Getting Unique Values Only

Often times when you are working with Excel, you want to reduce a list of items so that only the unique instances are listed. In other words, if, within a column or list an item happens to be duplicated, you want that item to appear only once. Maybe you have a mailing list, for example, and fear that some customers may be entered more than once. Or perhaps you’ve been collecting emails and are now ready to send out promotional or “Thank you” emails, but don’t want to spam people with multiple messages.

Luckily, Excel makes it very easy to do this, saving you from yourself. In fact, there are two ways. One is simpler and built in to Excel’s multiple functionalities. The other is a bit more difficult and less intuitive, but is more flexible and dynamic. I explain them both to give you flexibility in dealing with these types of business problems. For my example, I use a simple list of animals where a couple of them (cat, bird) are each repeated.

Note: This tip is for Excel 2007, but is applicable, with a tweak or two, with other versions of Excel.

Method 1:

  1. Select data from which you want to retrieve only the unique values. Underline, or otherwise differentiate, the header so that Excel can recognize it as such.
  2. Under the “Data” Ribbon, select the “Advanced” Option.
  3. Under Action, select “Copy to another location.”
  4. The “List Range” should be populated with the data set selected in Step 1
  5. Choose the same range for the “Criteria Range” (I normally copy and paste) from above (the “List Range”)
  6. Check the box next to “Unique Records”
  7. Hit the “OK” button Read more of this post

Hiding your work- Part 1

What if you want to hide your work?

There are times when you are working on a spreadsheet, when you must create placeholders. Perhaps you are applying some custom formatting to a specific area, but must reference information in another sheet. (For more information on Custom Formatting, see Custom Formatting). You’ll quickly discover that Excel doesn’t allow you to do that. Or maybe you are modeling your business and want to refer to a different sheet and perform different calculations when the month in question is closed and you have actual data than when it is in the future and you are forecasting. An easy way to tell Excel where to look is to put an “A” (for actual) or “F” (for forecast) in the top row. (How you get Excel to automatically determine which to use can be done in a number of different ways, but some functions you might use INDEX, VLOOKUP, IF, or MAX functions; I’ll be sure to fit in a discussion of each of those at some point.)

But you don’t necessarily want the user of the spreadsheet to see this work, right?  Well, you can hide it in one of several ways. You could change the font color to white (the same color as the background), but any user who selected that and other cells, would still see the cell contents. Read more of this post

Pivot Tables.. but first

I’ve been asked by many of you to put together something on Pivot Tables.  In doing so, I found the hardest part was compiling sample data that allowed me to highlight some of the cool features that Pivot Tables have to offer. After searching the web for sample data to use and coming up empty, I decided to go the long route and just start typing.  But as luck would have it, I stumbled upon a slick way or two to generate some useful data.  Attached is that discovery in two parts.  This is my first attempt at a video blog, so please provide any feedback, good or bad.
Part I

Part II