Excel, the other office application

I’ve been spending some time in Excel lately, doing budgets and projections. Excel easily passes the five minute test, but I can’t say that I’ve gone much beyond adding up columns and rows using the SUM() function. I have friends though, that live in Excel, using it to produce all their reports, with graphs and color. A couple of items surfaced recently:

  • XLQ. XLQ is an Excel plug-in function that goes and finds stock prices (and a whole lot more) using free on-line stock services like Yahoo Finance. Although you can get a free plugin from Microsoft which does this, it also brings in several extraneous rows of information, including advertising. XLQ, by contrast puts the price in a single cell. For example, to get the current price of Apple stock, you would put =XLQPrice(‘APPL’) as a cell formula, and the current (or 15 minute delayed) price would appear.
  • While browsing in B&N the other day, I came across a book by Stephen Few, Information Dashboard Design This seemed like a very elegant book by someone who obviously has spent considerable time figuring out ways to deliver a lot of summary information in effective ways. Think Tufte for the 21st century. However, the book was short on software ideas. But over at ExcelUser, there is a ton of material about using Excel to create dashboards. It looks like a very good place to start.

update: 3/16
Here is a nice set of Excel tutorials from Clemson University.

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