There is no doubt that the internet is one of the most amazing achievements of mankind. It stands as a miniscule version of the Library of Congress and is much easier to access than a trip to the States. Gone are the days of dial up connection, now you can even log on to the web using an appliance as ubiquitous as a mobile phone. In seconds, you can have the sum total of almost every piece of information at the end of a keyboard.

One of the side effects of the information age is being able to effectively manage sizeable volumes of data. This challenging task has been tackled by many great minds to produce multi-billion pound industries. In an everyday office environment, the effective manipulation of data is of paramount importance. Shared knowledge needs to be used effectively to improve overall efficiency.

One beneficial program which promotes virtual teamwork in real time is Microsoft Excel. Its performance is only limited by the person who uses it. This is a great tool for keeping information and yourself organized. On a professional level, it can be used to distribute data between departments. Follow the instructions below to learn just how easy it is to share a workbook and raise the boss's eyebrow in the process.

Sharing a workbook using Excel 2007

Set a stopwatch and be prepared to be amazed. This is going to take literally one minute to complete but the benefits could last a lifetime.

1. Open the workbook in Excel that you would like to share.
2. Click your mouse on the 'Review' tab located in the menu bar. Click on the 'Share workbook' icon which is found in the 'Changes' group.
3. Click on the 'Editing' tab and select the box titled 'Allow Changes By More Than One User At The Same Time'.
4. You're done! But you may want to browse through the many other options available in the 'Advanced' tab. Here you can fine tune any features. For example, how many times documents need to be updated etc.

You have now created a workbook which is ready to go 'live' throughout the office. Make sure that you place it in a shared location where other staff members can view it on the network. The following are some of the functions which cannot be used whilst a document is being shared.

Chart Creation
Data Tables
Merged Cells
Drawing Objects
Cell Merging

No need to panic if you suddenly find that you need to enable these functions. Simply turn off document sharing, input the required details and redistribute.

Okay, so you now have a workbook ready to circulate around the office. How useful will this be? Well, it could be very useful if you have just been landed a huge amount of data to complete before 5.30 and the clock has just struck 5.00. All you need to do is put on one of your biggest smiles and ask someone in the office to lend a helping hand. This is the beauty of a shared workbook, the information you distribute can allow two staff members to work on the same project at the same time.

Without document sharing, information would take much longer to convey. Details would have to be inculcated into an email and sent to a co-worker. This work would then be completed from his end and returned to you via email with the subsequent changes, such a wasted division of labour. However, with 'Workbook Sharing' turned on, you can both work on the same document in synchronicity and view each others input as it happens.

If you want to protect the workbook from unwanted changes, you can password protect it. To do this you need to go to the 'Protect Workbook' dialogue box which is located in the 'Review > Changes' group. The good thing about this feature is that you can lock certain functions. This is handy if you want to stop people from deleting or moving information. Administrators will be able to override this by entering their password. This is ideal if you want to leave any data fields open for editing but do not want anyone to alter the layout of the document.

Tracking is another handy tool which can be used when sharing a workbook. This means that all employees will be able to access a document via a password. If they make any changes, the details will be flagged so as the alterations can be viewed, deleted or accepted. This function can only be turned off by an administrator who has a unique password. Excel has filters which can be used by assigned staff to decide when a document needs to be changed, who can change the document and where changes can be made within the text or data. To bring these operations to life you need to go through the 'Protect and Share Workbook' option via the Review > Changes group.

With these applications at your disposal, you will soon be able to set up a successful network of data sharing between employees. Forget the laborious toing and froing of emails every time that someone makes changes to a document.

Those who excel in life often take training courses to improve their skills. Why not make it your mission to start some IT Training today and learn how to make light work of a heavy workload, then all you have to do is sit back and reap the benefits.