Vafara Noéline June 6, 2021 Spreadsheet
One of the topics I cover on my Advanced Excel courses is hardly ‘advanced‘ at all, but it is a very useful and popular technique with my students. It makes use of the OLE capability to create invoices by embedding Excel data. First you need to create an Excel spreadsheet and format it in an appropriate manner, keeping in mind that this will form the basic structure of your invoice and will eventually be seen by your clients. You don‘t include any Company contact details or logos in the spreadsheet though as these will be incorporated into the Word document. The next step is to lay out the invoice itself in a Word document, based upon your normal Company letterhead. Leave the main body of the document empty as this is where the Excel spreadsheet will be embedded. All you need in this master Word document is your usual Company branding and contact information.
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.
These common complaints with Microsoft Excel filtering are heard time and time again by engineers, accountants, management consultants, bankers and finance professionals who work with data in Excel spreadsheets on a daily basis. Many spreadsheet users including financial modellers (who seem to be leading the charge) are turning towards Excel Add-ins and software tools that plug into Microsoft Excel to help them improve the in-built filtering logic of Microsoft Excel and thus analyse certain data sets quickly and easily.
There seems to be a move on the Internet to have only terminals for Internet users and all the hard drive would be saved at giant Internet hubs. Microsoft would like to have all their programs at get their location and users would pay a monthly subscription fee for things like Microsoft Word and Microsoft XL. This way people could do there creating at their terminal and all the data would be backed up that Microsoft. Also, everyone could interface together since they all had the latest version with the latest features. It makes a lot of sense to do it this way.
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.
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.
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