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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Excel Tip: Add a simple tick box to your spreadsheet - and use its result!

Do you ever wonder how you get those professional looking tick boxes (or check boxes) in your spreadsheet?

They're easier to add than you think, and it's pretty straight-forward to have calculations depend on the result of the tick box.

In this post, I'll show you how to do both.

Before you can add a tick box, you need the Developer Ribbon enabled. If you don't see it as one of the named Ribbons at the top of Excel, then you can add it by selecting File - Options - Customize Ribbon and then ticking Developer in the list of Main Tabs on the right-hand side.

To insert a tick box, go to the Developer ribbon and click Insert in the drop-down menu that appears, click the Check Box (Form Control) icon. This is the tick box under the heading Form Controls - if you hover over it you will see the name "Check Box (Form Control)" appear.

Your cursor will become a cross and you can now click where you want the tick box to appear.

The box will appear with some default text to the right of it (this will usually be Check Box 1 if this is the first one that you have inserted into the spreadsheet. This text can be edited (or deleted) by double-clicking on the text and editing or deleting as required.

This is your tick box created and you can now click it to toggle between ticked and unticked.

However, I did say that I would show you how to use the result of the tick box.

If you right-click on the tick box you will see the menu option "Format Control". Click on this and go to the Control tab.

You will see a box entitled Cell Link. Enter a cell reference here, where you wish to store the result of the tick box (let's say C3). Now when you click the tick box, cell C3 will switch to show TRUE, and when you untick the tick box, C3 will show FALSE.

You can then use cell C3 in a formula. The most common way to use it would be as the criteria argument of an IF function. As C3 contains the logical value TRUE or FALSE, then this is all you need as your criteria argument, so:

=IF(C3,100,0)

will return the value 100 if the tick box is ticked, or 0 if not.

It's as simple as that!

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Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Excel Tip: Identifying your financial period from a date

When working with financial transactions, we often want to analyse them between our financial periods rather than just calendar months.

This is pretty easy if your financial year is January to December and  your periods are the calendar months, but what if your year starts in April or you have four and five week periods - or both?

I'll explain how to address each of these scenarios in this post.

In each case, let us assume the date we want to identify the period for is held in cell A2.

Calendar Year with Calendar Months
This is by far the simplest scenario as we can use the MONTH function to strip the month number from the date, so =MONTH(A2) will do the trick, returning 1 for January, 2 for February, etc.

Non-Calendar Year with Calendar Months
This situation is slightly more complicated but we can use our knowledge of the IF function to address it, along with the MONTH function used above.

Let's say our year end is March So the calendar month 4, is our period 1. So deducting 3 from the month will give us our period, however this will only work from April onwards. If our date is in February and we deduct 3 from the month, we will have -1, rather 11, which is what we require. This is where the IF statement comes in.

If the month is greater than 3, then we want to deduct 3, otherwise we want to add 9 (which is 12 -3).

So, our formula becomes:

=IF(MONTH(A2)>3,MONTH(A2)-3,MONTH(A2)+9)

The 3 is the month of our year-end and the 9 is 12 minus the month of our year-end, so if our year ended in October (month 10), then the formula would be:

=IF(MONTH(A2)>10,MONTH(A2)-10,MONTH(A2)+2)

Non-Calendar Year with Non-Calendar Periods
For this situation, we need to take a different approach. We don't have a simple rule for the periods, so we will need to tell the spreadsheet them. We can do this with a LOOKUP table.

We should have a two-column table with the first column for the  start date of each period (earliest to latest), and the second column for the period number.

We can then use VLOOKUP with a TRUE (or omitted) fourth argument to look up the correct period.

Say the lookup table is in cells D2:E13 (when doing this for real, I would recommend putting this on a separate tab), then our formula would be:

=VLOOKUP(A2,$D$2:$E$13,2) will return the period number.

I have applied the dollar signs to the range so that it stays fixed when copied to other rows.

This last approach is obviously the most flexible and can be used for many other scenarios, e.g. identifying VAT quarters for example.


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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

What would be in your Excel Survival Kit?

This weekend, I went on a bushcraft training weekend with my fifteen year-old son, building our own camp in the woods, etc.

This was an amazing experience and is still fresh in my mind as I write this blog post. So, it got me thinking, "In the Excel jungle, what would I have in my survival kit?"

I thought I'd ask myself the following question (and I'd love to hear your answers too, in the comments) - If I could only have three functions/features in Excel, what would they be? I am going to assume that basic mathematical functions like adding and subtracting and SUM are there, but what are the top three additional features that I wouldn't want to be without?

So, here are my top three (in no particular order):


  1. VLOOKUP - Having Excel look up information from tables elsewhere in the spreadsheet is an incredibly useful facility. I did, however, think for a while about this as I would have preferred INDEX and MATCH, but that would have taken up two of my choices!
  2. PivotTables - I use them all of the time and they remove the need for formulae in many cases.
  3. The IF statement - being able to get Excel to essentially make decisions based upon the information it has available is too useful a feature to give up!
Please let me know yours in the comments.

By the way, although you've missed the discount, you can still get Mynda Treacy's Excel Dashboards course until it is taken down on Thursday night.


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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Excel Tip: Quickly name and access ranges

A quick reminder before we start, that the 20% off deal on Mynda Treacy's Excel Dashboards course expires on Thursday. So, if you want to take advantage, hop on over there now while you've still got the chance.

This week, I've got a simple tip to quickly name and access ranges in Excel.

You can use the Name Manager on the Formulas ribbon to define range names, however I will show you a much quicker way to name fixed ranges, as well as go to them and highlight them once they exist.

This tip uses the Name Box at the top left of your screen, just below the ribbon to the left of the formula bar.

This box normally shows the cell reference of the active cell (the cell that is currently selected). If you click in cell B6, for example, you will see the name box shows "B6".

While you are in cell B6, click in the Name Box and type the name "Fred". Click in another cell and the name box will change to the cell reference of the cell you have clicked in. Now click back on cell B6 and notice what happens. The Name Box says "Fred"! You have successfully renamed B6, Fred!

You can do the same thing with a range of cells. If you highlight the range C5:E10, for example, and type "Bill" in the Name Box, click in another cell and then re-highlight the range C5:E10, the Name Box will show "Bill" again.

Note that these names follow the same rules for named ranges named in any other way - most notably, they should not include any spaces.

What's more, if you click the dropdown arrow next to the Name Box, you will see Bill and Fred are both listed there. If you select one of them from the list, you will go to that range and highlight it. This works from any of the other worksheets in the workbook too.

You might not find too many reasons to name cells Bill or Fred, but if B6 was renamed TaxRate, then that might be useful. You could use the name TaxRate in any formula (instead of B6) and if you need to check what the TaxRate is, or change it, you can go to that cell by selecting it from the dropdown in the Name Box.

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