PraxIS May 2010

10-05 Contents: Upcoming conferences, how not to use Excel

ISSN 1649-2374 This issue online at   [Previous] [Index]  [Next]

Systems Modelling Ltd.: Managing reality in Information Systems - strategies for success


 Risk and Quality
      Conferences in Dublin for May & June

     What not to do in Excel

 Off Topic
     What not to do in Powerpoint
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Welcome to PraxIS

I've been working hard at upgrading ny XLTest spreadsheet auditing add-in, as well as preparing training courses in spreadsheet development practices and analysing survey data. This month, I summarise recent discussions on best and worst habits in using Excel spreadsheets.

Patrick O'Beirne


IT Risk

Test Manager Forum May 20

SQS are holding a forum for Test Managers in Croke Park, Dublin, on 20 May. Registration 150 euro

ISSA Ireland event May 27

The Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) are holding a free lunchtime event on 27 May in Dublin. Presentations will be on SQL Injection, data privacy legislation, and practical controls in social networking sites.

Epicenter for Software Developers, June 8-11

Four days and 74 sessions for software developers. Languages, Tools, Best practices, international speakers. Grants are available for small companies to attend from the Software Skillnet



New resources

Tom Grossman of the University Of San Francisco has just started a web site on Spreadsheet Analytics with many links to best practice guidelines and tools:

What NOT to do in Excel

This month saw a long thread "How NOT to use Excel" developing on the Excel-L list Many of the points made are to do with efficient use of Excel rather than error avoidance.


Merge Cells - they often cause problems in copy/paste and VBA operations. Use Centre Across Selection instead.
Press the space bar to erase a cell - it leaves the cell with text content rather than using the delete key which leaves it empty.
Format thousands more rows that you need - it causes file bloat and slow performance.
Use Pie charts when Bar/Column charts convey meaning more easily and do not hide negative values.
Use 3D charts - it's visual clutter, like Flufferpoint.
Use large tables of Lookup formulas when a Pivot table is simpler.
Leave blank rows or columns in data tables, it defeats many convenient navigation and manipulation shortcuts.
Put =SUM() around every formula on the grounds that "We are doing Sums".
Ignore 'Circular Reference' in the status bar.
Use worksheet formulas rather than VBA user defined functions (UDF) where possible.
Use VBA UDFs rather than over-complex worksheet functions (You can see this is like conflicting proverbs :-)).
Leave ghost links in a workbook caused by copy & paste between workbooks.
Embed (hard-code) variables in formulas when they should be in their own cell for ease of update.
Use shared workbooks with tracked changes that can become grossly bloated.
Use garish colour schemes or fonts.
Accumulate large amounts of macro-recorded code without pruning and simplifying it.


Use SUM(A1:A4) rather than A1+A2+A3+A4. It is easier to type and safer to insert or delete rows within the range. On the other hand it hides a possibly mistaken sum if a precedent cell is a number formatted as text.
Use names for constant or parameter cells.
Put disparate blocks of data on separate sheets rather than one one worksheet where inserts or deletions could mess up unrelated tables.
Set number of Recently Used Files to the maximum.
Use Full menus rather than ones that drop down after a hesitation.
Read some good Excel books .. see below for 'Spreadsheet Check and Control'.

Jocelyn Paine is collecting all these at:
Other web sites with advice: The Devil's Guide to spreadsheet creation 10 worst Microsoft Excel practices Worst Excel Practices Why not to use Excel for data gathering Spreadsheet Addiction European Spreadsheet Risks Special Interest Group (EuSpRIG) Most common problems implementing complex spreadsheet apps Five Excel formulas that make you cringe

Spreadsheet Check and Control: 47 best practices to detect and prevent errors



Simply send your comments to FEEDBACK (at) SYSMOD (dot) COM

Thank you! Patrick O'Beirne, Editor


Off Topic not to use Powerpoint, a video by comedian Don McMillan


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