Adalene Shaïna June 5, 2021 Spreadsheet
Structured Query Language, often referred to as SQL, is a grammar of instructions that allows us to tell a relational database to add, modify or delete data. The key benefit, pardon the pun, of SQL is that it allows us to craft instructions relating large sets of data together. In this way SQL is the natural complement to the single cell and formula based interface of spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel. Imagine you had five hundred appointments from your business calendar laid out in a table. Each appointment might have a day, time, location and description. Now imagine you also had five hundred appointments from your partners business calendar, also each having a day, time, location and description.
I don‘t think so. My husband and I weren‘t a great married couple but we were excellent business partners. We almost never, actually maybe NEVER, fought about money. We agreed on how to raise our kids and were always honest about our finances. He made a lot of money and I had some money of my own from my grandmother and would inherit when my parents died. I knew that we would be able to sort through these things better on our own. Most significantly, he LOVED to make spreadsheets and certainly would not be willing to pay someone else make one for him. I did some research on the internet to see what our options would be. I knew we couldn‘t do it ourselves but that we would need some assistance because our finances were complicated. I learned about divorce mediators, professionals who work with couples at an hourly fee to help them navigate the process. It sounded like it would work for us so we agreed to find one. And we did. Well, I did.
Spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel are well suited to tasks involving the manipulation of small amounts of related data. Working out a budget, producing visual reports, organizing lists and calculations that involve many variables are all tasks well suited to a spreadsheet. There are some data related tasks however that spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel are not suited for. Tasks involving the processing and combination of large sets of data for example are generally not well suited to spreadsheets. There is another technology with a long history and theoretical background that specializes in these sorts of tasks. That technology is relational databases. The most common way people insert data into and extract data from relational databases is via the language of Structured Query Language.
When Microsoft Excel is used to manipulate, store and analyse data it can become extremely difficult to manage, let alone efficiently work to produce any meaningful insights. This is because with data sets large and small, the data must be meaningful, logical, structured, internally consistent and clean. This holds true regardless of whether the data has been imported into excel from another system or manually entered. In this computing age, most people know that for any data set to be useable it must first be relatively structured and clean. A spreadsheet and its table layout naturally encourages data to be somewhat structured, however ensuring data is clean is also difficult.
As a set of general rules data is most useful when things like text fields hold only names as well as meaningful and validated codes, categories and classifications. Text notes and other free form text should be isolated to a dedicated notes field and thus separated from other numeric data. Numeric fields should hold only numeric values (numbers, dates, %‘s and in the correct quantum or magnitude with no text prefixes, suffixes, spaces, text elements or text notes present. You must also be careful that numeric data is not stored as text and it should be internally consistent in terms of the correct format so that it can be used in calculations or for comparison and queries. Finally, addresses should be separated out into multiple fields such as street address, town /suburb, state / province, postal code and country to allow for geographic analysis and mail outs if required. Fixing up a data set to meet these criteria is called data scrubbing, cleansing or massaging. This data cleansing process can be very time consuming even for an experienced Microsoft Excel user, database engineer, business analyst or computer programmer.
If you wanted to make this spreadsheet into template, you would need to take two more steps. The first step would involve modifying the spreadsheet to display only the data that remains the same. If you are constantly changing certain cells, you would leave these cells formatted but blank. The last step involves saving this spreadsheet as a template. Once this is done, you would always have access to a clean spreadsheet that is formatted the way you want and ready for your modifications. Microsoft has hundreds of free templates available. You can also download templates that are already loaded in your version of Excel. They are typically located under the File/New or Office Button/New option. When downloading these business and personal templates, be sure to monitor the version of Office that the template applies to. They have templates available for all of the versions of the Office Suites.
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