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What's mine is yours: Sharing data in Excel
Tue 30th June 2009
Shared data is a part of working life: managers looking at a sickness leave spreadsheet, two accountants working on the same tax return, a school's budget altered by all the teaching staff: the list goes on. If one person in the loop mismanages, or worse, changes the data so the others get an incorrect or skewed interpretation of it, things can get very difficult (and at worst, unworkable).
The advent of the Data Protection Act means that we all have to be careful whom we're sharing our data with. That said, if you keep it simple, concise, and above all, clear, then it's easier for everyone to keep track of it.
Even if you're a basic Excel user rather than an intermediate or advanced one, it's best to sit down and examine if someone else could understand your approach. For example, are you putting reams and reams of data on one sheet in a workbook? If you think about it, a budget for a year could be split under months or quarters on different worksheets, which are tabbed at the bottom: and saves a lot of scrolling down to find the data you want.
Something a lot of Excel users are guilty of is overcomplicating charts. No doubt you're aware that Excel's ability to produce charts is quite excellent. It is also, however, quite confusing - you almost have TOO much choice! If you use multicoloured charts, chances are the shades will be indistinguishable on a normal greyscale photocopier. Also, think about your audience - a civil engineer might understand a log scale axis chart, but chances are most people would prefer a good old pie chart or columns. Oh, and try and avoid 3D charts in a business setting - they look good, but it makes the data hard to read.
Another thing to consider is when you are using formulas in a cell and not making it clear to anyone else. Something that reads "Grand Total" at the bottom is obviously a sum of other data on the worksheet. If you have an unlabelled cell with a formula in it, it won't be obvious how the data is being calculated and it might get deleted as the other user gets confused about why this is happening.
Thankfully, the more advanced Office is becoming, the easier it's getting to share information with other users. Excel 2007 has a few nifty features that make life easier when more than one person is working on your spreadsheet. Not everyone has the same version of Excel, but the "Compatibility Mode" will now show up if you're using 2007 and someone is using 2003, for example. The feature suppresses any new 2007 features that may corrupt or confuse the data on someone else's computer - and it's automatic, so you don't have to lift a finger! A feature called "Excel Services" might be available in your working environment, which makes Excel open like a browser, and limits the amount of information that other people can see and alter.
Ultimately though, it's good old common sense that will prevail when sharing information in Excel. Password protect any sensitive data, know who you're sharing it with, and make it easy for them. If they do the same for you, it makes everyone's working life easier - something everyone needs when data crunching!
Original article appears here:
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Very helpful training .
Thank you, this course has been very useful and will come in very handy when merging large documents from various sources.