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Spreadsheets: Free to Learn

No-cost tutorials, instruction, and advice are only a few keystrokes away.

5) Contextures (www.contextures.com/tiptech.html)

This site features a substantial, well-organized selection of Excel tips and advice presented in both text and video formats. Topics include filters, functions, scenarios, data validation, pivot tables, conditional formatting, and user forms. A detailed introduction to conditional formatting, including video and a sample file, is but one of the gems that can be found on this site. Sample spreadsheets are also available.

6) DataPig Technologies (www.datapigtechnologies.com/ExcelMain.htm)

This is an entirely visually-oriented Excel support site. DataPig Technologies offers dozens of videos that explain nearly every aspect of Excel. Most of the videos are free, but a $25 fee provides unlimited access and the ability to save the tutorials to your hard drive, CD or DVD. The Flash-based videos, such as the one on creating a histogram chart, present an animated Excel spreadsheet featuring a flying finger that shows users which menus to open, the key features to select, boxes that should be ticked and how and when to enter data, among other steps.

7) The European Spreadsheet Risk Interest Group (www.eusprig.org)

EuSpRIG was founded in 1999, when researchers from the Northern U.K. chapter of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), the University of Wales, Cardiff and the University of Greenwich came together to address problems of business risk associated with spreadsheet errors. To find the free gold on this Web site, scroll down toward the bottom until you reach the “Downloads” and “News” areas. Here you’ll find research papers related to spreadsheet risk issues and a bone-chilling archive of news stories on spreadsheet errors. Particularly useful are the Spreadsheet Auditing for Free presentation, which show users how to conduct a no-cost Excel audit, and How do You Know Your Spreadsheet Is Right? guide to error detection and prevention.

8) Ron’s Excel Tips (www.rondebruin.nl/tips.htm)

This simple online resource provides straightforward answers to over 50 common Excel problems. The site also provides a respectable selection of Excel add-ins, designed to make users’ spreadsheets cleaner, accurate and more useful. (Such as the Google Search add-in, which provides a user-friendly way of searching Excel newsgroups). The site is owned and managed by Ron de Bruin, a Dutch Excel hobbyist who has written extensively on spreadsheet topics.

9) BeyondTechnology (www.beyondtechnology.com/tips.shtml)

BeyondTechnology, a Houston-based software development and consulting firm, offers a limited selection of “power tips” that are designed to help users resolve a series of common Excel problems. The site’s layout is confusing, and the information base isn’t particularly deep, but it’s still worth a visit for help on topics ranging from charting dynamic data to preventing duplicate entries.

10) Microsoft Excel (www.office.microsoft.com/excel)

In any top ten Excel resource must come Microsoft’s own site and the support it provides. While hardly “hidden” from users, many simply forget to take advantage of it (or, possibly, are turned off by the sign-in that’s required). That’s a shame, because Microsoft’s site in many cases qualifies as the first stop in looking for a fast answer to a pressing Excel question. The site provides a deep knowledge base, covering hundreds of topics, for any recent Excel version. Also be sure to check out the Excel webcasts, recorded at live events by Microsoft Office experts. These offerings, covering topics ranging from time-saving tips to creating “fabulous” charts, can be viewed at a user’s own pace and include presentation slides and audio.

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