Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Basic Spreadsheet Types
In both of the preceding cases, you can probably input the entire model in a few minutes, and
you certainly won’t take the time to document your work. You probably won’t even think of
developing any macros or custom dialog boxes. In fact, you might not even deem these simple
spreadsheets worthy of saving to disk. Obviously, spreadsheets in this category are not
applications.
For-your-eyes-only spreadsheets
As the name implies, no one except you — the creator — will ever see or use the spreadsheets
that fall into this category. An example of this type might be a file in which you keep information
relevant to your income taxes. You open the file whenever a check comes in the mail, you incur
an expense that can be justified as business, you buy tax-deductible Girl Scout cookies, and so
on. Another example is a spreadsheet that you use to keep track of your employees’ time records
(sick leave, vacation, and so on).
Spreadsheets in this category differ from quick-and-dirty spreadsheets in that you use them
more than once, so you save these spreadsheets to files. But, again, they’re not worth spending a
great deal of time on. You might apply some simple formatting, but that’s about it. This type of
spreadsheet also lacks any type of error detection because you understand how the formulas are
set up; you know enough to avoid inputting data that will produce erroneous results. If an error
does crop up, you immediately know what caused it.
Spreadsheets in this category don’t qualify as applications, although they sometimes increase in
sophistication over time.
Single-user applications
This is a spreadsheet application that only the developer uses, but its complexity extends beyond
the spreadsheets in the for-your-eyes-only category. For example, I developed a workbook to
keep track of registered users for my software applications. It started out as a simple worksheet
database (for my eyes only), but then I realized that I could also use it to generate mailing labels
and invoices. One day I spent an hour or so writing macros and then realized that I had converted
this workbook from a for-your-eyes-only spreadsheet to a single-user application.
Creating single-user applications for yourself is an excellent way to get practice with Excel’s
developer’s tools. For example, you can learn to create custom dialog boxes, modify the user
interface, write Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros, and so on.
Working on a meaningful project (even if it’s meaningful only to you) is the best way to
learn advanced features in Excel — or any other software, for that matter.
Spaghetti applications
An all-too-common type of spreadsheet is what I call a spaghetti application. The term stems
from the fact that the parts of the application are difficult to follow, much like a plate of
 
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