Sunday, March 11, 2007

Attention Spreadsheet Users

If you're like me, your life revolves around 5-10 excel spreadsheets a day. If you're not like me... consider yourself lucky.

If you're learning excel, or if you already know how to use it and want to know more (looking up a specific formula or a way to do something, for example), I highly recommend you head over to John Walkenbach's site. The Spreadsheet Page. He's the closest thing to an Excel guru that I know about, and there are some great tips on his site.

Some of the excel tasks I do at work everyday have grown to a point where I need to automate them, and to do so, I am writing a few macros with the help of one of my favorite Excel books:Microsoft® Excel 2000 Power Programming with VBA by Mr. Walkenbach himself.

Some of these macros go beyond what the macro recorder can do in Excel, and most of the stuff the macro recorder creates ends up being highly inefficient, so if you have the time, the need, and the inclination, you might want to brush up on your VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) programming skills.

A word to the wise- if you expect to be doing VBA programming after an hour's reading, you might want to temper your expectations. If you don't have any programming experience, it's quite a bit to wrap your head around. I'm by no means an expert, but I find that when I'm really motivated, I tend to pick things up pretty quickly. If I get this automation work done, I can save myself about a half hour a week that I would normally spend generating these reports, which would be a huge benefit over time. I can spend this time working on more visible projects that will hopefully bring me closer to a promotion and a pay raise.

Perhaps even more importantly, I'll save my company that time and I'll leave these timesavers behind me so that the person who takes over my job can build on them. This might make my company more productive, and make the American economy more efficient. In a tiny way, I am contributing to the future of my country. If you've seen the recent slate of presidential hopefuls, you'll know that I'm going to be giving help where help is needed!

For more on the topic of non-programmers like you and me getting into the software business, see Steven Smith's excellent blog post "When Non-Programmers Write Software."

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