It’s that time of year again. Tax time. Now that I’ve made you sad, lets check out a formula which is very useful when adding up long columns of numbers (deductions anyone?)

When you have long columns of numbers of irregular length, it is often easier to have the totals display at the TOP of the page. That way, you don’t have to scroll all over the place to find them. The other advantage of this formula is that you can use it to keep an eye on your total as it accumulates, since you don’t have to know how many rows long the column will be.

The formula here is =SUM(OFFSET(A1,1,0,COUNT($A:$A),1))

Where the OFFSET & COUNT functions are used to create the range that will be summed.

The syntax for OFFSET
OFFSET(reference, rows, cols, [height], [width])
OFFSET(A1,1,0,COUNT($A:$A),1)

A1 is the reference cell,

Rows – the range begins 1 row down from A1,

Cols – the range begins in the same column 0,

Height – the number of rows to be included are counted using the COUNT function, COUNT($A:$A) counts the cells in Column A with numbers in them

Width – is set to 1 column (column A) wide

I have to say there is something very satisfying about seeing that total increase as each number is entered in the column.

Here is a common scenario for me. I like to apply alternate line formatting on spreadsheets, especially wide spreadsheets. It makes it easier to follow the correct row across the spreadsheet. Here a blue fill is applied to alternate lines.

But in this spreadsheet, I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted the alternate line formatting only be applied once the date is entered.

This means I need to find the last row in the date column. Now previously I’ve used a COUNTIF formula, to count the number of rows with data. Then subtract any blank rows at the top of the spreadsheet. The drawback of this formula, is that editing the spreadsheet later often means the COUNTIF is no longer correct. Gaps in the data also cause problems.

Enter the AGGREGATE Function

The AGGREGATE function was introduced in Excel 2010. Bill Jelen called it “SUBTOTAL on steroids”. It offers 8 more functions than SUBTOTAL and the ability to ignore hidden rows and error values. You can use it either in a Reference or Array form. Here is a link to the MS Support article. One of the new functions offered is LARGE.

So this formula uses =AGGREGATE(14,6,ROW(A:A)/(NOT(ISBLANK(A:A))),1)
14 – refers to the LARGE function
6 – tells it to ignore error values
ROW(A:A)/(NOT(ISBLANK(A:A))) creates an array of the results of each row number in column A divided by whether the NOT(ISBLANK) portion of the formula returns a TRUE or FALSE answer. TRUE is evaluated as 1 and FALSE as 0. As division by zero creates an error, any blank cells are ignored.
1 – indicates that the LARGE function will return the largest number from the array. Hence, the last row.

And things came to a grinding halt…

At this point, I did what I normally do and made my AGGREGATE formula into a Named Formula. I typically find this is to be a tidier way of working. When I did this; Excel froze. Repeatedly. Whenever, I did anything that caused a recalculation. Like clicking on a formula to examine it. And if I persisted and used the named formula in the Conditional Formatting formula … things … just … slowed … down … more.

But interestingly, the performance of the spreadsheet doesn’t appear to be affected when the formula is placed in a cell. I was working in Office 2016. I’ll test it later in Office 365, and report back if I get different results. I actually caused the same freezing problem by using the Evaluate Formula button. Excel slows right down as it creates the array of every cell in column A divided by NOT(ISBLANK). Somehow, however, when the formula is in a cell – Excel manages to handle the calculation much more efficiently. I even checked by making the reference to the formula into a named range. No problems. So, if you are planning to use the AGGREGATE function in this way, you’ll need to actually place it somewhere in the spreadsheet. Oh, and you will need to make that cell into a Named Range or else the Conditional Formatting Formula will not work (that was kinda unexpected).

The Conditional Formatting Formula

The formula to produce this conditional formatting is:

=AND(ROW()<=Last_Row,MOD(ROW(),2)=1)
Last_Row refers to cell $B$2
This checks to see if the current row number is less than or equal to the value in the Last_Row Named Range AND if it is an odd numbered row, if so a blue fill is applied.

