Excel, More Than Just Figures

In Excel 2013, there are no fewer than 46 functions relating to text or lookup and reference. This means that all of those functions don’t actually require any figures to be relevant. Most of these relate to text and text strings. The lookup and reference functions can be used with figures, but they are not required. So what exactly does this mean for your business?

This means that you can stop limiting Excel. When I go and see what most companies have used Excel for, they use it as a calculator. Column A is the client name, column B is how much that client has spent, which then leaves column C to show the commission earned. Then they have a simple formula to work out the commission based on the amount that the client has spent. They are most proud of what they have accomplished, which is fair enough, but they then limit Excel to what they have done with it. Excel can do so much more! This article is about using text in Excel, so let’s look at what can be done.

Do you have to type up documents or letters based on client information? Do you find yourself constantly copying paragraphs from other documents, changing vital information based on the client, and then using it in a document? Do you use a letter or document template for all of your clients, only changing vital client-related information? If you answered yes to any of these, Excel could be the answer. You can type up various paragraphs while using data from other cells, this means that you can have a paragraph and select various words or phrases that will change as you change the data. The other important function, is that you can use different paragraphs based on a selection. In other words if the client is based in the UK, use paragraph A, but if they are based in the US, use paragraph B. All this as well as customising paragraph A and B so that they reflect the client’s personal information. All this by just making good use of the CONCATENATE and IF functions!

So all of this sound exciting and it makes sense, but what does it actually mean for your company? How will it save you time and money> Well, as they say, time is money. If it saves you time, it saves you money. How does this save you time? Think about how much time you spend doing these documents, all the copying and pasting that goes on. Think also about how many times you make mistakes, forget to change a name or personal detail. Think about how much effort you put into these letters or documents and how much could go wrong. Now picture a spreadsheet, done professionally so it looks user friendly, with colours and correct formatting. It doesn’t look like a bunch of columns, but more like a software program or website. Imagine having fields to fill in the client’s necessary information, then having a few fields where you can select from a drop down list, then finally some blocks which you can check or leave unchecked. Once that is done, click on the letter or document tab at the bottom of the screen, and there is your document. Done! All the necessary paragraphs, personalised for the client, nicely formatted and laid out. Ready to save as a PDF or print. No messing about!

Now I have written this to show what Excel can do with text. This is by no means all it can do, there is so much more, these are just two functions (of the 46). This also does not mean that you can’t include figures, amounts or numbers in your documents, that is also possible. I hope that this has helped you to see that Excel is not as limited as people think. One of the biggest misconceptions is how it looks, people use some columns and figures, so they limit it to that. Excel has various formatting functions, so you can make it look as colourful as you wish, and you can lay it out to suit your needs! When it comes to design and layout, your imagination is the limit. When it comes to what Excel can do, it is usually the user that limits Excel, rather than the other way around.

Thanks for reading, happy Excel-ling!

Richard

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