This week I spent some time reflecting on my life from the standpoint of technology, and I found a best friend. My first memory of using Microsoft Excel was in middle school science class. I was learning about the probabilities of certain traits being inherited. To this day, I still remember my teacher telling the class that we had to make a graph on a computer instead of drawing it out in our composition notebooks. This is where I first remember being introduced to the wonderful world of Microsoft Excel.
I opened the program, put the data into separate labeled boxes, highlighted it, and hit the button that looked like a graph. Poof! A graph popped up and my job was done. My worldview shifted; Excel was as good as magic to me. The task that daunted me initially was now the easiest thing. I was inspired to learn more about this incredible program immediately, and thus utilized Excel for anything and everything I could possibly muster. Book report…easy! I made a visualization of how many times characters names were mentioned throughout the entire book. Math project…it’s like it was built for this. I showed every step of my calculations on graph paper and then utilized the graph feature as well.
I continued using the simple commands on Excel throughout my grade school experiences as much as I could, and thought I was pretty good at it. Any data that I did not know how to formulate I could guess what to use and get it right a portion of the time. I specifically remember trying to create a formula with ‘if’ and I wanted to ignore a cell if it was blank. Sure enough, the formula I found was ‘isblank’. The times I could not figure it out on my own, I took to my search engine and asked a question, which was always given a prompt answer.
I graduated high school and moved on to a university. I studied Management Information Systems and the bulk of my initial coarse load was further learning Excel. I remember going into my first class and seeing formulas that were a foreign language to me. Concat? Vlookup? Clean? What could any of this mean? Fast forward 4 years and I can easily utilize these formulas plus a lot more.
What about now?
I use Excel for everything. I track my weekly/monthly budgets, assemble a list of potential living areas, and so much more. In fact, back when COVID first began, my fiancée created several graphs and charts using Excel to persuade me to getting a quarantine puppy. Excel persuaded me, and you can read more about that experience here.
Why is Excel special?
For starters, Excel is used by hundreds of millions of people every year, both for personal and professional use. It is the most widely used spreadsheet program by far, and easily utilized by all sorts of people. The fact that Excel is taught in grade school is shows just how easy the program is to use. It is one of those things that is easy to learn, and hard to master due to the breadth of different applications for use.
Excel is built on human-centric programming language. Instead of having to remember the vast number of commands for most other programming languages, Excel utilizes an intuitive naming convention. If you want to find the sum of multiple cells, use ‘sum’. If you want to lookup a cell within a column of other cells, use ‘vlookup’ (vertical lookup). For many Excel commands, the user can figure out the meaning behind them without any prior knowledge of coding or spreadsheets.
There are so many applications in the business world, and functions are built in that can allow users to do a variety of calculations based on need. Statisticians, engineers, analysts, and more all rely on Excel to do their work. Excel will also make suggestions for your data. If it sees that you are creating a list of numbers or dates, it will autocomplete them for you. Formulas will also auto-populate down columns if you use the formula more than once. This makes dealing with large quantities of data easy.
What have I learned?
I am still learning new features of Excel. With useful updates constantly rolling out, there is always something new to try. In my business experiences, I have learned the usefulness and necessity of making things look pretty. Formatting cells is a huge proponent of Excel that is vastly undertaught, but increasingly necessary as you share data with your higher ups in business. Making tables easily readable and pivot-able is a necessity.
There are infinite uses. I mentioned it previously, but I find new applications for the program relatively frequently. Recently I created a spreadsheet to track my dogs weight and show how quickly she grew. I know this is rudimentary, but its fun to see how her size exploded in a short matter of time.
Excel is utilized for basically every web platform that I use. Whether it be LinkedIn advertising reports, Dynamics leads, or any .csv file, Excel is my go-to place to view and edit this data. Once data is in excel, it can be easily uploaded to Power BI for further manipulation and augmentation. The vastness of the visualizations in Power BI surpasses Excel, but the program itself is reliant on Excel to manage the data initially.
Power Apps use the same syntax as Excel. If you have used Excel before and are familiar with the code that is used, you can create Apps for a variety of purposes, and implement with the same code as well. Power Apps also allow users to use this ‘familiar’ code to add AI to their created Apps for personalized consumer recommendations, bundling of useful products and services, and more.
Excel is one of my oldest friends, and we still see each other at least once a week. The sheer number of applications of Excel offers makes me excited to see where it goes through new updates and features. Although this is my first love letter to a computer application, Excel is well deserving. If you want to learn more about the variety of applications for not only Excel, but the entire suite of Office 365 products, contact Finchloom today!