Excel – Find the Last Row and the AGGREGATE Function

Here is a common scenario for me. I like to apply alternate line formatting on spreadsheets, especially wide spreadsheets. It makes it easier to follow the correct row across the spreadsheet. Here a blue fill is applied to alternate lines.

A spreadsheet using alternate line fills
Alternate line formatting

But in this spreadsheet, I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted the alternate line formatting only be applied once the date is entered.
Alternate Formatting is only applied when a date is entered in the date column
The Alternate Line formatting is not applied until a date is entered.

This means I need to find the last row in the date column. Now previously I’ve used a COUNTIF formula, to count the number of rows with data. Then subtract any blank rows at the top of the spreadsheet. The drawback of this formula, is that editing the spreadsheet later often means the COUNTIF is no longer correct. Gaps in the data also cause problems.

Enter the AGGREGATE Function

The AGGREGATE function was introduced in Excel 2010. Bill Jelen called it “SUBTOTAL on steroids”. It offers 8 more functions than SUBTOTAL and the ability to ignore hidden rows and error values. You can use it either in a Reference or Array form. Here is a link to the MS Support article. One of the new functions offered is LARGE.

So this formula uses
=AGGREGATE(14,6,ROW(A:A)/(NOT(ISBLANK(A:A))),1)
14 – refers to the LARGE function
6 – tells it to ignore error values
ROW(A:A)/(NOT(ISBLANK(A:A))) creates an array of the results of each row number in column A divided by whether the NOT(ISBLANK) portion of the formula returns a TRUE or FALSE answer. TRUE is evaluated as 1 and FALSE as 0. As division by zero creates an error, any blank cells are ignored.
1 – indicates that the LARGE function will return the largest number from the array. Hence, the last row.

The Aggregate function finds the last row
The formula correctly finds the last row, in spite of gaps in the data.

And things came to a grinding halt…

At this point, I did what I normally do and made my AGGREGATE formula into a Named Formula. I typically find this is to be a tidier way of working. When I did this; Excel froze. Repeatedly. Whenever, I did anything that caused a recalculation. Like clicking on a formula to examine it. And if I persisted and used the named formula in the Conditional Formatting formula … things … just … slowed … down … more.

But interestingly, the performance of the spreadsheet doesn’t appear to be affected when the formula is placed in a cell. I was working in Office 2016. I’ll test it later in Office 365, and report back if I get different results. I actually caused the same freezing problem by using the Evaluate Formula button. Excel slows right down as it creates the array of every cell in column A divided by NOT(ISBLANK). Somehow, however, when the formula is in a cell – Excel manages to handle the calculation much more efficiently. I even checked by making the reference to the formula into a named range. No problems. So, if you are planning to use the AGGREGATE function in this way, you’ll need to actually place it somewhere in the spreadsheet. Oh, and you will need to make that cell into a Named Range or else the Conditional Formatting Formula will not work (that was kinda unexpected).

The Conditional Formatting Formula

The formula to produce this conditional formatting is:

=AND(ROW()<=Last_Row,MOD(ROW(),2)=1)
Last_Row refers to cell $B$2
This checks to see if the current row number is less than or equal to the value in the Last_Row Named Range AND if it is an odd numbered row, if so a blue fill is applied.


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A Spreadsheet is Creative (Part 5)

While the content of the spreadsheet is complete, the design isn’t finished yet. I think the best spreadsheets are “scannable”, in other words the reader can scan the sheet and get a sense of the pattern of information, before they even read it. I want the reader to be able to see at a glance whether it is a Facebook or Twitter Post, and to have a sense of the time of day the post will occur. Colour is going to make this happen. Since I have no intention of manually formatting the calendar, Conditional Formatting will make this happen.

Social Media posts in a classic calendar view
The final view with conditional formats in place

I am a big fan of conditional formatting, but the working dialog where formulas are added leaves a lot to be desired. So when I base a conditional format on a formula, I will typically build the formula in the spreadsheet so it can be tested and then copy it out of the formula bar and paste it into the working dialog. In this spreadsheet I have 12 (TWELVE) conditional formats, so I ended up pasting the formulas into notepad, so that I could jump back and forth without having to close/reopen the dialog box repeatedly.
I thought quite a bit about how I wanted different times to be represented by colour. I eventually decided on 6 different time “zones”.

