Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
The Pep Talk
What additional information does the revised gradebook provide? Well for one thing, it singles out
the highest student score on each test, backgrounding that score with a reddish tint (note the shared top
honors in tests 1 and 2; the color choice is your call). For another, our new and improved gradebook
tacks on a mini-chart called a Sparkline alongside each student’s average, capturing her trajectory of
test performance—a rather cool feature that’s not exactly new, but which is new to Excel 2010. (Note
Mary’s steady upward performance slope, for example.)
Now imagine these features applied to the gradebook for a class of, say, 200 students, and note the
ease with which you could identify top scorers, and how cogently those 200 Sparklines could delineate
each student’s progress. And Excel isn’t afraid of big numbers, either; think about a university registrar
using Excel to compile the course grades of, say, 20,000 students, each one treated to his own Sparkline.
Why not? It’s a striking way to deliver the big picture in fine-grained form.
The Pep Talk
Now, are the spreadsheet skills I’ve applied to these examples the kinds of things you can learn right
away? Well, maybe not right away; but with a modicum of determination and reflection and some
concerted practice time, the skills begin to build. After all, everyone starts at square one.
Excel is a vast application, and there’s always more to learn about it. There’s a batch of features
you have to know in order to be able to use Excel productively; there’s also a large trove of features that
are very nice to know, but not quite as indispensible. No one expects you to learn all there is to know
about the software, and your spreadsheet needs might be rather unprepossessing, after all. I know you
can keep a secret, and so I may as well confess in the interests of transparency that I’ve never
calculated a right-tailed student’s t-distribution with Excel. But the tool for doing so is there, however,
an d some body out the r e is using it. On the other hand, I have used other built-in formulas (called
functions ) named INDIRECT, RANDBETWEEN, and SMALL, and a raft of others that might actually help
you do the work you need to do—even if you don’t realize it yet.
This topic will strive diligently to introduce and explain the have-to-knows and many of the
niceto-knows, too—but all the while keep in mind that, in the matter of spreadsheets, more really is better.
Know more about Excel, and your ability to add value to your data analysis will burgeon.
This is an important point. Learning more about Excel imparts a different kind of empowerment
from the sort you’ll experience by mastering, say, Microsoft Word. In the latter case, expertise
generally serves a greater task—the business of writing and communicating. Knowing how to fashion
a table of contents may be a very good thing indeed, and it’s something you might need to know; still,
that bit of technical wisdom won’t help turn you into John Updike. But learn how to batch up a pivot
table (and that’s what we used to re-present the budget data you see above) and your central
spreadsheet mission—portraying and interpreting your data in intelligible and informative ways—
will be enhanced.
 
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