Author: Matthew MacDonald
Publisher: Pogue Press, 2010
Aimed at: All users of Excel
Pros: Comprehensive, well-written, lots of gems
Cons: Goes too far/too deer for casual users
Reviewed by: Janet Swift
Although I'm a long-time Excel user, having kept up with all the innovations from Version 3 to Excel 2003, I never did move to 2007 so Excel 2010 came as a culture shock.
I do like Matthew MacDonald's reference early in this tome to the "now-infamous ribbon" which suggests that he shares my personal view that the ribbon interface isn't at all helpful. One gem for ribbon haters and menu die-hards that he also provides in the introduction is that pressing the Alt key provides a way to use key press navigation and command selection. Another plus point and the book hasn't really started yet.
The introduction also devotes just over a page to the most important of Excel 2010's new features and then goes on to outline the structure of the book. I agree pretty much wholeheartedly with this structure and also like the fact that the index means it is possible to locate almost anything you want to find. I've had to include the almost as there was something I've not been able to find in this book - the final bullet point on the back jacket proclaims "Rescue lost data - restore old versions of data and find spreadsheets you forgot to save". That sounds worth knowing about but unless it's an overly-hyped claim for AutoRecover I've not found any such information in this tome.
This Missing Manual has eight parts and the first, Worksheet Basics is one of the longest. It starts with Creating your First Spreadsheet - entering data in a blank worksheet, a bit of navigating around, a rather cursory tour of the Excel window and a good deal, possibly too much for the beginner on saving and opening files - but then this book isn't just for the beginner and it is a logical place for the information. Chapter 2 looks at entering data of different types - text, numbers and dates and time - and has a useful section on Handy Timesavers including AutoComplete, AutoCorrect, AutoFill and AutoFit. Chapter 3 covers Moving Data, Chapter 4 is on Managing Worksheets, hen comes two chapters on Formatting and this part concludes with Viewing and Printing Worksheets.
Part 2 opens with Building Basic Formulas. This is both a fundamental and comprehensive look and well worth reading from start to finish. The rest of this part is divided into five chapters: Math and Statistical Functions; Financial Functions; Manipulating Dates, Times and Text; Lookup, Reference and Information Functions; and Advanced Formula Writing and Troubleshooting, which is where you will find IF() and named ranges.
There are three chapters in Part 3, Organizing Worksheets and while each of them is useful they don't really fit together particularly well. Chapter 14 Tables: List Management Made Easy is where you will find sorting and filtering. Chapter 15 on Group and Outlining Data follows on with table topics but Chapter 16 deals with Templates, a distinctly different topic.
Part 4 is on Charts and Graphics and after two chapters that look at the basics and the move advanced aspects of charting there's one on adding pictures, clip art, shapes and SmartArt to worksheets. The next chapter, Visualizing Your Data, which is where we find information on Sparklines, the new in-cell graphs introduced in Excel 2010, would fit here pretty well but instead it has been allocated to Part 5 Advanced Data Analysis. The other topics here are Scenarios and Goal Seeking; Pivot Tables; and Analyzing Databases, XML, and Web Pages.
Part 6, Sharing Data with the Rest of the World is a useful section for those who want to work on spreadsheets with other people. Its first two chapters are Protecting your Workbooks, which also covers data validation and Worksheet Collaboration, which covers comments and tracking changes. Then comes Using Excel on the Web where the new Web App is covered. Having pointed out the limitation introduced by the need for a SharePoint server the problem is solved by using Windows Live SkyDrive. Finally there is Exchanging Data with other people.
Part 7 is on Programming Excel with just two chapters on macros - one using the Macro recorder, the other writing them in VBA. The book rounds out with Part 8 - a bit excessive as it comprised just Appendix A: Customizing the Ribbon which explains how to add favorites to the QAT - Quick Access Toolbar, something many Excel aficionados will want to do early in their acquaintance with Excel 2010.
Since Excel 2010 came out there has been a flood of books on the topic. This is the best one I've read yet for serious Excel users - those who want more than just an introduction for the complete novice.If you are in this category it's a worthy addition to the bookshelf.