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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Open Thread: How are you using Excel?

Yesterday, I mentioned I'd been talking with someone who's looking at interesting things people are doing with Microsoft Excel. I talked to her again yesterday, and with her official okey-dokey, I'll virtually introduce Tralee Pearce (*waves*), a reporter from Toronto's Globe & Mail whom you might remember from a very swell article about the Hipster PDA.

So, by request -- and to help Tralee with fleshing out her fun-sounding article -- I hope you all will jump in here: What kind of cool, novel, and non-obvious stuff are you doing with Excel? What's the wildest, most obsessive, most nerdy thing you ever saw someone do with our favorite spreadsheet program?

macbikegeek's picture

I use Excel as a...

I use Excel as a sort of Swiss Army Knife for data.

Personal: - Weight loss tracking - Bicycling log (one row per ride with miles, speed, time, description, etc.) - Invitation tracking for parties (List Manager helps keep list organized and count RSVPs) - Inventory of furniture for our recent move - Other similar lists and tracking too numerous to mention.

The theme here is if it fits in a table, Excel is quick and powerful not just for numbers but for lists of things.

Work: As Jac and Joody mentioned, Pivot Tables ARE your friend. A little work to learn, but incredibly powerful for analyzing large amounts of complex data. Current project is using Pivot Tables to allow regional groups to look at software usage data from a survey based on region, client, type of tool, vendor of tool in varying hierarchical arrangements and to view counts and other summary data in Pivot Charts. Over 14K rows of data can be summarized into just a few rows at the regional level or into a few hundred by client within region.




An Oblique Strategy:
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