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Excel Tip – Top 5 Ways to Avoid Problems With Your Excel Spreadsheet

When developing a spreadsheet solution in Excel, you make decisions and change properties and formulas that make perfect sense at the time and have a logical flow. When you go back to modify, add, or correct your spreadsheet, what made sense during development may not be so obvious at a later time.

So here are my top 5 things to consider when developing a spreadsheet solution so you can troubleshoot and make your spreadsheet as efficient as possible.

1. Combined Cells.

They may look good, but they can wreak havoc on your spreadsheet’s functionality, including losing the ability to sort data or run VBA because it doesn’t handle single cells very well. You also lose the functionality of a normal data table in Excel; ie great functions like Pivot Tables, SUMIF, COUNTIF etc the list goes on!. If you want to use AutoFill – no chance with overlapping cells and don’t expect you can’t copy and paste either.

2. Hidden Rows and Columns.

Unless you really need to hide a row or columns, just don’t. Why, because they are hidden!. They can confuse users trying to follow the logic of a spreadsheet, users can’t see them but Excel will still use those cells in calculations which can then appear to users to cause incorrect data. They can also cause problems with importing new data into your workbook and problems with VBA code and VBA code.

3. Avoid empty cells, rows and columns.

You may not always have a value for every cell in your workbook, but leaving cells completely blank has a big impact on some functions in Excel. For example -AUTOSUM or using filtering with empty cells will affect Excel calculations. If you have gaps, always consider using zero or an appropriate descriptive value such as NO.

4. Avoid many Volatile Functions.

A volatile function is one that recalculates every time a worksheet changes. These include the functions NOW (), TODAY (), OFFSET. If you use too many or too many of these in a workbook, it will eventually start to slow it down.

5. Avoid Unnecessarily Complicated Formulas.

One thing I’ve learned by developing distributed file solutions for users is that they (eventually) want to see all the work from a formula. For example the typical sales formula a

=(Price*Sales Volume)-(Price*Sales Volume)*Discount+(Price*Sales Volume)* Tax

Users will want to know the Total Sales Value, Total Deductibles and Sales Tax Value which are the different columns displayed. Here we can separate the components of the formula into smaller formulas in their own columns or what we call ‘auxiliary columns’. If you can increase the clarity of the calculations, it will make the logic of the spreadsheet easier for users to follow and result in fewer questions.

These are my top 5 considerations when creating a folder.

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