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"Excel Hacks": The Creative User's Guide to Excel

April 9, 2004

Sebastopol, CA--The structure of the classic Greek tragedy is fairly inflexible: the prologue and entrance ode are followed by an alternating succession of dialogue by the actors (in iambic hexameter) and commentary by the chorus (in prescribed meter and motions). The rigidity of this structure might seem antithetical to creative expression and yet it has given rise to some of the most moving verses in the history of human drama. Likewise, the fixed structure of Japanese Haiku or the English sonnet has provided the framework for some of the loveliest poetry ever written. In literature, the most restrictive foundations often yield the richest results.

In the same fashion, Microsoft Excel, with its stark, bare-bones grid of cells provides a fertile medium for the eloquent presentation of data and analyses. Far more than just a number-crunching application, Excel's streamlined, familiar interface casually conceals its considerable capabilities. If you've thought that getting creative with Excel means the underhanded tweaking of numbers, think again. Excel Hacks (O'Reilly, US $24.95) by David and Raina Hawley will take your spreadsheets to a whole new level, squeezing out every ounce of meaning possible.

Excel Hacks shows even the most experienced users how to do things with Excel they might never have thought of doing--and shows them how to have a little fun while they're at it. Readers learn to bring a hacker's creative approach to both common and uncommon Excel topics--"hackers" in the sense of those who like to tinker with technology to improve it.

"Although it's possible to accomplish an enormous amount of work using a relatively simple subset of Excel's capabilities, the software offers a lot of powerful techniques that can leapfrog your work beyond the ordinary without requiring that you spend years using and studying Excel," explain authors David and Raina Hawley. The tools, or hacks, offered in Excel Hacks were created by Excel users looking for simple solutions to complex problems. Readers will see what sort of things are possible with Excel and will learn how to put them to work immediately.

The little known "backdoor" adjustments in the book include everything from reducing workbook and worksheet frustration to hacking built-in features such as pivot tables, charts, formulas and functions. Excel Hacks shows how to:

  • Design charts that go far beyond the basic chart types and behavior provided by Excel
  • Specify dynamic ranges that expand and contract to match your data and that you can use to create flexible formulas and charts
  • Write macros to automatically and repetitively perform tasks in an efficient and predictable way
  • Put PivotTables to work and share the results without sharing the underlying data
  • Structure data so that Excel's built-in tools will process it easily
  • Build an interactive and normalizing data entry environment
  • Go beyond Excel--even beyond your own desktop and data--using XML and web services
  • This practical, roll-up-your-sleeves guide is for intermediate to advanced Excel users eager to explore new ways to make Excel do things--from data analysis to worksheet management to import/export--that you never thought possible. Excel Hacks will help you increase productivity with Excel and give you hours of creative enjoyment along the way.

    Additional Resources:

    Excel Hacks
    David and Raina Hawley
    ISBN 0-596-00625-X, 283 pages, $24.95 US, $36.95 CA
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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