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Tips and Tricks for Microsoft Excel

Many of us use Microsoft Excel in our jobs, but never progress past the basic functions and the handful of features we are familiar with. Learning just a few additional tips can make you more productive and allow you to access your information in a more streamlined way.

Microsoft-Excel-2007-LogoThis article by Barry Moltz for the OPEN Forum lists 10 productivity tips for Excel, including:

  • Use the Audit toolbar to graphically trace the cells that are included in a mathematical formula for a given cell
  • Use Auto Fill to reduce the amount of time and error when typing days, months or any series.
  • Use Sparklines to illustrate trends in a series of values, such as seasonal increases or decreases, economic cycles, or to highlight maximum and minimum values.
  • Don't forget you can change the name of the "Sheet" page. Just right click on Sheet 1, and rename it.

For even more tips, check out this article by Seamus Bellamy, Paul Lili, and David Murphy for Maximum PC which includes tricks like these:

  • If you have a spreadsheet full of formulas and you want to see exactly how you have arrived at the values, use CTRL + ~ to transform your spreadsheet from values to the formulas that constructed them.
  • Need to add a line break in a cell to split up your text? Use Alt + Enter.
  • Check out the RDBMail plugin if you want to quickly email portions of a worksheet to an Outlook recipient.

And here is a list of tips and tricks from Microsoft itself, such as:

  • Freezing panes and splitting panes into multiple worksheets can be useful when you want to work in one pane while information displayed within the other remains static.
  • PivotTable and PivotChart reports can help you quickly summarize large amounts of data in a variety of formats.
  • Set up conditional formatting to quickly identify important data points such as top-performing salespeople or high-volume customers.

Here's a handy list of shortcuts for Excel 2007 and another for Excel 2010.

The first version of Excel was released in 1985. Here is a timeline depicting the history of Excel. Naturally, the timeline itself was made using a bar chart in Excel with some special formatting. It's a good example of the flexibility possible within this tool.

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