What do YOU think Excel is for?

Didn’t @Rebo say she uses a spreadsheet to help score Feuds?

Among other things, I use Excel to help me generate a wide variety of math problems (with randomly-chosen numbers and other details) for quizzes and tests.

She does indeed.

For me personally (including professionally), Excel is way to store and organize numerical information, perform the simple functions likely to be needed (sums, averages, percentages and the like), and create charts and graphs.

However, I’ve often come across people who use it to create tables with no numerical content, because they find it simpler than creating and formatting tables in Word. I’ve gone from finding that to be bizarre to doing it myself on occasion.

Yeah, Access is much better for quick n dirty data manipulation.

Excel is a spreadsheet for doing calculations.
I am annoyed when people use it for a database, although there is a version that works more like a database.
Some people use it for lists, because it makes pretty colors. I make lists in Word.

I’m a timekeeper at work and used to use Excel to perform leave audits whenever one of my workers separates from the agency. These audits stopped being required when the current fiscal year started.

At home, I use a spreadsheet to keep track of our baseball card collection and my SO uses one to keep track of our DVD collecton.

If I want to pull a pretty clean html table off of a webpage, Excel has a built-in connector that makes that extremely easy. Some of the more complex tables require Python (which takes development time), but most don’t. Once the data is loaded into Excel, it’s easy to go from there to a database.

I used Excel to build the index for a book I published about ten years ago. IIRC, my co-author wanted to do it that way; I was mildly skeptical, but it worked out fine.

This is me. I only have a couple of spreadsheets and the first thing I do is format all the cells for “text.”
Otherwise when I enter a UPC number it converts to something like 3.456E2 or some such. And I’ll type in a date and the cell says E-2C! in a weird color indicating a cell error. If I need to add a bunch of numbers (like tracking some expenses), I just use a pencil and a calculator. Excel, for me, is just a convenient template for columns and rows.

Oh, and I should say it’s great for sorting. I can sort my DVD lists by “watched,” “rating,” “year,” etc. etc. That’s very useful.

If the document I’m writing is mostly a table – even a table of text – , Word is no longer fun, so I use a spreadsheet much of the time. For instance, the other day, I had to write specifications for a software project, and it was basically a numbered list of use cases and non-functional requirements. I had no need to write a big page for each entry, just a sentence or two so that everyone would know what it was about. And I needed to be able to add a column, swap the order of some rows, etc. This was much easier to do in Excel that it would have been in Word.

One other aspect, with modern Cloud-based spreadsheets (Excel 365, Google Sheets), is that you really can have two or more people updating them simultaneously and it works ! You have a little indicator that tells you Coworker A is changing cell A35, and then see their change, while you’re working on cell B22. The possibilities for screw-ups are endless, but if you’re only updating a team’s common To-Do list on OneDrive or Microsoft Teams, it can work very well.

(To be fair, the non-Cloud Excel also had a shared-access mode several years back, but we never got it to work reliably.)

This is the most unusual use of Excel I’ve seen:

While its specialty is the ability to have formulas that manipulate numbers and convert them to charts, I’ve generally always seen is as a dedicated table-maker. And, by “table”, I mean the graphical kind, not something inside a database.

If it were just for numbers, it wouldn’t have all of the formatting options, with colors, or ways to insert images, or such.

I personally have a spreadsheet I use to make a list of all of the videos a particular YouTuber has on his Patreon. He flat out said it was okay to just subscribe once and copy all the URLs, so I did. When I decided the easiest way to organize that information, I thought of a table/chart, and thus a spreadsheet. I’ve even though about sharing it in the special forum for Patrons.

Furthermore, I also took a couple classes to be certified in Office, so I have direct experience with what Microsoft seems to think they are for, and a lot of it is non-numerical data that just is most conveniently stored and viewed in a table. They insist on not using it as an actual database, i.e. something where you might want to look up a record or crosslink two different tables or generate a “report.”

That said, I’ve seen many people do use it for exactly that purpose. Heck, in my Access class, I didn’t always have Access available, and thus would input the actual data in Excel and then import it into Access. Heck, our book even had us do that everyone once in a while, because they knew that a lot of businesses would give you an Excel file. Even if they didn’t actually write the database in Excel, a lot of programs will convert date to an Excel spreadsheet or “CSV” file (the simplest possible spreadsheet, with no formatting of any kind. It’s just text, with commas separating each cell.)

