A Bright Approach to Learning Excel
A Bright Approach to Learning Excel
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A couple weeks back, I asked who was interested in the free “Launch Excel Boot Camp Training Course” that I was making.
I didn’t want to spend a lot of time making this if no one was interested, so I asked you to let me know if you wanted the training course …
… If at least 50 people said they wanted it, I said I’d make it.
I am genuinely excited and humbled. When I first started trying to learn Excel 14 years ago I had no idea that I would one day be teaching others how to use it too.
I promised everyone who signed up to my special interest list that I would give you a value packed, 100% free training course on how to create great spreadsheets.
So I got up really early this morning (6am which is early for me) to help get the kids to school on time – in Singapore my son has to be in his primary school by 7.15am – lucky we live across the street!
Then I got down to sketch the teaching outline for the Excel Boot Camp Training Course (to find out more about the origins of this course, see here)
And, originally, the free Boot Camp course WAS going to cost $97. But, since (a) I really enjoy giving things away, (b) it’s a way to thank you for all the great comments and feedback you’ve given me, and (c) I really think you need this to make great spreadsheets and help all the other Excel users in your life… I’m going to just give this thing away.
If you’re really serious about learning to use Microsoft Excel better and want to be trained by me then … I’d really be appreciate it if you’d fill out my three question survey below. It will take 3 minutes.
If you can only answer one question, do the first one “What free product about learning Excel or using Excel would you LOVE for me to create for you?”
[Note #1: I’m thinking about giving away a free product for you… IF you’re potentially interested in learning more about Excel and putting together great spreadsheets. But before I go crazy making this thing, I want to make sure you actually want it, so I don’t feel like an idiot. More details near the bottom of the article.]
[Note #2: in case you’re wondering, this post is a FOLLOW-UP TO THIS POST which received over 20 comments from readers like you who sent me positive messages of support ☺]
Way back in 2002 I started working for the professional services firm Deloitte, which is one of the Big Four Accounting Firms. At that stage in my life I was 23 years old, had just got married and was at the start of a three year journey to becoming a Chartered Accountant in London.
While I was quite familiar with computers, I had not used Microsoft Office in a work environment. Yes I had just completed a four-year engineering course at Cambridge University but for all intents and purposes I didn’t know Excel.
As a trainee accountant I found that I was a complete newbie in Excel. It was like there was a whole new unknown world out there and I was lost in it.
[Note: In case you’re wondering, this post is a follow-up to this (which has been getting a lot of comments). I will try my best to respond to each and every comment you post, BTW]
OK… in my last email and blog post I left you with a cliff hanger and I’m sorry if you have been feeling upset with me for not revealing that “really big request”.
Anyway, I’ve been feeling reluctant to talk about something. But it’s long overdue so here goes…
When I first started sharing my Excel knowledge online in 2011 with Launch Excel, there was no way I could have guessed how many times my videos would be watched.
And as you may or may not know, the last time I posted a new video to the Launch Excel YouTube channel was 4 years ago on January 16, 2013. I stopped posting new videos because my life situation had changed and I no longer had enough time to share more Excel knowledge by carefully crafting video tutorials and blog posts.
So when I last checked my YouTube channel in January 2017, it was showing that my 31 videos had been watched a total of 2,038,283 times. That’s about 2 million views more than I expected to see!
Then I started catching up with the 600+ comments that have been posted on my channel (as well the comments on my blog) and I started to realize that my videos have really helped a lot of Excel users worldwide.
Most times when I publish a blog post or a video, it’s to offer helpful advice on how to use Microsoft Excel better.
I want to pull back the curtain bit and share something more personal.
It’s 2017 and my 38 birthday is just around the corner. I am one of those people who is blessed with a youthful face – recently a taxi driver was convinced I was twenty years old. He was very surprised when I told him my age! So I got to thinking what would I do now in a 20 year old body, now that I’m almost 40 and have seen a lot more of the world.
In part 1 of this series we took a look at VLOOKUP formula basics. If you want to learn how a VLOOKUP formula works, or know someone else who is struggling with VLOOKUPs, check out the first article “Discover a simple way to understand how VLOOKUP formulas work in Excel“, and come back to this article.
