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Interesting Stuff This Way -->

Find the important things in a spreadsheet fast
  (+4, -2)
(+4, -2)
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When you open a huge Excel spreadsheet that someone has given you, don't you feel overwhelmed? It's difficult to know where to start. The first few minutes are usually wasted flipping between the tabs, scrolling ridiculously far down or to the right (just in case the creator hid some data out there), failing to notice subtly important column labels, etc. etc.

It would be useful if arrows appeared as you scrolled around, prompting you " --> More data this way -->" or "lookup table below" and the like. Once you activate "Tour Mode", the signs would appear and you'd use the MOUSE to scroll and follow the street signs. (faster than manual keyboarding). The screen would shift right or left or down or up or diagonally to accommodate your wanderings.

For this to work, the creator of the spreadsheet would need to specify a kind of "browsing order" for the spreadsheet, but this could be done with a few mouse clicks (possibly with tour comments added at each location). The hotspot list would be saved with the file.

This is much easier for a user to follow (and for a creator to write) than verbal directions such as "the accumulation data is in cells $C$147 to cell $E$159 on the "Data With Accumulations" tab. That is too verbose, redundant with what's readily visible on the screen, and doesn't communicate the structure the way a visual "guided tour" approach, facilitated by the spreadsheet application itself, would.

Thank you.

phundug, Jan 27 2006

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       The author of a very big and very detailed spreadsheet should make a summary summary page so that you can get right to what is important. And because Excel lets you link the cells, your summary page automatically updates with the changes that you make on the sheet.
Jscotty, Jan 27 2006
  

       Well named worksheet tabs go a very long way towards providing a self documented model.
bristolz, Jan 27 2006
  

       [phundug], maybe a modified "comment". Now they act as post-it notes, but I think they only pop up when the mouse is over them.   

       If cetain comments could be toggled between visible/unvisible, then the text in the comment could be used for tour mode. Also a sort of hyperlink system could be used to go to named fields (where there is a futher comment).   

       So I suppose it's like a hyperlink system with comment pop-ups.
Ling, Jan 27 2006
  

       I think you must have put the cd in upside down.
Ling, Jan 27 2006
  

       The trouble is, a big sprawling spreadsheet is a poorly designed spreadsheet. There should be discrete pages containing single-definition tables (currencies, interest rates, stock prices, cow expansion rates, exploding Percival etc) that are referenced in one or more 'working' sheets that perform mid-term calculations and other jiggery-pokery that normally only the criminally insane would have any interest in viewing (and also which can almost always be better served by either writing a custom function in the handy VB environment, or switching to something more technical, like a proper database) and finally, a set of sheets, tables and graphs designed to present the end results in a form amienable to the end-user.   

       A summary page ought to help index and categorise each page's function and general reason d'etre.   

       Good spreadsheet design should be taught in schools the same way they taught us all how to write a letter, or use grammar - bad design should be frowned upon with the same disdain we reserve for all-capistas, multi-exlamationists, lolrotfers and australian inquiry inflectionists.
zen_tom, Jan 27 2006
  

       Or, as the AII's would have it: "Watch it? Yer pommy ponce?"
zen_tom, Jan 27 2006
  

       Yes please!! I'm working very closely with someone at the moment who suffers (the rest of us) with this particular affliction. I am currently engaged in the creation of a large slapping device for the specific purpose of delivering a memorable re-education experience.
zen_tom, Jan 27 2006
  

       Instead of an arrow, there could be a little Clippy type character, or a Banzai buddy. It would say "This looks interesting!" "Looky Looky! Data!" "Have you noticed this?" "It looks like you are confused. Can I help?". Different icons might be available, and the computer would decide which you get: Clippy, Puppy, Buddha, Pornstar, Rambo, Wart, Monolith, etc.   

       As regards [zen-tom], I think you should give the australian quiry exhibitionists another chance. For their artistic merit, of course.
bungston, Jan 27 2006
  
      
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