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Microsoft Excel has become one of the most widely used software program in the world today. Initially it was thought that Excel is popular only because it is designed to work with the Windows operating system. However, because of its ease fo use, ability to deal with a wide variety of data sources and features for automation, Excel has made a mark of its own and is now used at various levels ranging from a simple To Do list to mid level engineering calculations to complex financial models.
Our focus in this book will be to learn ways to use, in fact automate, Excel in better ways to save the time and effort we spend on our routine tasks. Emphasis will be on the business reporting tasks but the techniques described are general and can be used for low to mid level analysis as well. The primary focus will be on Excel, but we will also learn ways to make Excel work with a wide variety of applications to accomplish different tasks. The aim of this book is not to make the reader an ace programmer.
Instead, the goal is to enable someone who spends a lot of time with spreadsheets (a typical analyst, manager or business owner) to quickly put together a working solution using formulas and macros. If you are a seasoned programmer, you might find the treatment of programming topics a little less rigorous. The focus will be on Excel and not on programming techniques. This also means we will not delve deep into concepts of Object Oriented Programming. But even in that case, we believe that this book will add something to your repertoire of skills.
We assume that we and our team mates work in good faith and no one is interested in developing malicious code or making unauthorized changes to someone else’s code. All variables and procedures will be kept ‘Public’. Another aim, is to cover a wide variety of fundamental concepts. Each topic discussed in this book is vast enough to deserve a dedicated piece of literature. However, this book will give the reader a good grasp on a large number of fundamental concepts. So even though the solutions given here can be applied directly, if need arises, the user can explore the topics further with ease.
Please don’t be worried about all the code spread across the pages. If you don’t have any experience in writing macros, please don’t panic. There are two appendices provided to assist you. In case you are completely new to programming, please see the Appendix C on visual basic programming. It will introduce you to concepts like variables, objects, loops and so on. After appendix C, read appendix B and then read the main chapters. If you have a bit of experience with object oriented programming and just want to know more about programming in Excel, Appendix B would be a good place to start.
In case you have experience writing macros, you can just continue reading further. We should be able to add/remove data in our worksheets as required, without having to change a lot of formulas or macros. Our spredsheet should be ready to accept and process data from a reasonably wide variety of sources. This fact becomes much more important if we are in business with large corporate customers and suppliers or, when we request data from some other department within our own organization (for example, server and database administrators in our company’s IT department). They would have their own big IT systems that would generate automated reports in formats ranging from badly formatted plain text files to well formatted XML documents.