Noel Margaux May 28, 2021 Spreadsheet
Lester P. Goodbinder had suffered another agonizing week in Pittsburgh. The semi-annual audit he conducted at the Bourgeois Ball Bearing Factory stretched into five 14-hour days examining electronic spreadsheets on an archaic computer system installed in the early ‘80s. The equipment churned so abysmally he cleverly joked to himself it was powered by lazy hamsters on treadmills. Not only that, the accounting software loaded on the system was an early version of ”Abacus,” and only slightly faster than a key-punch adding machine but considerably slower than a hand-held calculator.
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.
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.
Given this data set imagine trying to find out which Fridays you were busy at an appointment at noon while your partner was also busy at an appointment at noon and the descriptions of both of your appointments contained the phrase down town. If you are not familiar with relational databases and SQL it might surprise you to know that the question can be answered by a single simple SQL query. The database and SQL don‘t have it all their own way however. Spreadsheets come in to their own for tasks that benefit from a visual representation. Traditionally databases do not provide a visual way to browse the data in tables without explicitly requesting data.
At times, Lester became so furious his face radiated heat and fogged his glasses. When this happened, he yanked them from his puffy eyes and wiped the lenses with his tie. On this late Friday afternoon, however, Lester felt exhilarated. The printer regurgitated its last run of printouts and as he scanned the rows of figures he penciled in tick marks to indicate matches with numbers found in the corporate ledgers. The task complete for another 180 days, he removed his glasses, rubbed his aching eyeballs, and inhaled deeply to savor the fluttery feeling of excitement flooding his upper chest. Then, Lester logged off the computer, tapped the surge protector power switch with his toe, and shut down the wheezing system.
Templates are spreadsheets that are pre-formatted with text, colors, and/or formulas. They can be used to save you time and effort. Sometimes you are using a workbook as a template and don‘t even realize it. By this I mean you have a spreadsheet that you use daily, weekly or monthly. You may have to modify a few cells but the remainder of the spreadsheet is exactly the way you want it. It may be tedious to modify the cells but it is easier than recreating it from scratch. Guess what, you have the basis of a template!
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