Like many software tools, Microsoft® Excel® has a LOT more functionality than most people need for most standard assignments. Consistent with the 80/20 rule, which holds that 80% of the results flow from 20% of the work, most people really only need 20% of the functionality of a tool for 80% of their work. Unfortunately, this can lead to people being intimidated by the software and avoiding it or using the software for only the basic capabilities without stretching into new and useful applications.
This highlights the need to find entry points – ways to ease into advanced software, or new functionality, without being intimidated. Here are some ideas:
- Start with Online Training. Pryor’s Microsoft® Office 365: Excel Online Series can be a great start for those new to the tool, and for more advanced users looking for an entry point to explore its advanced capabilities.
- Templates and Wizards. Excel® has a lot of built-in starting points for those who don’t want to start from scratch. Instead of starting with a blank sheet, start a new document from a template that aligns with your goals. Once in the Excel® sheet, Wizard tools can walk you through the process of creating advanced outputs – this “learning by doing” will help you learn how the functions work, while guiding you to your specific desired outcome.
- Use the Microsoft® Search Bar. Over time, Microsoft’s help features have gotten stronger and stronger. In the top menu bar, type in what you want to do or key terms and explore the results. Reference materials can include short articles, links to video tutorials, and blogs and forums to serve every learning style.
- Search It. If you are not finding what you need in training or the software itself, it may be helpful to turn to the broader community of users through an Internet search. This can be particularly helpful for highly specialized problems, or for problems created by incompatible Add-In upgrades.
Knowing someone else has had the same problem or question as you can be reassuring and can save you time in meeting your goals. Whether you are just getting started, or want to push yourself further with Microsoft® Excel®, there are many resources available that will help you walk down new technology paths.