5 Misconceptions of Microsoft Excel

Excel is just for spreadsheets. This is probably the most common misconception that I come up against, and it is complete rubbish. Most of the points of the article are going to contain one thing in common, and here it is – This is not a limitation of Excel but a limitation of the user. Yes, Excel is used for spreadsheets, and sadly that is where most people stop using it. Excel is a tool which is there to enable ‘non-programmers’ to create their own software. I have created many custom Excel documents and I have used Excel for over 15 years, and I still discover new functions and capabilities most times I use it. My main aim is to use Excel for bespoke business software for SMEs, and Excel is perfect for that as it can handle the magnitude of work that a small or medium business would throw at it.

Excel makes mistakes. Saying that is like blaming the ball when a rugby player knocks it forward. The ball has been made to specifications and it has been tested, if a player knocks it on, I think they should take the blame. There may be plenty of reasons why he knocks it on, but it is not the ball’s fault. Excel is a tool designed to be used by people to create something useful, Excel doesn’t make mistakes, people do. If you create something with Excel, and you test it and make sure that it works, it will keep on working until you change it. That is the beauty of Excel, it eliminates human error and doesn’t tire or get confused like we sometimes do. Having said that, if there is a mistake, it needs to be found and corrected as it will keep on making the same mistake until you stop it. This is why people sometimes moan about ‘Excel making mistakes’, because they make a mistake, and Excel keeps reproducing the same mistake. I always double check software that I produce, and I even put ‘alternative’ checks in important places to make sure that it is working properly. Then once I am done, I still advise the client to keep an eye on the system the first time they use it, this way any issues will be picked up early. Once it has worked properly once, it will keep on doing so until you change it.

Excel is difficult to use. No, it is quite the opposite. Computer programmers are paid a fortune, because it is not easy to do. Lines and lines of coding in order to do functions, and then even more code to use those functions within other functions. It can be very confusing and a time consuming task. Excel may not be as capable when it comes to the large jobs, that is why large companies pay a fortune for programmed software, but it is quite capable for the small and medium sized businesses. Excel is set up in such a way that you can manipulate it to do what you want with no previous programming knowledge. In fact I would go as far as to say that a firm understanding of algebra will stand you in better stead than programming would. It is made as user-friendly as possible, and it is much easier (and quicker) to achieve the desired results than with programming. Having said that, there is so much to learn in Excel that even the experts still learn new things all of the time, but it is not difficult to do the basics. I started Spreadsheet Solutions in order to create bespoke Excel software so that businesses can utilise Excel, but they can get more out of it than they would if they did it themselves. The fact that it is easier than programming, means that I can provide software that is affordable to small and medium businesses, unlike programmed software.

Excel is outdated. Excel is constantly being updated, and each new version has more new and exciting features. Microsoft obviously know the value of their product as they are constantly adding value to it and renewing it, if it was dead in the water they would stop that. Not only that but then you have Open Office that copies all of Excel’s updates and releases their own version shortly after. Now you have Google Docs doing a similar thing, which although some people find it more accessible to numerous users (because they don’t know how to do it in Excel), it falls well short of the functions available in Excel. I have found quite a few very handy functions in Excel, which Google Docs just doesn’t offer, which is a pity because I like Google.

Excel can’t do what I want it to do. Once again, you can’t do what you want in Excel is probably a more accurate comment. Every time I come up against a request that I haven’t had before, I think that I have reached Excel’s boundary. I am more than often surprised to find that it actually can be done. I always love a challenge, and with Excel I am successful more often than not. I won’t lie to you, Excel does have limitations, that is why the large companies don’t use it for comprehensive software. When it comes to volume and integrating with certain programmes, Excel does have limitations, but most companies (and individuals) don’t require the integration, and they don’t come anywhere near Excel’s volume boundary. If you would like to use Excel more extensively, I also provide custom training, so please let me know if I can help.

I hope that this has been informative and set some misconceptions straight. Please do have a look at Spreadsheet Solutions website for some problems solved by Excel, examples, downloads, and so much more. Thanks very much for reading.

Happy Excel-ling

Richard Sumner

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