Category Archives: Excel

Excel: Concatenation for the Social Nation

Concatenation results
Concatenation results

As I’ve worked more with scheduling posts, tweets and pins, I’m trying to make the most of the Subject line used by Google Calendar.

Google Calendar Subject line
Google Calendar Subject line

I’ve found that if I combine a meaningful keyword describing the post(or tweet, or pin) plus the phrase that triggers the IFTTT action, then managing the scheduled posts once they are uploaded into Google Calendar is a bit easier. It also makes it easier when I’m filtering and managing the spreadsheet too.

In my spreadsheet I use a separate column each for subject keyword and for subject trigger phrases (actually I’m paring those down to keywords too). But I want them joined together to create the actual subjects. To do this, I use the Excel CONCATENATION function. Which is most simply represented by the & symbol. In the example at the beginning of the post you can see the formula:

=B103& ” ” &C103

In this case I’m using the & symbol to join the values of cells B103 and C103 together with the string ” ” in the middle to create a nice space between words. This allows the subject phrase to be created automatically once I’ve selected the subject and trigger keywords.

Excel: Multiple Cell entry

Here’s a quick keyboard tip, instead of copying and pasting the same information in multiple cells (too many steps!), try the following.

  1. Pre selecting the cells you want to enter data in.
  2. Enter the data – BUT instead use the Ctrl + Enter keyboard shortcut to confirm the data. This will duplicate your data entry to every cell you have selected.

The toughest part of this shortcut is remembering to use it!

Excel: Adding time

Addingtime1
Automatically adding 30 minutes to the Start Time

In my Social Media spreadsheet I want to add 30 minutes to the starting time for the post.  Why 30 minutes? That’s the default scheduling time in Google Calendar.

To do this, I use the TIME function. The TIME function has 3 arguments; hour, minute and seconds – all three arguments are required. So my formula would look something like this:

=F2+TIME(0,30,0)

So, I’m adding 30 minutes to the value from cell F2.  Easy!

Excel: Find the Weekend

In a previous post I showed how I entered a column of repeating dates when building my Social Media spreadsheet. The next thing I like to do, is colour code those dates so that I can see at a glance when the weekend dates are. For this I use the WEEKDAY function in Excel.

Weekday function example1
Weekday Function Example

Point the WEEKDAY function at a date and it will return a number from 1 thru 7 indicating what day of the week the date is.  In this case the formula reads =weekday(A2,2)

The 2 in the above formula is the return type, and here indicates that the week starts on Monday. This means that Saturday and Sunday will return values of 6 & 7.

This is perfect for using with conditional formatting.

If I plug the following formula into the conditional formatting dialog box
=(WEEKDAY(A2,2))>5

I am testing for values above 5, namely the weekend. So I can use this to put a colour fill in those dates so that they stand out.

Weekday function with Conditional Formatting
Weekday function with Conditional Formatting

Obviously, the Results column isn’t needed because the formula is actually residing in the Edit Formatting Rule dialog box.

This is the second post discussing using Conditional formatting with a Social Media spreadsheet.  Check out this previous post for another example of using conditional formatting.

 

Excel: Sequential Dates in Multiples

When I’m setting up my Social Media spreadsheet in Excel, I like to limit the number of scheduled Facebook entries per day. Over time, I’ve come to think that 4 Facebook entries per day is a reasonable maximum.  This lets the librarian post “live” when things are happening in the library without clogging up our follower’s feeds.

So I want to create a column of dates that looks like this:

Each date is repeated 4 times
Each date is repeated 4 times

 

The quickest way to do this with minimal typing is to use the Fill Series dialog box. Since Excel 2007, you can find it under the Fill menu on the Home tab.

Finding the Fill Series Dialog
Finding the Fill Series Dialog

To use the Fill Series dialog, select the range of cells you want your dates to be entered in. Make sure the first cell in the range has the starting date. Then select the Fill button and choose Series.

The Fill Series Dialog
The Fill Series Dialog

Enter a Step value. In this case, because I want 4 repeats of each date I’m using .25 as the Step value.  If I wanted 5 repeats, I’d use .20 (and so on).

If you don’t feel like calculating how many cells to select when doing this for a date range that spans a couple of months; try using a Stop value. With a Stop Value, the series will stop at the first instance of the date entered into the field. Otherwise, the series will fill the entire selected range.  ( In the picture above the full date is not displayed in the field, it was actually 06/01/2016.)  Using a Stop Value allows you to make a rough selection (say 500 cells) and Excel will stop when the series runs its’ course.

 

 

Home On The Range

Sometimes, when you’re teaching, its’ not about the complexity of the subject. Sometimes its a very simple piece of information that students get the most “mileage” out of.

When I’m teaching students MS Excel, the simplest thing that I teach them about is Named Ranges. Its the  simplest thing to talk about, but the uses for ranges go on and on.

Excel Spreadsheet Example
A plain spreadsheet.

Above you see a standard Excel spreadsheet. Adding a range name or two (or ten) can help make it much easier to work with.

Adding a Range name to the Cell Address box.
Type the range name into the Cell Address box. Press Enter when done.

A range name can refer to a single cell or a group of cells, here I’ve selected the cell containing the total for the six month period (H11).

Click into the Cell address box (circled in red) and type in the desired name. There are some simple rules about naming ranges; the name can’t start with a number, can’t look like a cell reference (imagine how confusing that would be) and can’t use spaces and special characters (notice I’ve used an underscore to separate words). But after that it is up to you, to make your range name meaningful.

Adding a range name to a group of cells
Adding a range name to a group of cells.

