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Tuesday 30 September 2014

Excel Tip: What's the difference between Delete and Clear?

There was a great response to my Filtered Excel Training offer last week. If you missed it you can still sign up to get 53 Online Excel Training modules absolutely free.

Also, if you are looking for an Excel training solution across your business, take a look at Filtered's business offering and receive 20% discount as a Not Just Numbers reader.

On with today's post. Whether we have made a mistake or are tidying up a spreadsheet, there are many occasions where we wish to delete things that we, or someone else, has already done.

Excel offers a few ways to do this - and they're not all the same. Do you know what each of them do? If not, read on.

The most common method of deleting in Excel is to use the Delete key on your keyboard. This will delete the contents of the selected cell or cells, however it will leave any formatting intact. This makes it very useful for correcting incorrect data input, but not ideal when you are tidying up a spreadsheet and you don't want any old formats hanging around.

The next option (also called delete) is when you select Delete from the right-click menu or the Home ribbon. This option deletes the actual cell itself, giving you the option to move cells left or up, or to delete the entire row or column. This is quite different to the delete key as this is changing the structure of the spreadsheet.

Finally, there is the Clear option. This is available from the Home ribbon and offers the following options:

  • Clear All
  • Clear Formats
  • Clear Contents
  • Clear Comments
  • Clear Hyperlinks
These options are pretty self-explanatory and "do what it says on the tin", but it is worth commenting on the Clear All, as this is very useful when cleaning up a spreadsheet as it gets rid of any traces of what was there before.

If you enjoyed this post, go to the top of the blog, where you can subscribe for regular updates and get two freebies "The 5 Excel features that you NEED to know" and "30 Chants for Better Charts".

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Online Excel Training - Not Just Numbers readers can get 53 modules from Filtered


We've got a slightly different post this week. I want to tell you about a new exciting partnership I have agreed with Filtered, providers of excellent on-line training in Excel and Office.

And to cement this partnership, Filtered have agreed to provide Not Just Numbers readers with the first two sections of their Excel course completely free. That's 53 modules giving you a very decent grounding in Excel - absolutely FREE!

To take up this offer, just click here (all you need to do to set up your account is enter your name and email address and to choose a password).

To ensure that you get the most out of your training in as little time as possible, Filtered provide you with a unique test which is a combination of questions about your own perception of your Excel aptitude and actual questions about Excel. This then tailors the training to suit your specific needs - no need to trawl through all the stuff you already know to get to the useful bits.

Even without this offer, I would recommend Filtered as a great way to plug the gaps in your Excel knowledge, but getting so much of it free, in my opinion, makes it a no-brainer!

So, don't forget to sign up for your free account before you leave this page.

If you enjoyed this post, go to the top of the blog, where you can subscribe for regular updates and get two freebies "The 5 Excel features that you NEED to know" and "30 Chants for Better Charts".

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Excel Tip: Knowing where you are in your spreadsheet, using the ROW and COLUMN commands

Sometimes in your spreadsheet, like in life, it is good to get your bearings to establish where you are.

This can be very useful in a formula if you want the result to be dependent on the location in the spreadsheet.

For example, you might want to:

  • format odd and even rows (or columns) differently, or
  • apply a different formula depending on how far down a list an item appears, or
  • populate cells with a particular value, formula or format based upon  an entered width and height.
To do any of these types of things with a formula, the formula will have to know its own location (i.e. its row and column) first.

The ROW and COLUMN commands do exactly that.

The syntax of the ROW command is:


where Reference is the cell reference that you wish to return the row of. So,


for example, will return 5.

But notice that Reference is in square brackets which, you may remember form earlier posts, means that it is an optional argument. So, the function can be written as just:


This will return the number of the row in which the formula sits, i.e. giving us the row information that we would need for all of our examples above.

Typically we will use it in an IF statement to drive the different outcomes in our examples, for example:


will return a 1 in rows 1 to 10 and a 2 thereafter.

The COLUMN function works exactly the same way so:


returns 1 (the column is returned as a number not a letter, so A is 1, B is 2, etc. - this does make it easier for adding and subtracting column positions). Also,


returns the column number of the column in which the formula sits.

