Five Excel nightmares (and how to fix them)

Working in Microsoft Excel doesn't have to be a hassle. Here's how to eliminate five common problems.

By Lincoln Spector, PC World |  Software, Excel, Microsoft

If the cell you land in is far below the last row containing any content, or far to the right of the last such column, you have a file with unnecessary overhead.

The solution? Copy the actually used cells to a new worksheet in the same workbook, and then delete the old worksheet.

3. Features Are Lost in the Ribbon Labyrinth

Quick: Do you know on which ribbon you can find the Page Layout icon? Hint: It isn't the Page Layout ribbon.

The ribbon interface, introduced with Office 2007, is supposed to make Excel and other applications easier to use. Sometimes it does--and sometimes it leaves you clicking ribbons in a time-wasting search.

Search Commands, a free add-on from Microsoft Office Labs, takes care of the problem. Once you install the add-on, it presents a ribbon where you can search for commands.

(By the way, the Page Layout icon is on the View ribbon.)

4. Changes From Multiple Users Pile Up

If you and a coworker both edit the same workbook, you have a problem. If three or four of you fiddle with the same file over the network, you have a potential catastrophe.

Luckily, everything you need to keep the workflow under control is in one place: the Review ribbon. Here are three essential tools on the ribbon that can help you.

See changes at a glance: Want to see who made what changes when? Drop down the Track Changes menu and select Highlight Changes. Then fill in the options. You can control how long the changes will be saved, whose changes need to be tracked, and whether they should be listed on a separate sheet. You can also accept or reject changes.

Protect all or part of the file: The Protect Sheet and Protect Workbook options allow you to control who can change what. Click either of those buttons, and you'll be able to password-protect various aspects of the file.

Share the workbook: The Share Workbook option permits more than one user to alter the spreadsheet simultaneously. And if you're thinking that such a setup could only make things worse, relax--if a conflict crops up at the time you save the file, a dialog box shows you both options and lets you choose.

5. Endless Data Entry

Spreadsheets aren't database programs, but everyone uses them as such, entering columns and rows of data into tables. Why not? It's a lot easier to set up a simple table in Excel than to create a real database in something like Access.

Here's why not: The data-entry process is a lot more difficult in Excel. A real database, after all, gives you a form for entering data, which is a lot friendlier than a spreadsheet's table layout.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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