If you are going to add a range name to a group of cells, select them and type the name into the cell address box. The most frequent mistake students make at this point, is that they forget to press the Enter key to confirm the range name.

Now, how do you use these range names?

Navigating your spreadsheet using range names.
Navigating your spreadsheet using range names.

First, you can quickly jump to your named ranges by using the drop-down menu. When you click on the drop-down menu in the cell address box, you’ll see a list of all the ranges you’ve added to your spreadsheet. Regardless of what sheet they are on. So you can use this to quickly jump to those cells that you work with again and again.

Range Names can replace cell references in formulas
Range Names can replace cell references in formulas.

Second, you can replace cell references in a formula with range names. Does =SUM(January) seem easier to read and understand than =SUM(B2:B10)? Then a formula that uses range names will make your spreadsheets easier to read.

Third, you can use range names in conjunction with all sorts of other Excel tools. As an example, try using range names with the Data Validation tool.

A Named Range provides the source for this data validation list.
A Named Range provides the source for this data validation list.

In the sample above, a range name provides the source list for a drop-down list.

Data Validation Result
Data Validation Result

Resulting in this drop-down list. The list will update as the list of animals changes on Sheet1.

This is a more elegant solution for using drop-down lists, since it means your source lists can be kept on another sheet, and not clutter up the working area. This is something that is impossible to do, without using a range name.

So faster navigation, easy to read formulas and access to more powerful features in Excel. What’s not to love about range names?

Social Media Spreadsheet – Conditional Formatting

I’m a big fan of Excel’s conditional formatting feature. I use it a lot in my spreadsheets to check on the quality of data, find errors and many other tasks. Here is the first of a couple of examples of how I’m using conditional formatting in my social media spreadsheet.

Just a bit of background on the spreadsheet. I use this spreadsheet to compose Facebook Posts and Tweets for the Redcliff Library. I also use it to schedule when the posts/tweets will be published. This allows me to sit down and plan a coherent sequence of posts/tweets.

I often take the Facebook posts and cut them down to shorter lengths and reuse them on Twitter. Twitter has a character limit of 140 characters. However, I don’t want to use all 140 characters if I can avoid it. Its’ generally recognized that the ideal tweet length is around 120 characters. This length allows others to retweet and add hashtags without having to edit the tweet.

So I have created 4 conditional formatting rules to help me meet this length limit.

  1. The background of the cell turns bright red [STOP] if the tweet is over 140 characters.
  2.  The background of the cell turns dull red if the tweet is over 135 characters.
  3. The background of the cell turns bright orange [WARNING] if the tweet is over 125 characters.
  4. The background of the cell turns dull orange if the tweet is over 120 characters.

Why four rules? I could use 2 warnings only; at 120 and 140 characters respectively. In fact, that is where I started. But, writing tweets can be a tricky thing and I found I needed a little wiggle room to help me when I compose. The other thing to keep in mind is that the conditional format isn’t applied until I finish editing the cell (by pressing the Enter key or the checkmark). It is possible to have an interactive format applied using VBA, but those functions are memory intensive and slow down the whole spreadsheet. Since my writing process seems to involve a lot of pauses to think, stopping to  apply the conditional format isn’t really a big problem for me.

So what does it look like in action?

Conditional Formatting Results
Conditional Formatting Results

As a result, I can quickly identify which tweets need to be edited. Here are the 4 rules as displayed in the Conditional Formatting Dialog box.Conditional Formatting Dialog

These are formula based conditional formats.

closer look at formula
The formula the conditional format is based on.

 

 

A conditional formatting formula must return a value of TRUE in order to fire. The following formula uses the AND, SEARCH and LEN functions

=AND(((SEARCH(“TW”,B1))>0),LEN(H1)>140)

If you were reading this formula in something like english it would read: “If the letters TW appear in column B AND the length of text in this cell is more that 140 characters the result equals TRUE”.

Why am I testing for the presence of TW in the subject column? Remember I said that I had both Facebook and Twitter posts in the same spreadsheet. I don’t want the conditional formatting to flag Facebook posts, which by their nature are longer.

Pro Tip:

When you are writing a formula for conditional formatting, do it in a cell in the spreadsheet first. The dialog for conditional formatting is really cramped and you don’t get any help features. After you are sure the formula works, you can then copy/paste it into the dialog using the Ctrl + V keyboard shortcut. Also, because I planned on apply this conditional format to the entire Description column ($H:$H). I had cell H1 selected when I built the conditional formula. That way the formula will adjust relatively to the entire column. Using absolute and relative references properly is another tricky part of building conditional formatting formulas.

applying the coloured background fill
applying the coloured background fill

Once I have my formula built. I can click the format button and select the background colour fill.

 

 

When I’ve built my first format successfully  I can then use it for the basis of the subsequent formulas. Just changing the length of the text in the cell.

  • =AND(((SEARCH(“TW”,B1))>0),LEN(H1)>140)
  • =AND(((SEARCH(“TW”,B1))>0),LEN(H1)>135)
  • =AND(((SEARCH(“TW”,B1))>0),LEN(H1)>125)
  • =AND(((SEARCH(“TW”,B1))>0),LEN(H1)>120)
The order of the rules and the stop if true flags must be set.
The order of the rules and the stop if true flags must be set.

To make this really successful, the rules need to be placed in the proper order, with the Stop If True flags turned on. Now excel will check to see if the text exceeds 140 characters first, then 135, then 125 and finally 120.  The Stop if True flag doesn’t need to be set on the final rule, because no other rules follow it.

Conditional formats can take time to build, but are extremely useful in many ways.

To find another example of using conditional formatting with a social media spreadsheet check out this post.