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Spreadsheet Guru Contest 2014

imageThis looks interesting – the Analytics section of INFORMS is holding its 3rd annual Spreadsheet Guru contest.

In case you’ve never heard of them, The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) is the largest society in the world for professionals in the field of operations research (O.R.), management science, and analytics. You might be familiar with its Spreadsheet Productivity Research Interest Group (SPRIG).

The contest is held online, and here are the important dates:

  • you can download the problem file starting on Friday, March 21st, 2014.
  • All entries must be received by 12:01 AM EST Saturday, March 29, 2014.

The semi-finals will be held on Monday afternoon, March 31 at 4:00 PM EST with the four top semi-finalists moving on to the finals immediately afterward.

The entry fee is $25 for non-members and $15 for members, and all entry fees will go directly to the prize pool.

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Spreadsheet Day 2013

imageHappy Spreadsheet Day 2013! In honour of this special occasion, here is a collection of my favourite spreadsheet tweets from this year.

I collect and post Excel tweets every Friday on my Excel Theatre blog. They give an interesting glimpse into the strange and wonderful ways that people use (and abuse) spreadsheets.

And remember, onions and spreadsheets don’t mix!

  • having an excel spreadsheet open on your computer ALWAYS makes it look like you’re doing work, no matter whats on it
  • I’m drinking coffee and staring at an Excel spreadsheet.. Is this what it’s like working in an office?
  • I have been working on the same spreadsheet all day today. That plus the onions from someone’s lunch are making me stabby.
  • I have just typed the words "killer frogs" into an Excel spreadsheet. This makes me happy, for some reason.
  • The spreadsheet I’ve just been sent has a v.fancy pivot table in it. I actually said "Woah!" when I opened it. God help me.
  • Guy next to me is assaulting his keyboard, and using a calculator to work out sums for his excel spreadsheet…
  • Eugh..Girl complaining about an excel spreadsheet like it’s Satan’s work. IT’S AN EXCEL SHEET.
  • I’m just going to keep calm and pretend that the Excel spreadsheet I’ve been working on for the past 8 hours did not close without saving.
  • My colleague has been making a humongous Excel spreadsheet for 4 solid days. What’s the best way to tell him he’s been using the wrong data?
  • Is it weird that I’m asking my nanny to fill out an excel spreadsheet that tracks my son’s feeding and napping times? #nerd
  • Oh, a 40MB excel spreadsheet of data… without any instruction on how to mine the data… or what we’re supposed to do with it? Perfect.
  • Bridesmaid has hen party spreadsheet. I love her.
  • I swear, my boss would have us log the number of breaths we take of labspace air in an Excel spreadsheet if he could. everything.xlsx
  • Just incorrectly entered a date into a spreadsheet with the year "29013." Spreadsheet promptly froze and crashed. #Y29KBug #EndOfDays
  • Hope my boss never discovers the excel spreadsheet I’ve been working on all month is just a list my favorite Macho Man Randy Savage moments.
  • Doing an excel spreadsheet for my boss in colours of the rainbow, i hope he likes it, shame i couldnt add a scent #work
  • Staring at an Excel spreadsheet wont make it do what you want it too…finding this out the hard way!!! #deathbyexcel
  • “An Excel spreadsheet is probably the best way to store this information.” – OLD people
  • boss just called my excel project the "Model-T" of spreadsheets. not a compliment.
  • Code something difficult, no one cares. Make an excel spreadsheet look pretty "wow, what amazing work you’ve done!" #MathMajorProblems
  • When will we get The Great British Spreadsheet Bee? One and a half hours to create a pivot table with a graph?
  • I don’t judge people by skin color or religion or gender…but I do get a little impatient if they can’t create a competent excel spreadsheet…
  • When Excel asks you whether you want to ‘Update Links’ in a spreadsheet sent by someone in Finance, say no immediately. #TIL
  • Who cares if my Excel spreadsheet doesn’t "add properly" or "make sense". Did you see how I nailed the color scheme? It looks awesome!!!

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Create Labels in Microsoft Excel

On her blog, A Typical English Home, Angela Shear shows us how to make labels in Excel.

These aren’t the typical, boring address labels that you’d make at the office. No, these are fun labels, that you can stick onto a child’s toy box, to show what’s inside.

labeltoybox

Easy to Use

Yes, Excel was built for budgets and lists, but creative people have found thousands of other uses for it too. As Angela explains:

“All you need is Microsoft Excel. It is incredibly user friendly and even though I’m relatively proficient in the Paint Shop Pro software I’ve had for years I still tend to favour Excel for label making!”

See the Instructions

I don’t see a sample file that you can download, but there are step-by-step instructions for making the labels.

To see the details, click here: How to Make Labels

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Spreadsheet Day 2012

SpreadsheetDay822Happy Spreadsheet Day 2012! What are you doing to celebrate?

To mark this special occasion, I’ve posted links to 5 of my favourite Excel tips from the past year, on my Contextures Blog.

The tips include:

  • adding check boxes to a worksheet, that you can double-click to add a check mark
  • creating a chart with conditional formatting based on labels and values
  • building an interactive sales dashboards
  • and two more tips.

If you have any other favourite spreadsheet tips, for Excel or any other spreadsheet program, please share them in the comments below.

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Excel Is For Lists Not Formulas

Sure, you use Excel for all kinds of fancy calculations. imageYour workbooks are full of mega-formulas and user-defined functions. Your macros magically summarize the data, and you create monthly reports with the click of a button.

