The Excel Newsgroups Disappeared

helpicon In the past, I highly recommended the Excel newsgroups as a place to go for help. Earlier this month, Microsoft shut down their newsgroup servers, where thousands of people every month had gone to post their Excel questions. Over the past several years, I spent lots of time in those newsgroups, reading and answering questions. I was able to help people, and learned lots from the questions and answers that were posted there.

The people who visited the newsgroups on a regular basis might have noticed the announcements about the impending shutdown. But most people probably visited the newsgroups only a few times a year, when they needed help. They didn’t see the shutdown coming!

It’s not like going to your favourite store, and finding a “We’ve Moved” sign, with helpful directions to the new location. No, it’s like going to that store, and finding out that the building has magically disappeared overnight. There’s no clue as to what happened, or where to find them.

Where Do You Go Now?

Since the newsgroups disappeared, several people have emailed me, to find out where they went, and where to get Excel help now.

Microsoft Forums

One option is to use the web-based forums that Microsoft has set up:

[update 2010/07/01] There’s a list of deleted newsgroups, and links to their related web-based forums here:

http://www.microsoft.com/communities/newsgroups/list/en-us/default.aspx

To post a question or answer in the Microsoft forums, you’ll need to register, and sign in, using a Microsoft Windows Live ID. After you’ve registered, and set up a profile, you can follow Ron de Bruin’s step-by-step instructions for setting up and using the Community Forums NNTP Bridge. The bridge lets you connect to the forums with a newsreader, like Outlook Express or Thunderbird, which I prefer over the web interface.

Public New Servers

If you don’t like web-based forums, you can use a public news server, like http://www.aioe.org/ to access the Excel newsgroups. Even though Microsoft pulled the plug at its end, other servers carry the newsgroups, so there will still be some traffic, although much less than previously.

Google Groups Search

If your search skills are good, you can use Google to find an answer to your Excel questions, with either a general search, or a newsgroup search. If nothing turns up there, the Microsoft Knowledgebase is another good place to search for Excel solutions.

Cry for Help in Twitter

As Twitter becomes more popular, people even post their Excel questions and comments there. There are examples every weekday in my Excel Twitter posts.

Get Good Results

If you’re posting a questions in one of the forums or newsgroups here are a few suggestions for getting the best results:

  • search the forum first,  to see if your question has already been answered
  • some forums have multiple sections for questions — read the overviews, and select the best venue for your question
  • in your question, provide context, such as what version of Excel and operating system, any error messages, etc., and show some sample data, if possible
  • explain what you’ve tried so far, and other suggested solutions that didn’t solve the problem (include links to those suggestions, if possible)
  • check back frequently, to read any replies and answer any follow up questions
  • even if you’re frustrated, stay calm and polite, and remember to thank the people who helped, or tried to help you

Other Microsoft Resources

There are plenty of training resources on the Microsoft site, including some for Office 365.

Your Recommendations

When I posted about finding Excel help last summer, commenters recommended Stackoverflow.com as a good place to get Excel help. There are other Excel forums too, like the Excel User Group, which is run by Excel MVP Nick Hodge.

[updated 2010/07/01] You can also ask questions on the Excel-L list:

http://peach.ease.lsoft.com/archives/excel-l.html .

Where are you finding or providing Excel help these days, now that the Microsoft newsgroup servers have been shut down? Please share your suggestions in the comments.

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15 Responses

  1. Oli Annells says:

    If I can’t find the answer within the first 10 mins. of Google searching I try either the Contextures website, C Pearsons site or if I need a forum I try Ozgrid or MrExcels (the later being well subscribed so plenty of traffic). Finally the Google AddIn for Excel 2007 works well.

  2. Shairal says:

    I have used Excel newsgroups for many years, the wealth of information and helpful folks was amazing. I cannot believe MS shut this valuable source down. And worst of all, you cannot even search through historical data; all that information gone from view.

    Thanks Debra for some additional forum links! Time to find a new ‘help’ home.

  3. Rog says:

    Thanks Debra for all these useful links, I generally to use Excelforum.com to help or get help

  4. I use the Excel-L list
    ————————————————–
    The EXCEL-L list is hosted on a Windows 2003 Server running L-Soft
    international’s LISTSERV(R) software. For subscription/signoff info
    and archives, see http://peach.ease.lsoft.com/archives/excel-l.html .

  5. Shairal, try the newsgroup search link in the Google Search section of this blog post. You can probably find all the old newsgroup posts there.

    Oli, Rog, Patrick — thanks for the suggestions!

  6. Dominik Petri says:

    Hi all,
    is that what your were looking for?

    http://microsoft.newsgroups.archived.at/

    Regards,
    Dominik.

  7. Jim Cone says:

    Debra,
    There is also a MS forum for VBA at…
    http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/isvvba/threads
    It can be sorted by ‘most recent thread’, which makes it much friendlier than the MS “answers” forum.
    ‘–
    Regards,
    Jim Cone

  8. Dominik, thanks for the link.

    Jim, thanks, any way to improve the web-based forums is appreciated!

  9. David Coop says:

    I suppose most people are looking for a no cost solution to their Excel problems. However, for several years now, I have been subscribing to AbleOwl.com from New Zealand.

    I first came across them when attending a seminar in Melbourne, Australia, and got a free subscription for three months.

    They provide an excellent monthly magazine (now emailed to me in PDF format) and unlimited help through their email hotline.

    Questions are always answered within 24 hours and I don’t think they have ever let me down.

    It costs me about A$22 per month, but it’s tax deductible, and without reservation, the best value for money service I have come across.

    Highly recommended.

    Regards,

    David

  10. David, thanks for your suggestion. It’s worth paying for excellent support.

  11. Just a quick tip for those of you that prefer to use offline software to read and post forum messages:

    After registering at the new MSFT Answers forums, you can use this software to download messages and upload messages to the answers forums:

    http://communitybridge.codeplex.com/

  12. Clarity says:

    When I can I help out on:

    http://chandoo.org/forums/

    Its a well covered forum and the site also has great blog content

  13. JAGADISH says:

    Dear,

    How can Insert a column after every column in excel,
    Please reply me as early as possible.

    Jagadish.Y

  14. Joanne says:

    What formula do I use if I want to remove * in front of figures on a spreadsheet where the number of digits vary?
    i.e. ***2.00 – ***20000.00

  15. Joanne, you could use the SUBSTITUTE function, as described here:
    Remove Characters in Excel

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