One word of caution. You need to remember that you have used these functions if you start inserting or deleting rows and columns. Most functions will adjust accordingly and maintain the same relative references, but because these refer to the actual cell positions, their results will change if their position changes.

Excel Expert Course

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Tuesday 9 September 2014

Excel Tip: SUBTOTAL and SUM - what's the difference?

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the SUM command for totalling ranges of cells, but have you heard of the SUBTOTAL command? - and if so, do you know what it does?

I must admit that I had only looked at the SUBTOTAL command in any detail this week - prompted by a question from a reader. I had never really used it, because I normally advocate doing any analysis of a data list separately using PivotTables, rather than within the list itself and didn't realise that it offered some interesting differences to just using the SUM command.

At first glance it would appear to be the same, but it has a number of additional powers!

I am aware that most of you will know this next bit, but I have included it for completeness:

The SUM command is used as follows:


only number1 is required and should be a number, or a reference to a number or range of numbers.

So, number1 could be, for example, 3, A4, A1:A4 or a named range.

The same rules apply to number2 and number3 all the way up to number255, except these are all optional.

The SUM function then returns the total of all of these numbers.

The SUBTOTAL command has very similar arguments except it has one additional argument in front of them:


ref1 and the optional arguments ref2 to ref254 are very similar to number1, etc. in the SUM function, however they must be references to cells or ranges of cells - i.e. not actual numbers.

The function_num argument must be between 1 and 11 or between 101 and 111. This argument determines how the function is to summarise the numbers. The Excel function that will be applied for each of function_num 1 to 11 is given below:

10 VAR

This is the first real difference between SUM and SUBTOTAL. SUBTOTAL can mimic any of these 11 functions.

The second difference is more subtle. You would expect the following two functions to return the same result:


and in most cases they will. The difference becomes apparent when you apply a filter to the data. This will have no effect on the SUM result but the SUBTOTAL will exclude any rows hidden by the filter from the calculation. This could be very useful if you regularly work with a data table that you filter in place using the AutoFilter facility, as it will show you the total of the displayed rows.

You can further affect the result by using function_num 101 to 111. These work exactly the same as 1 to 11 but exclude rows hidden using the Hide command as well.

One final difference is that the SUBTOTAL command will ignore any other SUBTOTAL commands in the range being summed, thereby avoiding double-counting. Thanks to Jeremy for pointing out that I'd missed that one!

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Tuesday 2 September 2014

Excel Tip - counting workdays allowing for holidays

Please accept my apologies for the lack of posts these last couple of weeks - I've been away on holiday, chilling out on the Isle of Skye (that's me in the picture relaxing on the coral beach near Claigan).

I had intended to write some posts in advance but it didn't exactly work out as planned!

Now I'm back, I thought I'd write a (vaguely) holiday related post.

If you want to know how to work out the number of working days between two dates (allowing for weekends AND holidays), read on.

To do this, we can use the NETWORKDAYS function.

The syntax for this function is:


I would not recommend entering the dates directly into the function. This is not only good advice for making this particular function work, but it is best practice when referring to any variable in Excel - enter its value in a cell and refer to the cell.

Ignoring the optional argument, if A1 contains 1/8/2014 and A2 contains 31/8/2014, then


returns 21, being the number of working days in August 2014 (if you ignore public holidays).

The best way to use the optional third argument is to refer to a range, where you can enter holiday dates. So, say we add the third argument as follows:


We can now enter the dates of any holidays in cells B1 to B20 and these will be excluded from the calculation.

So, in the UK, last Monday was our August Bank Holiday, so if we enter 25/8/2014 into any of the cells from B1 to B20, the formula returns 20.

A practical way of using this functionality would be to enter the whole year's holidays into the range referred to (B1:B20 in our example), any of those dates that fall between the start and end dates would then be excluded from the calculation.

Excel Expert Course

If you enjoyed this post, go to the top of the blog, where you can subscribe for regular updates and get two freebies "The 5 Excel features that you NEED to know" and "30 Chants for Better Charts".