Excelling With Excel

Published May 24, 2017

I consider myself a fairly neat and organized person.  At home, I make my bed every morning; I don’t leave dishes in the kitchen sink; and I can’t stand an empty toilet paper holder.  To keep myself organized, I label my various cords according to the electronics they correspond with, and I keep my photo albums arranged oldest to most recent on my bookshelves.  I’m not OCD, I just like streamlined.

As a fan of organization, I appreciate tools that also make me more organized in the work place.  One such tool that is becoming more and more helpful is Excel.  Excel is, and always has been, about spreadsheets—organizing data in columns and rows by numerical, alphabetical, color-coded or some other sort of order.  While organizing data is what Excel does, I recently learned that the latest version of the program (which has actually been out since late 2015) has some new features that can take organizing to the next level.

In his article “Excel 2016 Cheat Sheet,” Preston Gralla highlights many of the additions to the latest Excel program.  As a writer for computerworld.com, Gralla recently summarized some of the key features that Excel users may not be aware of.

For starters, Gralla notes the new Tell Me feature.  When you first open Excel, this feature is found at the end of the title bar, and is pictured with a light bulb.  Tell Me is like a tool search within Excel.  If you are trying to figure out how to do something like insert a row or change a font, simply type in what you are looking for and options relating to that search will populate in the drop-down list.

Need a little research help?  Excel has you covered with its Smart Lookup tool.  Smart Lookup offers a web search within a spreadsheet.  If you are entering data and suddenly need to search something about the data you’ve entered, you can right click on the cell and a Smart Lookup window appears on the right.  In that window are pertinent links that feature the keyword, definitions, and other helpful details related to your research.

When data is entered in Excel, the details can be put into a chart format for easy visualization.  Excel offers the traditional bar, line, pie and column charts, but the latest version offers new charts.  These include charts like the Treemap, which uses rectangular, top-level “tree branches” and subcategories in a hierarchical view; Sunbursts are multi-level pie charts; Histograms show frequencies within a category; and Waterfall charts display a running total of positive and negative contributions culminating in a net value, ideal for financial statements.

There are a lot of features, both old and new, in Excel.  Because the tools can be hard to find, Gralla and others offer a quick reference guide to help users with the program.

While the process of inputting data can be cumbersome, if you’re going to the effort of collecting data it only makes sense to make it presentable and understandable.  To that end, Excel is a viable answer, with multiple options for presenting data in an organized, yet meaningful way.