14 Basic Skills For Excel Users

Last week, John Walkenbach posted a list of basic skills for men, then basic skills for women, and finally, basic skills for dogs. That got me thinking – what’s on the list of basic skills for Excel users? If you use Excel at work, or list it on your résumé, what tasks should you be able to do?

I’m sure your list is different, but here’s mine. Would any of these make your list?

  1. Sum or Count cells, based on criteria
  2. Build a Pivot Table
  3. Write a formula with absolute and relative references
  4. Create a drop down list of options in a cell
  5. Sort a list without messing up the data
  6. Use a formula to look up a value in a table
  7. Record and modify a simple macro
  8. Design and build a simple application, such as an order form
  9. Create a chart from worksheet data
  10. Apply conditional formatting that uses a formula
  11. Nest two or more functions in a formula
  12. Insert and protect worksheets (and understand the limits of Excel’s protection)
  13. Perform simple date and time arithmetic
  14. Filter unique items from a list

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13 Responses

  1. RobertSeattle says:

    15. Convert a number or a date that Excel “thinks” is a string to a number you can calculate with.

  2. Hui... says:

    16. Check data for values which are stored as text not values, happens a lot when importing data from Access

  3. Clayton Lock says:

    16 – Use the IF function. I use this function all the time but I still suprised by the number of engineers I teach that cannot use it.

    Clayton Lock

  4. jeff weir says:

    I’m going to sneak this one in at Zero: Know how to structure your data, graphs, formulas, code so that you can remember what the hell you were doing 2 months later, and so that others can comprehend too.

  5. Hui... says:

    Clayton, That would be like:
    =if(PreviousPostNo = 16, PreviousPostNo + 1, PreviousPostNo + 1)

  6. Chandoo says:

    @Hui: no, that would always be like =PreviousPostNo+1 :P

    After reading this and all the 3 original posts by John, I had to write one myself. So… here is the 14 basic skills for people making charts http://chandoo.org/wp/2009/07/14/chart-making-skills/

  7. Ed Ferrero says:

    13. Perform simple date and time arithmetic

    Hi Debra,
    Never really worked with time arithmetic before, so you got me thinking…

    What is 52.37 hours? (In days, hours, minutes, and seconds.)

    Sounded like simple time arithmetic, so this is what I came up with. Parse the days, minutes, hours and stuff into hundreds, then use a custom format to show the resulting mess in a user-friendly way.

    Enter 52.37 in cell A1,
    put this simple little formula in a cell
    =((((INT(A1/24)*100)+INT(A1)-24*INT(A1/24))*100)+INT(MOD(A1,1)*60))*100+MOD(MOD(A1,1)*60,1)*60
    then format as custom with the format code:
    # “days” ## “hr” ## “min” #0 “sec”

    Works for me. Like I said, never really used this time arithmetic before. Is there a better way?

  8. Ed, I’ve never had to show time in that format, but I might opt for simpler format:

    =INT(A1/24)&TEXT(A1/24-INT(A1/24),”:hh:mm:ss”)

  9. Ed Ferrero says:

    Whoops,
    Even simpler =A1/24
    Then use the custom format dd:hh:mm:ss
    or the more ornate dd “days” hh “hr” mm “min” ss “sec”
    (and let’s hope this web-thing does not substitute smart quotes again)

  10. Hui... says:

    I’ve nevcer liked Custon Formats for time
    Excel is inconsistant with its use of m which can be
    m – minutes
    mm – minutes with leading zero
    m – month
    mm – month with leading zero
    mmm – month name short
    mmmm – month name

  11. Alex Brewer says:

    Use Sumproduct() to do complex summaries without intermediate calculations.

  12. Sophie says:

    How about – insert a blimmen column! Im here to check if my computer retarded work mate should know that, and seeing it doesn’t make the list because only because its so basic im going to say. Yes.

  13. Patricia says:

    I think an overlooked basic skill is designing the spreadsheet. Everyone opens up Excel and just starts clicking and typing…
    Here are some things you need to consider when creating a spreadsheet.
    http://excel-diva.blogspot.com/2010/08/spreadsheet-design-101.html

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