Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Planning an Application That Meets User Needs
h Identify which version(s) of Excel is (are) in use. Although Microsoft does everything in
its power to urge users to upgrade to the latest version of the software, the majority of
Excel users haven’t upgraded to the most recent version.
h Understand the skill levels of the end users. This information will help you design the
application appropriately.
h Determine how long the application will be used and whether any changes are
anticipated during the lifetime of the project. Knowing this information may influence the
amount of effort that you put into the project and help you plan for changes.
One final note: Don’t be surprised if the project specifications change before you complete the
application. This occurrence is quite common, and you’re in a better position if you expect
changes rather than being surprised by them. Just make sure that your contract (if you have one)
addresses the issue of changing specifications.
Planning an Application That Meets User Needs
After you determine the end users’ needs, it’s very tempting to jump right in and start fiddling
around in Excel. Take it from someone who suffers from this problem: Try to restrain yourself.
Builders don’t construct a house without a set of blueprints, and you shouldn’t build a
spreadsheet application without some type of plan. The formality of your plan depends on the scope of
the project and your general style of working, but you should spend at least some time thinking
about what you’re going to do and coming up with a plan of action.
Before rolling up your sleeves and settling down at your keyboard, you’ll benefit by taking some
time to consider the various ways you can approach the problem. This planning period is where a
thorough knowledge of Excel pays off. Avoiding blind alleys rather than stumbling into them is
always a good idea.
If you ask a dozen Excel experts to design an application based on very precise specifications,
chances are that you’ll get a dozen different implementations of the project that meet those
specifications. Of those solutions, some will definitely be better than the others because Excel
often provides several different options to accomplish a task. If you know Excel inside and out,
you’ll have a good idea of the potential methods at your disposal, and you can choose the one
most appropriate for the project at hand. Often, a bit of creative thinking yields an unusual
approach that’s vastly superior to other methods.
So at the beginning stage of this planning period, consider some general options, such as these:
h File structure: Think about whether you want to use one workbook with multiple sheets,
several single-sheet workbooks, or a template file.
h Data structure: You should always consider how your data will be structured, and also
determine whether you will be using external database files or storing everything in
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