Thursday, April 28, 2016

Drawing a Blank

If you have ever faced some odd results from what appears to be routine data (and who hasn’t…), it is wise to consider if you have any hidden blank cells.  Let’s say that you have what Appears to be a number of Blank Cells in the range on which you are performing a calculation.  If you are getting strange results, you might ask yourself, “Are the blank cells actually blank?  The truth is that it is Not Always Easy to know whether a cell or cells in Excel are Truly Blank!

The reason it is difficult to know with certainty, is because of the fact there are several ways of Hiding Data by:
  • The use of identically-colored fonts
  • Empty-string results of a formula
  • Masking the data with the use of Custom Formatting (three semicolons: ;;; )
As any good database manager or analyst knows, this can cause Havoc with your calculations. To detect this Invisible Data, there are at least a couple of techniques.  Assuming your cell in question is A1, you can:

1.         Simply insert this Function in an adjacent cell:  =ISBLANK(A1) 
  • If the cell is Blank, it will return True; if it is Not Blank, it will return False
  • Copy the simple formula to include the rest of the range you are investigating
 2.         A second technique it the use an IF Statement as follows:  =IF(A1<>"","Not Blank", "Blank")
  • This IF Statement obviously returns Blank or Not Blank
  • You can then take the appropriate action with the Not Blank cells
By determining if your cells are Truly Blank, you can help prevent Strange and Unwanted Results on your worksheet.  So instead of Drawing a Blank, ask yourself, do these cells actually contain data?  Hmmmm?...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Autocorrect: Fun & Function


There is no rule in business that you can’t have a little fun in business (at least there shouldn’t be…).  Many highly effective Excel users often miss is that they can Customize automatic corrections and save a great deal of time and frustration. In this week’s post we’re going to look at some time-saving ways you can leverage Autocorrect, as well as have a little bit of mischievous fun with this underutilized tool.

This is particularly useful if you find yourself typing long (or even moderate) Boilerplate phrases that are tedious and time-consuming.  For a brief example, the name of my company is Continuing Education Group (CEG), and we like to use the full name in correspondence. Typing the entire name every time you do any kind of spreadsheet, email, or other document may not seem terribly onerous, but it can be a small annoyance (and who needs any additional irritations these days!).

The way you set up a phrase (company name in this case) in Autocorrect may seem like a bit of a chore, but it is really quite simple.

Here is How You Can Set this Up:

1. Go to FILE and select Options from the bottom of the column
2. Choose Proofing and click on the AutoCorrect Options button
3. In the Replace box, type CEG
4. In the With box, type Continuing Education Group (CEG)
5. Click Add and then OK. That’s really all there is to it!

Now for some Fun… There is an opportunity for some adolescent amusement along the way (I am sure that many women reading this will agree that most men can be adolescent at times…).  Many of you know the classic gag of accessing a fellow employee’s computer, and switching the mouse controls from (for example) to left-handed from right-handed, and then watching the bewilderment of the user. Autocorrect also offers a variety of chances for mischief as well.

Let’s say you have a friend named John at work (or whomever). While he is away from his computer, go into AutoCorrect and enter John in the Replace box and The Goof in the With box. This can be done in Word or Outlook as well. He may think he is losing it! (Just be sure you have him do this in your presence, so he doesn’t unnecessarily embarrass himself.)

Autocorrect: Useful for productivity and a bit of fun as well.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


By now, many, if not all of us are using The Cloud in some capacity for housing our Excel work. If you are not, I urge you to give it a try.

Why The Cloud
It is all about convenience and sharing. By placing your Excel workbooks on OneDrive, for instance, they can be shared on any of your devices.  All you need to do is save your Excel file to your OneDrive and it is there whenever and wherever you need it.  Since I commonly switch from a conventional PC to a laptop to an iPad during the day, I am finding the capacity to do this a Tremendous Advantage. 

In addition to easily saving your Excel masterworks to OneDrive and accessing it on your other devices, you can also Share It with the World if you so choose.  Simply click Share on the left panel, save it to OneDrive and then complete the Invite People feature to provide them access to your work.  What makes this Even Better is that the other parties with whom you are sharing Do Not even have to have Excel on their computer!  (Now, I know this is nearly inconceivable to an Excel Enthusiast, but Hey, some people just aren’t as cool as we are…).

Other Cloud Services
OneDrive is, of course, not the only good solution to using the cloud for storing, accessing, and working with your Excel files.  There are many other fine solutions, including Dropbox, iCloud, Google, and many others.

Now, I’m a fan of using iPads, and I find myself doing more and more Real Work on these tablets.  This being the case, I am quite sure that using a Microsoft Surface (or other first-rate tablet) is also a great instrument for the New Business World. 

As we all continue to be more mobile in our professional, as well as personal lives, it is good to keep in touch with the tools that enable us to get the most out of what technology has to offer.  Whether its OneDrive, Dropbox, iCloud, Google, or the next big thing, The Cloud has much to offer nearly all of us. Give it a try and see if you don’t agree…

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Graphics are a Good Thing!

Excel users can be a serious lot.  As I addressed a couple of years ago, there is no disgrace in making your Excel worksheets more visually interesting.  In fact, adding graphical elements to your spreadsheets can make them more eye-catching and readily informative!

The Good News is that Excel is loaded with an array of graphics tools that can make your spreadsheets communicate better and make the users want to spend more time viewing them. Channeling Martha Stewart for a moment, “Graphics are a Good Thing!”

Let’s look at some ways we can all do this:

Adding Pizazz to Your Charts
Using some more Splashy graphics can add real Spark to an otherwise sufficient chart.  You say you are plotting optimal Surfing Days in Southern California?  Use Surfboards in your chart (“Splashy”, get it?...)!
SmartArt is Smart
You can find SmartArt in the Illustrations group on the Insert ribbon.  SmartArt quickly enables you to create diagrams of Org Charts, Processes, Cycles, and much more.

WordArt for Words
Enter some eye-catching stylized text with Word Art objects.  Just click on the WordArt dropdown button from the Text group and choose a style that appeals to you.  You can resize and drag this text to any part of your worksheet.

Add Some Shapes
Don’t forget the readymade shapes that add Functionality, as well as engaging panache to your Excel workbooks.  You can add Words and Hyperlinks to these easily-created shapes, enabling the user to navigate to anywhere you wish them to go.

There are many, many creative ways to add graphics to your Excel masterpieces, of course, and they can indeed add engaging elements to your work. Don’t get caught in the mindset that graphics are merely frivolous.  After all, our contemporary world is full of media that depends on this form of communication.  You should, at least occasionally, be using in your Excel workbooks as well…