This post is originally from 2019. If you want help with the newest and classic features in Excel drop me a line at catharine@mytechgenie.ca

While the content of the spreadsheet is complete, the design isn’t finished yet. I think the best spreadsheets are “scannable”, in other words the reader can scan the sheet and get a sense of the pattern of information, before they even read it. I want the reader to be able to see at a glance whether it is a Facebook or Twitter Post, and to have a sense of the time of day the post will occur. Colour is going to make this happen. Since I have no intention of manually formatting the calendar, Conditional Formatting will make this happen.

I am a big fan of conditional formatting, but the working dialog where formulas are added leaves a lot to be desired. So when I base a conditional format on a formula, I will typically build the formula in the spreadsheet so it can be tested and then copy it out of the formula bar and paste it into the working dialog. In this spreadsheet I have 12 (TWELVE) conditional formats, so I ended up pasting the formulas into notepad, so that I could jump back and forth without having to close/reopen the dialog box repeatedly.
I thought quite a bit about how I wanted different times to be represented by colour. I eventually decided on 6 different time “zones”.

10 pm to 7 am

7 am to 9 am

9 am to 12 pm

12 pm to 3 pm

3 pm to 6 pm

6 pm to 10 pm

I needed to find the excel versions of those, so I went to an empty spreadsheet, typed in the time and removed the time format. This is what I found:

Here are the series of formulas I used for conditional formatting, the first in each group is the default which will format the 10 pm to 7 am time entries.

I chose two different colours, based on the http://colorbrewer2.org/ color blind safe palettes and then picked increasingly darker shades of each colour.
And that wraps up this spreadsheet build! I hope you found this look at my process interesting, and I hope that you find building your spreadsheets as creatively satisfying as I do.

I offer Excel template design services and training. Feel free to send me an email – catharine@mytechgenie.ca
Headline image by Kelly Sikkema

After the first test of the mega formula that will create content of our calendar, I spotted a problem:

Some formula tweaking is in order. I’m also going to trim the length of the Post Type entry to 2 characters, so only FB or TW will appear, And the Image (column E) will be trimmed to the last 3 characters, so only the file type will be visible.
I will use the current row number ROW() – 5 (the number of rows before the entries start) to help count down the entry list. I’ve also replaced the “stop” label with “” with empty quotes. Now when there is no matching entry, nothing will appear.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m trimming the Post Type entry to 2 characters using LEFT. I also decided to force those two characters to uppercase using UPPER. So the previous formula will be nested inside the LEFT and UPPER functions:

While it has been a long haul building this spreadsheet, now is not the time to stop. The next step will be adding the conditional formatting to this spreadsheet.

I offer Excel template design services and training. Feel free to send me an email – catharine@mytechgenie.ca

Now, I need to start to pull the post type, time of post and post content from the Content sheet. Starting with the post type (which resides in Column C), the following INDEX function in cell B6 will do the trick:
=INDEX(Content!$C$1:$C$1187,B5,1)
This index formula uses the value from B5 to find the entry in row 530. And yes, at this point that is only the first entry for the day.

Now, I’ll use an IF statement to build the formulas you see in column C6:
=IF(ROW()<6+C$5,”yes”,”stop”)
At this stage in the process I usually use the IF statement to display a label. “Yes”, means there is matching data in the source sheet. “Stop” means there is no longer matching data. The test in column F shows the formula is working.
Now I’ve proven that the each formula works in turn, I can combine them into a larger “mega” formula. Don’t forget that when building these larger formulas you can; expand the formula bar and use Alt+Enter to force the formula to wrap for easier reading.
Like this:
=IF(ROW()<5+(COUNTIFS(Content!$E:$E,”>=”&B$4,Content!$E:$E,”<“&B$4+1)),
INDEX(Content!$C:$C,(MATCH(B$4,Content!$E:$E,0)),1),”stop”)
You’ll notice that I’ve also stopped referring to a specific range in column E/C and instead reference the entire column. It doesn’t make any difference to the result of this formula and makes it a bit simpler to read. Also the Row adjustment number changes from 6 to 5 as I play with the layout of the spreadsheet. Changing the layout includes reordering the data, so that the time of the post comes first and adding a column that shows the path to any images used in the post.

Here’s a shot of the results of that formula:

You’ve undoubtedly spotted that only the first entry is being captured and repeated. I’ll adjust the formula to correct that problem in my next post.

I offer Excel template design services and training. Feel free to send me an email.

Continuing from my previous post, showing my process in designing a spreadsheet.

