by Jenny Hansen
Should writers (or anyone else) use Microsoft Excel? In a word, YES!
Laura Drake did a post last week about how she keeps track of her plot in Excel and I started hearing rumbling from the Spreadsheet-Phobics in the WITS crowd.
What sort of tasks might one do in this spooky financial-y program we call Excel? Royalty statements, tax expense summaries, submission tracking, Agent/Editor querying… All of these are pretty important, and Excel makes them easier, believe it or not.
However, before you do any of that, you need to know how to save your document and move around a spreadsheet. This was originally a single blog post, but when I got to 1o pages, I realized this topic needed several posts, so this is Part 1 of at least a 3-part series.
Today: We’ll familiarize ourselves with some Excel shortcuts. More can be found here.
Part 2: Strap in for some useful formulas and functions.
Part 3: More time-saving tricks like Quick Formulas, Data tools like Filters and Subtotals, and Saving a Workspace.
Note: For those of you already familiar with the program, I encourage you to at least skim through this post so you can learn all the quick tips you don’t know. 🙂
Saving your Document - the most important thing
Moving Around Your Spreadsheet
Excel spreadsheets are made up of columns and rows. Where the columns and rows meet is called a Cell. These cells actually have names so that you can reference them in calculations or Formulas (covered tomorrow).
Columns and rows are listed in an orderly fashion:
While you can absolutely use the arrow keys on your keyboard, the best way to move around your spreadsheet is by doing this:
There are people reading this right now who are hissing at me for making things “too hard” with this Shift key business. Simmer down, all you hissers...I’d like everyone to do a little test:
See that A1 in the box up there? That's called your Name Box. You can click on it and type to move too. Go on...type in D10 and hit Enter...you know you want to!
So, now that we can all sail around our spreadsheets and get back to cell A1, let’s look around a little more.
What if you want to "play with" your royalty statements?
Whether your statements come from a traditional publisher or from Amazon, you want to know how to manipulate your data in Excel.
Copy and paste works slightly different in Excel.
OMG, I need separate months!
What about if you want to keep your monthly records separate, but you want to have the entire year or quarter together? I’ve seen people save a file for each month, making me shake my head in pity. If this is you, listen up...
I am giving you the Golden Gift of Tabs.
Yep, the way to keep separate data in the same file is to use what are called Sheet Tabs. They’re at the bottom of the screen on the left (see below).
Here’s some fun Sheet Facts:
OK, that should be enough to get you started if you’re new to the program. If you don’t have Excel on your computer, go to Google Spreadsheets – Google Docs will basically work the same and will allow you to practice.
I hope you'll come back next week for more Writerly Uses For Excel. We're going to dig in to the really fun stuff. In case you’re new here, I’m a software trainer by day so you can ask me questions in the comments. I don't mind. 🙂
Are you using Excel? If so, what do you use it for and what is giving you trouble? If you aren’t using Excel, why not and is there something you’d like to learn?
See you next week for Part 2!
Note: Need MORE writing magic for the day? Jenny posted 10 Tips To Help You Finish Your Novel and/or ‘Win’ NaNoWriMo at More Cowbell today!
About Jenny Hansen
Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after the newly walking Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing.
When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA and here at Writers In The Storm. Jenny also writes the Risky Baby Business posts at More Cowbell, a series that focuses on babies, new parents and high-risk pregnancy.
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