Sean's Technology and Writing Blog

100 Top Tips: Microsoft Excel is out now!

25 February 2020

Following hot on the heels of an updated edition of Scratch Programming in Easy Steps, my latest book is 100 Top Tips: Microsoft Excel, and it's just been published.

Photo of 100 Top Tips: Microsoft Excel, together with an 'I heart spreadsheets' mug

Excel is used for a wide range of applications today, and while there are Excel superusers who really get under its skin, lots of people haven't had much training on Excel. They might not have had the time to really understand its full capabilities, and some of them probably find Excel a bit hard to work with as a result. With this book, I want to make their lives easier. The book helps them to save time with Excel, both by providing a ready reference for common questions, and also by introducing them to time-saving Excel tips they don't already know. Using this book, they can learn more from their data, more easily, and create more useful spreadsheets. The book assumes basic familiarity with Excel, but doesn't require you to be an expert or to invest significant time. There's no VBA involved: it's all about the features and functions built in to Excel, and how you can take advantage of them.

While the title is "100 Top Tips: Microsoft Excel", the format actually means I've been able to squeeze in even more tips. There's one tip or topic per page (with a handful of double page spreads for more complex topics), but sometimes I've included some "oh, by the way..." tips that are relevant to the topic at hand. You can read the table of contents of 100 Top Tips: Microsoft Excel here.

I'd been interested in writing a book like this for a long time, and when In Easy Steps came up with the pocket-sized format for the new 100 Top Tips series, I thought this would be a perfect fit. I'm not sure many people want to sit down and read a lengthy tome about Excel, but I think this book will be of huge value to a lot of readers. One reason I write books is that they are an opportunity to learn as well as to teach, and this project has prompted me to fine-tune my own Excel skills too. I've already saved a lot of time by starting to routinely use the Ctrl+; shortcut to insert today's date! I'll be sharing a few real quickies like this on social media with cards like this one, below. Please follow me on Twitter to collect the set and retweet your favourites.

Excel Time Saver: Ctrl plus semicolon inserts today's date in a cell

There are several ways to use the book. You can read it cover to cover, and the tips are structured to flow sensibly. The book takes you through data entry, formula entry, data analysis, formula creation, using lookups, date calculations, text manipulation, debugging, and visualising data. There's a section on What-If? analysis and using pivot tables, and advice on using tables for consistent data and easier data entry. Finally, there are tips on printing, security (to avoid unintended changes), and a directory of useful keyboard shortcuts. I've included cross references, so if you don't want to read it cover to cover, you can more easily find the relevant part of the book and navigate it according to your interest. 100 Top Tips: Microsoft Excel also acts as a handy pocket reference, including the kind of information you might need to look up from time to time, such as the syntax of common functions (like SUM), and the symbols used in formulas.

The book is pocket sized, and pocket-money priced, with an RRP of £5.99. I remember someone once said that if you don't make your money back on the Writers & Artists' Yearbook (a directory of publishers and paying markets for writers), you're not using the book. I feel much the same way about this book: just a few tips and techniques that you build into your routine use of Excel could dramatically transform your effectiveness, so I believe the book represents extraordinary value.

You can find out more about the book here, and I've collected some links to places where you can order it in my shop. You can also, of course, order it from your local bookshop or request it in your local library. If you do pick up a copy, please consider posting a review of it on your favourite online store. It really does help books to be discovered, because search engines prioritise books with reviews, and reviews help readers to decide whether the book is for them. Thank you!

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Watch the video for Import/Export

04 February 2020

Import/Export was a track I largely created on the iPad while commuting. I would lose myself in synchronising its layers while the stations rattled by. I chose this title because on a literal level it’s something a robot might do to data and the album has the theme of artificial intelligence, but the title in combination with the music also hint at sharing ideas with other cultures.

I made a video for Import/Export, which you can see below. Find links to download or stream my album Artificial in my shop here.

Find out more about the album and play it in your browser right now here.

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