Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Excel 2010 Certification

In these uncertain economic times, it is always good to be able to set yourself apart from your competition through the pursuit of Education and objective Certifications. Anyone can claim to be an Expert in Excel when applying for a new job or elevated position, but those who have bonafide certification from Microsoft will inevitably be held in higher esteem (unless, of course, you are competing against the owner’s nephew…).

Passing the Microsoft Exam 77-882 awards you the Microsoft Office Specialist certification in Excel 2010. Having successfully taken MOS certifications in the past, I can tell you that the preparation work for the testing will most probably introduce you to new skill sets that are outside of your comfort zone. This is, in itself, a good exercise for any Excel Professional.

One note of caution, however: Currently, Microsoft provides very little in the way of formal study materials for the Excel 2010 exam. This can be circumvented, however, by using the plethora of study materials available for the Excel 2007 certification exam and then making sure that you study the new features introduced in Excel 2010. This is important, as Microsoft always likes to test on the new elements being introduced in its latest software upgrade.

In addition to studying the materials for the Excel 2007 certification, it would be wise to become at least reasonably familiar with the following New Excel 2010 tools:

• Sparklines
• Backstage
• Slicers
• New Pivot Table Features
• New Statistical Functions

Becoming Microsoft certified (my wife tells me I am Certifiable, but I think she may be referring to something else…) in Excel can give you a Distinct Advantage in these competitive times. You may wish to consider it…

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Using the TEXT Function

No, I’m not going to be discussing Texting on Your Cell Phone in this post (I may live in southern California, but I am not that shallow…). Here is what we will be looking at:

Although Excel is all about working with numbers, there are times when you want to be able to manipulate your data into specially formatted Text. The solution is the TEXT function! By using special format strings, TEXT allows you to specify how you display the numerical value in text with formatting of your choice.

The TEXT syntax is: TEXT(value, format_string)

For example, the format_string $#,##0 for the second part of the TEXT function provides a monetary formatting with a dollar sign and comma that makes for immediate comprehension.

TEXT can be used with Concatenation to return user-friendly (especially if the user is not particularly spreadsheet savvy) reports. For example, in the illustration below, the following formula was created in the merged cells of A6 and B6:

="The Net Profit is"&TEXT(B4," $#,##0")

The outcome is a cleanly formatted statement as to the resulting profit (something even your boss can understand…). Happy Excelling All!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Better Control with Comments

First of all, I want to express my gratitude to all of my Kindle subscribers. We are now 250+ strong and Excel Enthusiasts is in the Top 1% of best-selling Kindle business and technology blogs. So, Thank You! Please send me an email at if you ever have a comment or need help on an Excel-related problem. I always enjoy hearing from you.

Now to today’s topic, “Better Control with Comments”. Cell Comments (or “Notes” as they are sometimes called) are the Excel equivalent of the ubiquitous Post-It Notes that have been popular in businesses for so many years. Cell Comments can do so much more, however!

The reason you want to use Comments is simply that of Control. Workbooks can become overwhelmingly complex and, what may seem straightforward and obvious when you create the spreadsheet may be bewildering in the future (especially for other users) if you do not have a few built-in directions. Here is where Comments shine!

As with so many things Excel, there are a variety of ways you can insert and format comments. I have, however, been a long-time believer in using the Right-Click option (“Right-Click is Our Friend” is a phrase in my classes) with your mouse, as it is intuitive and context-sensitive.

To insert a Comment, simply Right-Click on a cell and choose Insert Comment.

• This will insert a comment with the Username of the PC automatically included in the textbox (you can overwrite the username or change it under your general settings)
• A Small Red Triangle will appear in the upper corner of any cell that includes a comment
• You can edit the comment at any time by right-clicking the cell and choosing Edit Comment
• To display a comment in a Static manner, right-click and choose Show/Hide Comments

You can do More, however! Let’s suppose that you different types of data in your worksheet and you want to Customize the Look of your comments for various groupings. Here is what you do:

1. Right-click the cell and choose Edit Comment
2. When the comment appears, right-click the edge of the textbox and choose Format Comment
3. Choose the Colors and Lines tab and customize your special look for the comments by changing Fill Color, Transparency, Line Color and Style

Comments can be a useful tool in your Excel Best Practices regimen, and they don’t have to be boring! If you haven’t been doing so, start using comments today, and add a Little Color and Pizzazz to Liven Them Up!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Database Functions = Excel Muscle!

In our continued exploration of Excel this week, we are going to take a look at what is typically referred to as an “Advanced Excel” function. Don’t be concerned, however, because although it seems a bit complex at first, it is really quite easy to use.

Database Functions are extraordinarily powerful and come in different types. Among the more commonly used of these special functions are DSUM, DAVERAGE, and DCOUNT. In order to gently break into this subject, we are going to look at the DCOUNT database function, since once you know how to use this, the others will be simple additions to your Excel Arsenal.

Let’s say that you have a database of 5,000 records and four Columns (or “Fields” as they are more appropriately called). Your four columns have the following headers in cells A1:D1

          Month, SalesPerson, Product, SalesValue

DCOUNT counts the cells that contain numbers in a database that match conditions that you specify, and has the following syntax, (Note that if a field is omitted, DCOUNT counts all records in the database that match the criteria):

            DCOUNT(Database, Field, Criteria)

Database is your entire range, with the first row of the database containing labels for each column.

Field refers to which column is used in the function. Enter the column label enclosed between double quotation marks, such as "SalesPerson" or "SalesValue," or a number (without quotation marks) that represents the position of the column within the list: 1 for the first column, 2 for the second column, and so forth.

Criteria is the range of cells that contains the conditions that you specify. You can use any range for the criteria argument, as long as the argument includes a column label.

Now, let’s say that you want to count all sales for John Smith which were greater than $1,000. Here is what you do:

Create a Criteria block in cells F1:I2 like the following illustration:

Then go to an open cell (e.g. F4) and put the following formula in place:

           =DCOUNT(A1:D5001, “SalesValue”, F1:I2)

Bam! Your answer is given. Seriously, try this out; you will be amazed at the new Muscle it will give you in Excel!