  • 10 pm to 7 am
  • 7 am to 9 am
  • 9 am to 12 pm
  • 12 pm to 3 pm
  • 3 pm to 6 pm
  • 6 pm to 10 pm

I needed to find the excel versions of those, so I went to an empty spreadsheet, typed in the time and removed the time format. This is what I found:

time converted to numbers
Excel time format, converted to the underlying number value

Here are the series of formulas I used for conditional formatting, the first in each group is the default which will format the 10 pm to 7 am time entries.

=(C5=”FB”)
=AND(C5=”FB”,B5>=0.292,B5<0.375)
=AND(C5=”FB”,B5>=0.375,B5<0.5)
=AND(C5=”FB”,B5>=0.5,B5<0.625)
=AND(C5=”FB”,B5>=0.625,B5<0.75)
=AND(C5=”FB”,B5>=0.75,B5<0.917)

=(C5=”TW”)
=AND(C5=”TW”,B5>=0.292,B5<0.375)
=AND(C5=”TW”,B5>=0.375,B5<0.5)
=AND(C5=”TW”,B5>=0.5,B5<0.625)
=AND(C5=”TW”,B5>=0.625,B5<0.75)
=AND(C5=”TW”,B5>=0.75,B5<0.917)

I chose two different colours, based on the http://colorbrewer2.org/ color blind safe palettes and then picked increasingly darker shades of each colour.
And that wraps up this spreadsheet build! I hope you found this look at my process interesting, and I hope that you find building your spreadsheets as creatively satisfying as I do.


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unsplash-logoKelly Sikkema

A Spreadsheet is Creative (Part 4)

After the first test of the mega formula that will create content of our calendar, I spotted a problem.

The formula is expanded to more columns
Oops, it just repeats the first matching record

Some formula tweaking is in order. I’m also going to trim the length of the Post Type entry to 2 characters, so only FB or TW will appear, And the Image (column E) will be trimmed to the last 3 characters, so only the file type will be visible.
I will use the current row number ROW() – 5 (the number of rows before the entries start) to help count down the entry list. I’ve also replaced the “stop” label with “” with empty quotes. Now when there is no matching entry, nothing will appear.
using the ROW function
Adjusting the rows captured using the ROW function

As I mentioned earlier, I’m trimming the Post Type entry to 2 characters using LEFT. I also decided to force those two characters to uppercase using UPPER. So the previous formula will be nested inside the LEFT and UPPER functions:

=UPPER(LEFT(IF(ROW()<5+(COUNTIFS(Content!$E:$E,">=”&B$4,Content!$E:$E,”<"&B$4+1)),INDEX(Content!$C:$C,(MATCH(B$4,Content!$E:$E,0)+ROW()-5),1),""),2))

While it has been a long haul building this spreadsheet, now is not the time to stop. The next step will be adding the conditional formatting to this spreadsheet.



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unsplash-logoKelly Sikkema

A Spreadsheet is Creative (Part 3)

Now, I need to start to pull the post type, time of post and post content from the Content sheet. Starting with the post type (which resides in Column C), the following INDEX function in cell B6 will do the trick:
=INDEX(Content!$C$1:$C$1187,B5,1)
This index formula uses the value from B5 to find the entry in row 530. And yes, at this point that is only the first entry for the day.

Showing the result of the Index function
Index and If function results

Now, I’ll use an IF statement to build the formulas you see in column C6:
=IF(ROW()<6+C$5,"yes","stop")
At this stage in the process I usually use the IF statement to display a label. “Yes”, means there is matching data in the source sheet. “Stop” means there is no longer matching data. The test in column F shows the formula is working.
Now I’ve proven that the each formula works in turn, I can combine them into a larger “mega” formula. Don’t forget that when building these larger formulas you can; expand the formula bar and use Alt+Enter to force the formula to wrap for easier reading.
Like this:
=IF(ROW()<5+(COUNTIFS(Content!$E:$E,">=”&B$4,Content!$E:$E,”<"&B$4+1)), INDEX(Content!$C:$C,(MATCH(B$4,Content!$E:$E,0)),1),"stop")

You’ll notice that I’ve also stopped referring to a specific range in column E/C and instead reference the entire column. It doesn’t make any difference to the result of this formula and makes it a bit simpler to read. Also the Row adjustment number changes from 6 to 5 as I play with the layout of the spreadsheet. Changing the layout includes reordering the data, so that the time of the post comes first and adding a column that shows the path to any images used in the post.

Here’s a shot of the results of that formula:

The formula is expanded to more columns
Now I’m capturing more columns of data

You’ve undoubtedly spotted that only the first entry is being captured and repeated. I’ll adjust the formula to correct that problem in my next post.


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unsplash-logoWilliam Iven

A Spreadsheet is Creative (Part 2)

Continuing from my previous post, showing my process in designing a spreadsheet.

