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Spreadsheet Day

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.


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.



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!


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.


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.


Keep track of the running balance.


Compare your budget amounts with the actual amounts.


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


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!


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?