Excel tips and tricks

A couple weeks ago at work I gave a presentation as part of one of our lunch-time brown bag meetings. Sometimes we have a researcher come from another institution to talk about their project, but sometimes we have an internal person give a mini-workshop or ask for feedback on a research issue. For this particular meeting, I and another researcher talked about general Excel tips and tricks that we had picked up over the years. We had both realized from talking to others that some people weren’t taking advantage of some of the many advantages of using a spreadsheet program; they were just using Excel like a place for their data instead of a place where they could organize, manage, and analyze their data. (No joke, I have actually seen people count numbers on their screen.) The basic idea was to share ways that Excel can help us do our work – sometimes just knowing that something is possible to do lets you know that you can search out ways to improve data organization/analysis.

So, here are some of the things that I shared in that meeting. Most of them are things that I figured out through either hard work, a friendly colleague, or a quick Google search. They mostly assume a more than basic understanding of Excel. There are a ton of Excel forums online so I would suggest if you’re ever doing something in Excel that seems like it could be done more easily, you should search and see if a solution comes up. You will usually be able to save lots of time and headaches.
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