The design of a spreadsheet laid out like a classic calendar
Its’ starting to look a little bit like a calendar

Here I’ve placed each Day/Date heading over 3 columns (later I figured out I needed 4). Its’ starting to look a little bit like a calendar.

One of the things making the design of this calendar a little more challenging is that each day has a different number of posts. Anywhere between 2-20 depending on the days activities (library author quizzes, anyone?). So my formula needs to account for a variable number of entries each day, I can’t simply copy 20 lines and call it done. So, how will I do that?

Showing the results of the formulas that will count the daily entries
Finding where each day starts and the number of entries on that date

I’ve put the following formula into B5, it will find the row that each days’ entries begin on:
=MATCH(B$4,Content!$E1:$E1187,0)
Here the MATCH function does the trick of looking on the Content sheet (where my database lives) and counting down the rows to find the date that matches, then it returns the value of the rows counted.
In C5 I’m using the following formula to count the number of entries on that date:
=COUNTIFS(Content!$E$1:$E$1187,”>=”&B$4,Content!$E$1:$E$1187,”<"&B$4+1) The reasoning behind using COUNTIFS this way is because when dates are entered in the content sheet, sometimes a time is entered as well. The time remains unseen because of the formatting applied to the date column. I need to ensure I get every entry regardless of whether a time is present or not. Using COUNTIFS to count in a range will do this. I’ll continue with the design process in my next post.


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A Spreadsheet is Creative

Creating a spreadsheet is a creative act. The choices made about data, formulas, layout and colour all contribute to communicating clearly. Communicating clearly and well is, in my book a creative process.

So, I thought I’d walk through my process in designing a spreadsheet to take information from what is essentially a database layout:

Social Media Database Spreadsheet
This database view works fine for an Excel Nerd like me.
Into this view, a classic calendar view of the same information:
Social Media posts in a classic calendar view
A weekly calendar view of the same information.

I’m planning to use the calendar view to share a social media posting schedule, as the people I’m sharing with aren’t Excel savvy (and why should they be?). I create the posting schedule in Excel, because I can easily save it in .csv format and upload it to Google Calendar. However, sharing the Google Calendar has drawbacks too, and it is simpler to print out a weekly calendar showing the planned posts.
When I began this process, I had some things sketched out in my mind. I wanted to enter a date and see the week around it. I always want to see the posts for the date in the context of the posts for the days around it. I also want a consistent layout of days – Sunday to Monday. Having the starting day of the week change each time would make it harder for my viewers.
That means I’m going to need to dynamically generate the dates based on the day of the week of my starting date. You can see my first pass below:
Spreadsheet showing the calendar dates
Dynamically generating the date based on the day of the week
I labelled cell A1 WeekStart, this will help me remember the purpose of the contents of cell A1.
I’ve labelled the days of the week, and above them in row 2, given each day a number 1-7. The day numbers relate to the way the WEEKDAY function works. I’ll be using the mode where the week starts numbering 1 on Sunday. Later I’ll hide that row, but for now having it visible is helpful.
You can see that I’m stepping out the formula in rows 4 – 6. When I’m designing a spreadsheet, I’ll often step formulas out like this. It helps me avoid errors and makes each step clear. Later I’ll consolidate the steps.
In row 4, I’m calculating the following:
=(WEEKDAY(WeekStart,1))-B$2.
You can think of it as a way to calculate the number of days (+/-) from my start date. By the way, I chose to start with May 1, because it was on a Wednesday. That made sure I could test my formulas well, a Saturday or Sunday starting day would make testing harder.
Once I know I can count backwards and forwards from my starting date, I use the following formula:
=WeekStart-((WEEKDAY(WeekStart,1))-B$2)
The WEEKDAY function calculates the day number of the week. Here, it returns the number 4(Wednesday).
From the number 4 I subtract the value in row 2. This gives me the number of days to subtract from the WeekStart value. You can see the results in rows 5 and 6. Row 5 is simply the unformatted date value, since sometime I find visualizing the pure number easier.

This turned out to be a 5 part series! I hope you’ll find the next 4 parts interesting.

I’ll continue with the design process in my next post.


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Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

The Word Navigation Pane

The Navigation Pane

Among the many reasons I love Word Styles, is how it makes the Navigation Pane more powerful and easier to use.

