How To Copy A Formula In Excel Down A Column Excel Tip – Top 5 Ways to Avoid Problems With Your Excel Spreadsheet

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Excel Tip – Top 5 Ways to Avoid Problems With Your Excel Spreadsheet

When developing a spread sheet solution in Excel, you make decisions and change features and formulas which at the time make perfect sense and have a logical flow. Once you come back to amend, or enhance or troubleshoot your spread sheet, what made sense at the time of development, may not be so obvious at a later date.

So here are my top 5 things to avoid when developing a spreadsheet solution to enable you to troubleshoot any issues and make your spread sheet as efficient as possible.

1. Merged Cells.

They may look good, but they can play havoc on the functionality of you spreadsheet including losing the ability to sort data correctly or run VBA as it does not handle merged cells very well. You also lose the functionality of a normal data table in Excel; that is the great functions such as Pivot Tables, SUMIF, COUNTIF etc the list goes on!. If you want to use Auto Fill- no chance with merged cells and do not expect to be able to copy and paste either.

2. Hidden Rows and Columns.

Unless you really need to hide any rows or columns, just don’t. Why, well because they are hidden!. They can confuse users who are trying to follow the logic of a spreadsheet, users can’t see them but Excel will still use those cells in calculations which can then appear to users to cause erroneous data. They can also cause issues with importing new data into your work book and issues with and VBA code.

3. Avoid Blank Cells, Rows and Columns.

You may not always have a value for every single cell in your work book, but leaving cells completely blank has a massive impact on some functions in Excel. For example -AUTOSUM or using filtering with blank cells will affect Excel’s calculations. If you have blanks, always consider using zeros or an appropriate descriptive value such as NA.

4. Avoid lots of Volatile Functions.

A volatile function is one that re-calculates every time a work sheet changes. These include NOW(), TODAY(), OFFSET functions. If you use multiple or large amounts of these in a work book it will eventually start to slow it down.

5. Avoid Unnecessary Complex Formulas.

One thing I have learned by developing spread sheets solutions for users is they (eventually) want to see all of the workings out of a formula. For example a typical sales formula of

=(Price*SalesQuantity)-(Price*SalesQuantity)*Discount+(Price*SalesQuantity)*Tax

Users will want to know the Sales Value Totals, the Discounted Totals and the Sales Tax Value displayed is separate columns. This is where we can break down the formula components into smaller formulas in their own columns or what we call ‘helper columns’. If you can increase transparency of calculations it will make the logic of the spreadsheet easier for users to follow resulting in less queries.

These are my top 5 watch outs when building a spreadsheet.

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