But what about the guy in the next cubicle? Does he use Excel for anything more than a grocery list?

Joel Spolsky on Excel

In his article, How Trello is different, Joel Spolsky, who was on the Excel development team, talks about the team’s concept of how Excel would be used. Then, they started visiting customers, and found a different story.

"Most Excel users never enter a formula. They use Excel when they need a table. The gridlines are the most important feature of Excel, not recalc."

That sounds about right to me.

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Freedom From Spreadsheets

How much personal stuff do you track with spreadsheets? Does all that tracking take the fun out of your free time?

It’s not just you – in her blog, Vicariously Yours, Sarah Layden talks about her years of recording all the books that she read. "I tallied my reading habits on nerdalicious spreadsheets, sharing and comparing with my readerly friends."

But now, she’s given up that tracking habit, and reads without logging all the details. You can find her story here: Spreadsheet No More! A tale of liberation.

That "Sad Animals" book looks familiar – I’ve read something like that a few hundred times in the past. But usually I stick to the technical books, and those aren’t too interesting to track anyway.

exceladdin2

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Feeding Your Monster Spreadsheets

How often has this happened to you? You started out with a simple Excel spreadsheet, to track one or two key items. Before long, that spreadsheet has turned into a monster – dozens of columns (or more!), and you’re constantly entering data.

Those spreadsheets remind me of Audrey, the hungry plant in Little Shop of Horrors. You can almost hear your spreadsheets shouting, "Feed me!"

Vail Daily columnist, Richard Carnes, describes his year-long experiment with a "simple spreadsheet" that grew much bigger than he had originally planned. You can read about his food tracking spreadsheet here:

Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: A spreadsheet for life

At least he knew when to quit!

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Excel Student Budget: Spreadsheet Day 2011

SpreadsheetDay82Happy Spreadsheet Day! Each year, on October 17th, we celebrate our wonderful worksheets and terrific templates. This is the date that VisiCalc was first released to customers, in 1979.

To participate in Spreadsheet Day, please keep reading, to see our theme for this year, and how you can join in.

Student Spreadsheets

This year, our Spreadsheet Day theme is Spreadsheets for Students. On the Contextures Blog, I’ve posted a Student Time Tracker spreadsheet, to help you track your lecture hours and course work hours.

studenttimetracker04

Student Budget Workbook

It’s also crucial to plan and track your spending, when you’re a student on a limited income. Bob Ryan, from the Simply Learning Excel website, has contributed a Student Budget spreadsheet, that should help you get organized.

You can enter your budget amounts and track your actual spending, including payments with cash and credit cards.

studentbudget01

Keep track of the running balance.

studentbudget02

Compare your budget amounts with the actual amounts.

studentbudget03

And make sure that your bank balance is what you expect!

studentbudget04

Download the Student Budget Workbook

To see Bob’s student budget workbook, and start using it for your own finances, you can download the Student Budget Spreadsheet file. The file is in Excel 2007/2010 format, and it is zipped. There are no macros in the file.

If you have questions, you can post them on Bob’s Simply Learning Excel blog, or ask them in the comments here.

Contribute to Spreadsheet Day 2011

To join the celebrations, please post your own free and useful spreadsheet template or add-in, that will help students get organized. And send me the link, so I can share it here.

Or, if you prefer, post a spreadsheet tip or link in Twitter, with the hashtag #spreadsheetday – that will help students find your tip.

Thanks for joining the celebrations, and for sharing your spreadsheet knowledge with students. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it!

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Preparing for Spreadsheet Day 2011

spreadsheet dayIt’s only 9 days until Spreadsheet Day 2011 – Monday, October 17th. Have you got your office party organized? Are you taking the day off, to make a long weekend for the holiday?

Share the Spreadsheet Joy

To celebrate Spreadsheet Day 2011, let’s work on a spreadsheet challenge.

Could you create and share a free template or add-in, to help students with their school work and personal organization? What spreadsheet tools could a struggling student use?

  • Roommate chore list
  • Course assignment checklist
  • Grade analyzer
  • ???

If you don’t have time to make a template, you can drop by this blog next Monday, and leave a spreadsheet tip in the comments.

  • Share an awesome formula
  • Post a time-saving keyboard shortcut

Post Your Contributions

On Monday, October 17th, please post your Spreadsheet Day template / add-in / tip on your blog, or Facebook, or Twitter (use hashtag #spreadsheetday), or create a public Google spreadsheet.

If you send me a link to your free and useful Spreadsheet Day tool, I’ll post it here, to help students find your work.

Thanks! I look forward to seeing your contributions. Will you join in the Spreadsheet Day 2011 Challenge?

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VisiCalc’s Dan Bricklin at Apple WWDC 2011

apple The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is running this week in San Francisco. On the WWDC website, you can only see the schedule if you log in, so I don’t know how much time is devoted to spreadsheets at the conference. My guess – not much.

However, Dan Bricklin, co-creator of VisiCalc, was at WWDC, and was interviewed by The Mac Observer.

DB: Yep. I wrote the original prototype in BASIC on the Apple II. And I also wrote a little bit of the actual code. Bob Frankston wrote the bulk of it back in 1979. That was indeed the first killer app for the PC world. The personal computing world.”

These days, Dan Bricklin is creating apps for the iPhone and iPad.

“If Apple would let us, but Apple doesn’t like us to do things like that, we could probably build an [Intel] 8080 emulator for iOS and run the old IBM PC things like VisiCalc on the iPhone.”

Dan Bricklin Interview Part 1

Dan Bricklin Interview Part 2

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