Where to Find Navigation View
Find Navigation Pane on the View Ribbon

Turn on the Navigation Pane by going to the View Tab, Show Group and checking the Navigation Pane check box.
Navigation Pane - no styles in use
Unformatted text on the page and in Navigation Pane

At this point, if your text is unformatted, the Navigation Pane will not look that useful. But, watch what happens when I add styles to the unformatted text.
Styled text appears in the Navigation Pane
Text Formatted with Styles appears both on the page and in the Navigation Page

Now the text appears in the Navigation Page in the same style hierarchy used in the document. Now I can use the Navigation Page to quickly move around the document by clicking on the text I want to jump to.
Collapsing and Expanding Text
Text can be collapsed and expanded

If there is a lot of text, it can be collapsed and expanded using the triangle buttons.
The Navigation Pane can be used for more than navigation, it can also be used to reorder/reorganize text in the document. For example, perhaps I wish to move the section on the “The Adventures of Pinocchio” after “Aladdin”. I can do this easily by clicking on that heading in the Navigation Pane and dragging it below the heading I want it to follow.
Document reording results.
Results of using the Navigation Pane to reorder my document

Not only is that heading moved but all the subtext beneath it is moved as well. Fast and easy document reorganization!


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Featured image from
unsplash-logooxana v

One File to Many – MS Word

A few weeks ago the following request came to me: “I have also been told that there is a way to change and update several … in a bulk fashion, that would speed up the process when customizing many documents for a specific job.” Of course, I immediately started thinking about a process that would allow one to smoothly update a group of standard documents. For example; every time a new customer is being set up.

I reached for the INCLUDETEXT field in Word. In contrast to inserting a file (which takes the entire contents of a file), the INCLUDETEXT field allows you to specify text within a file, when that text has been identified by a bookmark.

The Plan

Set up a “CustomerInfo” source document. Then in my standard documents (target documents), I’d use the INCLUDETEXT field to link to the relevant pieces of information stored in the source document. Updating would be a breeze, simply change the information in the source and the next time the fields are updated in the target document all the correct information will appear. In this process, the Customer Information source document would:

  1. Always have the same file name
  2. Be stored in the same folder as the rest of the customer files. If this is not the case, then the field code in the target document will need to be adapted from my example.

The Source Document

Setting up the source document is pretty straightforward – I’d make a form detailing the information to be collected. However, bookmarks are too easy to delete when adding or updating information. I’d use content controls nested inside the bookmarks. This also takes advantage of tabbing from one control to another, making it faster to input and edit information. The controls can be grouped or placed in a table. But don’t use the Locking options when creating the control. Locking a control prevents the target document from updating.

The Target Document

I’d place the following field in the target document
{INCLUDETEXT "{FILENAME \P}\\..\\source document filename" bookmark}
Replacing the source document filename with the Customer Information filename (including the docx extension) and the bookmark with the name of the bookmark from the source document.
The {FILENAME \P}\\..\\ portion of the field extracts the path & filename of the current file and clips off the filename (using \\..\\), which allows you to substitute the source document filename. Hat tip to MS Word MVP Paul Edstein for this clever solution.

Updating

The INCLUDETEXT field is classified as a “warm” field in Word. This means it does not update automatically, but requires user intervention. The user needs to select the field and press the F9 function key to update. If multiple fields are used in the same document, use Ctrl + A to select the entire document, then press F9 to update all fields.
There are macros to update all the fields as well, but the keyboard commands are just as straightforward. Depending on the workflow, I might write a macro to loop through all the documents in a folder and force updating.

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Excel – Previous Day Total

Here is a scenario: A running total of numbers, updated daily. You want to capture the previous day’s total, as you can see in the picture below.

Excel - Previous Day Total
Looking for the Previous Day’s total in a column of numbers

I’m showing the answer in two steps here, in real life I’d make it into one formula.
The first step is to capture the row number of the previous day’s total. Finding it using the numbers in Column C would be way too complicated. But Column B has the kind of data we can use.
Using the formula =LOOKUP(2,1/(B2:B29<>0),ROW(B:B)) captures the row.
finding the row number
Finding the row number for the previous day’s value.

What the lookup formula is doing is starting by evaluating the numbers from B2:B29 looking for values that aren’t equal to zero.
This creates an array like this: {TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE}
The TRUE values will equal 1 and the FALSE values equal 0.
This means when the formula divides 1 by those values, an array looking like this is created:
{1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!}
Lookup can’t find 2 in the array, so it settles for the largest value in the array that is less than or equal to lookup_value.The ROW function tells it to return the row number from the array B2:B29.
The second step is to combine the row number with the column number and show the result using =INDIRECT("C"&D2)
And there you have it. A quick way of always finding the previous day (month, year, whatever).