Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Solving Problems with Excel
From the developer’s point of view, a more interesting group is comprised of users who have
little or moderate spreadsheet experience but who are interested in learning more. These users
understand the concept of formulas, use worksheet functions, and generally have a good idea of
what the product is capable of doing. These users generally appreciate the work that you put
into an application and are often impressed by your efforts. Even better, they’ll often make
excellent suggestions for improving your applications. Applications developed for this group should
also be user-friendly, but they can also be more complex and customizable than applications
designed for the less experienced and less interested groups.
Solving Problems with Excel
In the previous sections, I cover the basic concept of a spreadsheet application, discuss the end
users and developers of such applications, and even attempt to figure out why people use
spreadsheets at all. Now, it’s time to take a look at the types of tasks that are appropriate for
You may already have a good idea of the types of tasks for which you can use a spreadsheet.
Traditionally, spreadsheet software has been used for numerical applications that are largely
interactive. Corporate budgets are an excellent example of this interactivity. After the model has
been set up (that is, after formulas have been developed), working with a budget is simply a
matter of plugging in amounts and observing the bottom-line totals. Often, budgeters simply
need to allocate fixed resources among various activities and present the results in a reasonably
attractive (or at least legible) format. Excel, of course, is ideal for this scenario.
Budget-type problems, however, probably account for only a small percentage of your
spreadsheet-development time. If you’re like me, you’ve learned that uses for Excel can often extend
well beyond the types of tasks for which spreadsheets were originally designed.
Here are just a few examples of nontraditional ways that you can use Excel:
h As a presentation device: For example, with minimal effort, you can create an attractive,
interactive, on-screen slide show with only Excel. PowerPoint is a better choice, but Excel
will do in a pinch.
h As a data-entry tool: For repetitive data-entry tasks, a spreadsheet is often the most efficient
route to take. You can then export the data to a variety of formats for use in other programs.
h As a database manager: If you’re dealing with a fairly small amount of data, you may find
it much easier to manage it using Excel rather than a program like Access.
h As a forms generator: For creating attractive printed forms, many find it easier to use
Excel’s formatting capabilities than to learn a desktop publishing package.
h As a text processor: Excel’s text functions and macro capability enable you to manipulate
text in ways that are impossible using a word processor.
h As a platform for simple games: Clearly, Excel was not designed with gaming in mind.
However, I’ve downloaded (and written) some interesting strategy games by using the
tools found in Excel and other spreadsheets.