Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Popular Topics #3

In this final installment of Popular Topics, Scatterplots and the Coefficient of Determination have been a very frequent hit in the past 8 years.

A Scatterplot Chart and accompanying COD (Coefficient Of Determination) are regularly used to show the relationship between two sets of data. For example, a sales manager may plot the Number of Sales Calls Taken with the Number of Sales Made. Another case is comparing the Average Length of Time a customer service representative takes per call and the Overall Quality Score of their calls.

The Strength of the correlation is particularly important.  To determine the strength between sets of data, experienced Excel users can make a Scatterplot Chart and:

1. Right-click on one of the data points and
2. Choose Add Trendline
3. Right-click the Trendline and choose Format Trendline
4. Format the Trendline to your aesthetic preferences and
5. Put a Checkmark next to Display R-squared Value on Chart

The R-Squared value is your Coefficient of Determination (COD) that will indicate how strong your data on your two axes. In the graph example below, the COD value is .5574 (or approximately 56%) representing a Strong Correlation (and therefore reliable).

The next time you have two related sets of data, try using a Scatterplot and Coefficient of Determination to test the strength of the correlation. This can be very informative, and can positively impact business decisions.  The technique is Fast, Effective, and remarkably Easy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Popular Topics #2

As we discussed last week, in the 8-year publication of this blog, there have been several popular topics that have gotten more than their share of views. Besides the Insert Function Wizard, the ability download Currency Rates directly into Excel has been a remarkably trendy subject.

Longtime users of Excel probably know that Microsoft used to provide a connection to their MSN data source.  That, perhaps unfortunately, is no longer the case, so Excel users are faced with finding an alternative.

This being the case, FloatRates.com has become a popular website to get this data. Their XML data is easily extracted, and users do not need to do anything fancy with the parameters.  If you are looking for the latest US Dollar exchange rates, click on http://www.floatrates.com/daily/usd.xml and choose View Source in your browser to obtain the Excel-friendly data which you can copy into a worksheet.

From within your worksheet, using Get External Data / From Other Sources / From XML data import will help Excel to ignore the innate formatting and use the XML data only. With a little practice, you will find that it is not difficult.

Well, it may not be quite as easy as in The Old Days, but getting your current exchange rates into Excel is still pretty easy to do.  All this talk about exchange rates makes me think, Is it time for a vacation yet?...


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Popular Topics

In the 8-year publication of this blog, one of the most popular topics has been the Insert Function Wizard.  Wizard is, of course, a help feature in Excel that automates finding a function by asking the user a series of rudimentary questions.

It’s Been Around
This wizard has been around a long time, and has been important tool for newcomers and experienced Excel users alike.  The names Excel functions are not always intuitive, so the Wizard can be invaluable when searching for what you need. 

Where Is It?
In any contemporary versions of Excel, you can find the Insert Function Wizard nestled neatly in the left corner on the Formulas ribbon.  There you can enter a brief description of what you want to do, (let’s say you want to calculate the Yield of security you are considering), and Presto, a list is presented for you to choose from.

A Snap to Use
Then is a simple matter to complete follow the step-by-step instructions of the utensil to complete you function/formula. The simplicity and efficacy of this handy wizard is the driving reason it has remained one of Excel’s favorite Go-To Tools. 

Simply Do the Following
1) Pull up the Insert Function Wizard
2) Type your description in the search textbox (for example, “loan payment”)
3) Select the function (it would likely be PMT)
4) Complete the Function Arguments and click OK

The Insert Function Wizard. Give it a try and find out how easy it is to perform a bit of Magic when you need it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


If you have been working with Excel for quite some time, you have probably Inherited an Excel workbook that was, to say the least, a bit confusing. The original creator of the workbook is, of course, no longer accessible, so you are saddled with the task of Troubleshooting.   Troubleshooting is, without question, a Valuable Skill in Excel, and possessing this skill will most certainly make you an MVP in most corporations.  

One common issue is the use of formulas (and, to be perfectly frank, the peculiar way some users set up their workbooks). An easy way to identify and display the cells with formulas is to hold down the Ctrl button and press the tilde (that squiggly character in the upper left of your keyboard: ~). When you press this keyboard combination, all your formulas will appear in their cells (and pressing the combination again will bring back your original view).

The foregoing does not solve All your investigative challenges, of course, as the Aggravating Problem can be trying to determine from where a formula is drawing its information. Happily, Excel contains a Very Helpful Tool for clicking on a formula cell and tracing its Precedents. To find it, go to Formulas / Formula Auditing.

From there, clicking on Trace Precedents will give you a Graphical Illustration with arrows that show you from where your information is being derived. “Pretty Cool!” you say? Yes, I quite agree!

Let’s face it, problems happen in Excel, and Ctrl + ~ and Trace Precedents are two excellent tools to help you figure out those cryptic Excel workbooks that you inherit from others. They can help you quickly get your Excel workbook back on track and get on with your day. You may even stop cussing old What’s-his-name who created the workbook in the first place…

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Control Yourself

The unassuming Ctrl Key gives you a lot of, well, Control.  It occupies our keyboards in both the left and right positions in the lower row, making it convenient to use whenever you need it.

So, what miracles reside in the Ctrl Key?  Quite a few…

1) Speedy Navigation: When you press Ctrl and any Arrow Key (up, down, left, or right), you Jump to the last populated cell in that direction. Bamm! Just like that!

2) Fill the Contents and Format: Using the topmost cell of a selected range as reference, click Ctrl+D to Fill the Selected cells below. It’s a true Crowd Pleaser, (and I’ll bet you’ve never tried it…).

3) Hide Your Columns:  Simply select the columns you wish to hide, and click Ctrl+0.  This totally Rocks!

4) Make Noncontiguous Selections: Select any cells you want, hold down the Ctrl key while you click on a cell or drag through a range of cells. As long as you hold down the Ctrl key, you can click and select Anything You Want on the spreadsheet.

5) Print Without the Mouse: Sometimes we still need to Print a worksheet. Rather than using the mouse, another simple Crowd Pleaser is to simply press Ctrl+P. Bamm! Ready to print!

There are a great many useful Ctrl Tricks that you can use to help you Control your worksheets. Take a few minutes some time, and give them a try. Control is a good thing…