can seriously ramp up your productivity once you start using them. Especially for tasks you do on a repeated basis.

Here are some of the most common Microsoft Excel keyboard shortcuts.

F7 – Check spelling

F11 – Insert a chart

F12 – Save As

CTRL+O – File Open

CTRL+N – File New

CTRL+P – Print

CTRL+; – Insert today’s date

CTRL+H – Find and replace

ALT+ENTER – Start a new line in the same cell

CTRL + HOME – Move to cell A1

CTRL+END – Move to the last cell/column in the worksheet

HOME – Move to the first cell in the current row

CTRL+SHIFT+~ – Apply the general number format

CTRL+SHIFT+!  – Apply the number format

CTRL+SHIFT+% – Apply percentage format

CTRL+SHIFT+# – Apply date format

CTRL+SHIFT+$ – Apply currency format