Here I’ve placed each Day/Date heading over 3 columns (later I figured out I needed 4). Its’ starting to look a little bit like a calendar.

One of the things making the design of this calendar a little more challenging is that each day has a different number of posts. Anywhere between 2-20 depending on the days activities (library author quizzes, anyone?). So my formula needs to account for a variable number of entries each day, I can’t simply copy 20 lines and call it done. So, how will I do that?

I’ve put the following formula into B5, it will find the row that each days’ entries begin on:
=MATCH(B$4,Content!$E1:$E1187,0)
Here the MATCH function does the trick of looking on the Content sheet (where my database lives) and counting down the rows to find the date that matches, then it returns the value of the rows counted.
In C5 I’m using the following formula to count the number of entries on that date:
=COUNTIFS(Content!$E$1:$E$1187,”>=”&B$4,Content!$E$1:$E$1187,”<“&B$4+1)
The reasoning behind using COUNTIFS this way is because when dates are entered in the content sheet, sometimes a time is entered as well. The time remains unseen because of the formatting applied to the date column. I need to ensure I get every entry regardless of whether a time is present or not. Using COUNTIFS to count in a range will do this.

I’ll continue with the design process in my next post.

I offer Excel template design services and training. Feel free to send me an email.

Creating a spreadsheet is a creative act. The choices made about data, formulas, layout and colour all contribute to communicating clearly. Communicating clearly and well is, in my book a creative process.

So, I thought I’d walk through my process in designing a spreadsheet to take information from what is essentially a database layout:

Into this view, a classic calendar view of the same information:

I’m planning to use the calendar view to share a social media posting schedule, as the people I’m sharing with aren’t Excel savvy (and why should they be?). I create the posting schedule in Excel, because I can easily save it in .csv format and upload it to Google Calendar. However, sharing the Google Calendar has drawbacks too, and it is simpler to print out a weekly calendar showing the planned posts.
When I began this process, I had some things sketched out in my mind. I wanted to enter a date and see the week around it. I always want to see the posts for the date in the context of the posts for the days around it. I also want a consistent layout of days – Sunday to Monday. Having the starting day of the week change each time would make it harder for my viewers.
That means I’m going to need to dynamically generate the dates based on the day of the week of my starting date. You can see my first pass below:

I labelled cell A1 WeekStart, this will help me remember the purpose of the contents of cell A1.
I’ve labelled the days of the week, and above them in row 2, given each day a number 1-7. The day numbers relate to the way the WEEKDAY function works. I’ll be using the mode where the week starts numbering 1 on Sunday. Later I’ll hide that row, but for now having it visible is helpful.
You can see that I’m stepping out the formula in rows 4 – 6. When I’m designing a spreadsheet, I’ll often step formulas out like this. It helps me avoid errors and makes each step clear. Later I’ll consolidate the steps.
In row 4, I’m calculating the following:
=(WEEKDAY(WeekStart,1))-B$2.
You can think of it as a way to calculate the number of days (+/-) from my start date. By the way, I chose to start with May 1, because it was on a Wednesday. That made sure I could test my formulas well, a Saturday or Sunday starting day would make testing harder.
Once I know I can count backwards and forwards from my starting date, I use the following formula:
=WeekStart-((WEEKDAY(WeekStart,1))-B$2)
The WEEKDAY function calculates the day number of the week. Here, it returns the number 4(Wednesday).
From the number 4 I subtract the value in row 2. This gives me the number of days to subtract from the WeekStart value. You can see the results in rows 5 and 6. Row 5 is simply the unformatted date value, since sometime I find visualizing the pure number easier.

This turned out to be a 5 part series! I hope you’ll find the next 4 parts interesting.

I’ll continue with the design process in my next post.

I offer Excel template design services and training. Feel free to send me an email – catharine@mytechgenie.ca

Here is a scenario: A running total of numbers, updated daily. You want to capture the previous day’s total, as you can see in the picture below.

I’m showing the answer in two steps here, in real life I’d make it into one formula.
The first step is to capture the row number of the previous day’s total. Finding it using the numbers in Column C would be way too complicated. But Column B has the kind of data we can use.
Using the formula =LOOKUP(2,1/(B2:B29<>0),ROW(B:B)) captures the row.

