Excel is apowerful tool but often misunderstood and used not to best effect. A bank in Central London lost 2 million pound due to a formula error on one worksheet. The following is a guide to some of the questions that come up from our training sessions.
When to use excel?
Excel in it’s basic form is giant calculator. It can manipualte data, compute complex mathemeatical equations and produce information in a graphical format. It provides a flexible programming environment into which a user can input data and retrieve the information quickly and easily. It is useful in producing financial forecasts, developing budgets, business “what if” scenarios and automating repedetive tasks. What it is not good at is keeping historical information. As it is completely flexible, data can be written over and formulas changed. For this reason it shouldn’t be used as a full accounting system as any information can not be “locked” to produce a stable audit trail. For this purpose you need something written in a database format which would limit what can be modified and track any changes made and by whom. Most databases can be accessed by multi-users where excel can only be modified by one person at any particular time.
Is there a difference between Mac and windows version of Excel?
Yes. Although a lot of the functions and look of the program is similar the whole program has been rewritten for the Mac environment. For this reason some of the more advanced operations have been scaled down or simply don’t function. For example the start dates are different (1901 for windows, 1904 for Mac), the formula bar keeps disappearing and VBA module is limited and in the Mac version 2007 it has been completely removed. If you need the more advanced functions of Excel I would suggest running Windows on a virtual environment on the Mac and swapping files between the two environments.
Can excel link with other programs?
Depending on what language the program is written in, excel can extract information from a datafile and place that into a worksheet for analysis. Most programs have an “office link” which allows exporting data directly into excel or you can create an “ODBC” link directly into the back end. Excel can also be used as an intermediary between two programs by exporting information out as .txt or .csv file and reformatted to import into another solution. (i.e. Payroll summaries into an accounting package)