Heck, there’s even a way to make it where the Excel file is linked to the Access database, so that the database updates as the Excel file does. That way people who are more comfortable with Excel or don’t have Access can still make changes.

As for fun things you can do with spreadsheets: I invite you to watch this video:

I design distilleries and custom equipment in excel. It allows me to swap out materials and types of equipment and iterate to answers. Most of the financial models are all in excel too.

The weirdest thing I do is build form documents that will auto add in names and addresses and even calculate numbers to drop into the document.

Nm, answered before I saw the modnotes.

What is Excel for? Well, as mentioned, it was a computerized replacement for paper accounting spreadsheets where you had a bunch of numbers written down in various columns and rows, and then proceeded to add up the rows, columns, and whatever else. That it could do all those additions automatically if the right formulas were written was very helpful. Once the code base supported doing the things that were done on paper, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to do anything else that might be supported by the underlying code base. Functions were added in for things that were done extremely regularly, such that lots of routine tasks managed to get a whole lot easier if you just set things up in Excel. It would be foolish for me to try to list absolutely everything I’ve used Excel for, because I’ve done a lot of non-overlapping things.

Probably the strangest thing I ever did was to write VBA scripts that would create sets of accounting problems for students based on a given idea. It would randomize the numbers and create the appropriately formatted document to be uploaded to the test bank along with the right and wrong answers that we wanted to display on the tests. This was perhaps not something that needed to be done in Excel, but the problem it solved was that the previous test questions did not have the numbers formatted correctly, and students had a hard time counting zeros. By running it through Excel, we not only were able to create a base of different random questions out of the same base problem, but we were able to get Excel to format it properly in terms of commas when we didn’t know how large the number was going to be since it was all randomized. Maybe other programming languages could have done this as well, but we were familiar with the capabilities of Excel VBA, and it worked really well. It was quite challenging to write the code, because I was writing code that created an XML document to be fed into the test bank, and so there was a lot of miscellaneous formatting things that made the code look absolutely awful.

The most common use I have for Excel now is summarizing transactions in a pivot table. When I first went and looked for a job in accounting, I lost a position because I had never heard of pivot tables, and it was required to know them for this job. Apparently they thought pivot tables were so hard that no one could ever possibly learn them for the job, regardless of how experienced they were in Excel. In the interview when I had to describe the things that I did with Excel, I had a hard time, because before starting work it was mostly just very complex calculations of things taking various game mechanics into account, and so I was focused on the power of Excel. On the other hand, pivot tables are about getting things done quickly. It doesn’t take too long to take bunch of rows where one column has an account number/name and another column has an amount, and get Excel to tell me what the sums of all the cells with the same account number/name is, without me having to tell it what to expect the account numbers/names to be. Pivot tables offer a lot more options than just this, but just using them in the way I described makes pretty much every transaction list output to Excel manageable to work through to get the necessary numbers. I don’t work with large enough companies such that Excel is insufficient for their transactions history.

Excel is not designed for it, but it seems I get stuck using it (300 rows and 50 columns, approximately). I’ve also seen it used for project planning, keeping minutes, and as a word processor, with one sheet having the first page and the second sheet having the subsequent content, so to have the different layouts.

And because it sits on my task bar, I use it instead of calculator if I need to do any math which I can’t do in my head.

I use Excel for scripting tests. That is, as a dedicated computer program that tests hardware . For three reasons:

  1. The scripting language is compatible with MSAccess and VBScript (which we also use for scripting).
  2. The test results turn up in a SpreadSheet! Bonus!
  3. Related spreadsheets are available to customers who want to download historical data into a SpreadSheet! Bonus!

It’s not the only scripting environment we use – there is also Python and Shell Scripts and Batch Files and compiled scripts and bound paper documents …

If we were starting over, we’d probably use python in LibreOffice, but we aren’t starting over, and Excel works well for getting stuff into a spreadsheet.

Wildly incorrect. That’s a meal and drinks for 3 people at a nice restaurant.

Depends a LOT on where you live.