Here in part 2, we have a 14 minute video that explains three different ways to write the VLOOKUP formula for exact matches. If you have never used the COLUMNS function or MATCH function with VLOOKUP, you are in for a treat because you will find out how to turn the standard VLOOKUP into a dynamic formula. As usual I have included a sample workbook with a table of fictional employee data for you to download and follow along with the examples.
What do super-heroes have in common? When I think about super-heroes a lot of comic book characters come to mind: Batman, Superman, Spiderman, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers… and what sets these guys apart from run of the mill folk like you and me is that they have special abilities and powers.
When called to fight the “bad guys”, superheroes swoop in to save the day with decisive action. But more than just taking action, because their unique abilities and powers allow them to do things that normal people can’t. Some super-heroes are born with their unique powers, others have their abilities thrust on them by accident, and some develop skills through years of training.
If I’m going to single out one super-hero to focus on here, it’s got to be Batman. Born a “normal” guy with no special abilities (just very rich parents), it took Bruce Wayne years of practice with extraordinary teachers to reach a level of mastery that allowed him to turn himself into Batman.
And just like Bruce Wayne’s path to becoming Batman, the path to becoming an Excel hero is not an instant transformation. It took years of dedication and mastery of the right skills and technology before the Batman emerged as the Dark Knight ready to save Gotham City from hordes of evil-doers. And yes, you can become an Excel Hero by taking a similar path.
Take your first step on the journey by reading on, and make sure you check out my Q&A session with Excel Hero Academy creator, Daniel Ferry.
Before we get started let me explain that VLOOKUP formulas are simple when you know how, but it can take a while to “get it”. A year or so after I started to learn Excel I stumbled across my first VLOOKUP formula. It was written by someone else, and I must have spent half an hour fiddling about with different inputs to figure out how it worked.
Back then the internet wasn’t quite so easy to search as it is today and I could not find any good online video tutorials, so I decided to look up Microsoft Excel’s Built-in Help on VLOOKUP. For a newcomer to Excel like I was back then, the instructions were hard to understand. It took me several months before I could write VLOOKUP formulas in my sleep.
Fast forward to the present day and I know that it’s easy to understand the VLOOKUP function when it’s explained onscreen using a good example. I really wish that someone explained the VLOOKUP function to me the way I’m going to explain it to you. It would have saved a lot of time and headache!
In our 13-minute video we explore a simple address book analogy to demystify VLOOKUPs and then check out how to use VLOOKUPs to perform exact matches. After that we examine the difference between exact matches and approximate matches and find out how to assign letter grades to students based on their percentage marks using the VLOOKUP function.
There is a lot of demand for Excel users who can create Dashboard reports, and I have received many emails from people all over the world who say they want to learn more about creating Dashboards in Excel. In my recent article on creating dropdowns for dashboards, I showed some simple techniques for creating interactive charts using dropdown menus in Excel. This just touches the surface of what is possible.
You probably know that to create awesome Excel Dashboard reports requires a thorough knowledge of many Excel techniques, but also principles of good visual design, and learning this practical knowledge takes a significant investment of time. If you have been looking for a course to teach you how to create your very own Excel Dashboards, then you should check out my review of the excellent online Dashboard course created by Mynda Treacy at MyOnlineTrainingHub.com.
Picture this scene on an interstate. You are standing in a rest area and hear a loud engine roar coming towards you. A powerful red sports car drives into view, revving really hard. It moves past you pretty slowly and continues to rev hard in first gear, so loud that you need to cover your ears to stop going deaf!
At this point you’re probably thinking to yourself “The driver doesn’t know how to drive that car!” as he continues to rev the engine hard in first gear, instead of changing up to second and third. Now keep that picture in mind as I ask the question “Are you using Excel in first gear?”
Let’s assume you know most of Excel’s menus and shortcuts, and are able to use many of Excel’s powerful features such as Pivot Tables and Charting. But if you don’t know anything about macros and VBA, your ability to use Excel is still pretty limited. You to do everything by hand, step by step. It’s like you can’t take Excel’s powerful engine into second or third gear.
Let me show you a quick video to introduce the Macro recorder in Excel 2010, and how we can use a simple recorded macro to change number formats quickly.
Image Credit: Racing car model courtesy of Buckey
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