What the lookup formula is doing is starting by evaluating the numbers from B2:B29 looking for values that aren’t equal to zero.
This creates an array like this: {TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE}
The TRUE values will equal 1 and the FALSE values equal 0.
This means when the formula divides 1 by those values, an array looking like this is created:
{1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!}
Lookup can’t find 2 in the array, so it settles for the largest value in the array that is less than or equal to lookup_value.The ROW function tells it to return the row number from the array B2:B29.
The second step is to combine the row number with the column number and show the result using =INDIRECT("C"&D2)
And there you have it. A quick way of always finding the previous day (month, year, whatever).

Passing a spreadsheet around between organizations has a hidden problem; one that can easily make trouble. And the trouble comes, not from the spreadsheet, but from the default date setting on the computer.

Excel uses the default date setting to interpret the order of date information. Whether its’ Month-Day-Year or Day-Month-Year, or even Year-Month-Day, that information comes from the OS date settings. These are settings that we don’t often think about once we’ve set them. And typically, they are the same throughout an organization.

But take the spreadsheet you’ve designed, that uses Month-Day-Year into a Day-Month-Year organization, and all sorts of problems crop up.

The first problem is that you might not notice immediately; if July 6, turns into June 7 – that might not jump out at you as a problem. If you are lucky, you’ll spot something weird about the 12th of Month 21 …

So how do you nail down those dates so they can’t shift? One strategy is to break up your date entry into your preferred format, and then rebuild the date using the DATE function.

The syntax for the DATE function is =DATE(year, month, day)

Here you can see the DATE function is building a date from the values in three separate cells: A3, B3 and C3 and the formula looks like this =DATE($C3,$B3,$A3)

Another advantage of this strategy is that Data Validation can be applied to these cells; ie the day column can be restricted to whole numbers between 1 and 31, the month column to whole numbers between 1 and 12 and the year column as well. In the sample file I’m using, the column holding the complete date (D) is hidden from the user. They will only see columns A thru C. The complete (and correct) date is referenced in formulas.

An alternate strategy would be to use the DATE function to extract the correct order from a whole date typed into a cell. In this case you would need to rely on the users to enter the date consistently regardless of their date system. I would recommend a custom date format be applied and a comment to tell the user what the required date format is. Breaking the date up avoids this reliance on the user’s compliance.

In a previous post, I discussed making a Button Bar Chart. That whole process really inspired me to think about simplified charts for presentations.

Which got me thinking about Waffle Charts.

Waffle charts are excellent for looking at data sets where the smallest numbers are the important ones. You can use colour (as I have above) to make those numbers stand out.

But oddly, I don’t see people using a lot of waffle charts in their presentations. And there is no template for a waffle chart in Excel.

You can find some interesting ideas about building Excel waffle charts for dashboard purposes and I recommend this article to you: Interactive Waffle Charts in Excel

However, I was looking for something different. Something that wouldn’t have me counting and colouring cells manually (shudder).

Building the Waffle

I chose to build the waffle chart using a series of conditional formatting rules. The first step was creating the formula to count the cells of the waffle.

In case the picture is a bit small, the formula used here is:
=(MOD(ROW()+8,10)*10)+(COLUMN()-2)+1

This uses the row and column position of the cell to count from 1 to 100 in a 10 by 10 grid.

I then built on that base formula with this monster formula:

The formula checks the position number of the cell generated by the base formula and sees if it is less than or equal to the number of values in each category in column A. It then returns the value of the category in each cell.

Because I wanted to put symbols in the cell like these examples.

I took that monster formula and made it into a named formula.

This made building the conditional formatting rules much easier to do(simply because the conditional formatting dialog is so cramped).

Lastly, I built a series of conditional formatting rules to change the background colour of the cell based on the value returned by the formula. For the waffles using symbols, the rule formats the colour of the font, instead of the background.

A couple of additional pointers

To create a perfect grid, switch the view in Excel to Page Layout View. Page Layout View uses the same measurement scale for both row height and column width. Set your measurements here.

For the symbol waffles, use the File> Options>Advanced> Display Options for this worksheetand turn off the display of gridlines. That way when you copy the waffle, the gridlines will be invisible.

This post is originally from 2018. If you want help with the newest and classic features in Excel & PowerPoint drop me a line at catharine@mytechgenie.ca