Author: Michael Price
Publisher: In Easy Steps, 2010
Aimed at: New and casual Excel users
Pros: Colorful, clear practical instructions
Cons: Occasional jumps in topic and level
Reviewed by: Janet Swift
This colorful book opens with a section that first introduces the Spreadsheet Concept with reference to the accountant's ledger sheet. This fits in with my preconceptions as well I remember the struggle that was required to make a double-entry ledger balance in the days before the advent of the PC. It next makes reference to Visicalc and Lotus 123 and lists some of the versions of Excel from 1987. A single page is devoted to new features in Excel 2010.
In many ways this Introduction section feels like a succession of lists - for example it includes a list of System Requirements but on the plus side it shows you how to start Excel if you have Office Starter Edition preinstalled and how to start in Windows XP and Windows 7. There is also a page on the Office 2010 ribbon and two on the Menu to Ribbon Reference guide for users of previous versions of Excel.
Section 2, Begin with Excel, is where we really get started and after a look at the Excel window there is a short hands-on example which takes you through creating a spreadsheet for a Personal Budget. This introduces the new user to entering text, numbers and simple formulas. It introduces AutoFill to save typing month names and to copy formulas. It uses the AutoSum icon and covers formatting, printing and saving. It even manages to introduce Insert, Copy and Paste. The key features of the book that are put to good use in this chapter are the use of a numbered steps, the use of lots of screen dumps, although in some cases these would benefit from being bigger to be clearer, and the use of marginal notes: Hot tip, Don't Forget and Beware.
Section 3 is a fast-paced introduction to managing data. It starts by explaining that you can import existing data and chooses as its example a collection of MP3 tracks already on your hard drive. OK some readers will have such data available but not all and the example is used for the rest of the chapter, covering sorting, finding and filtering data, making it difficult to follow if you don't have some suitable data to use.
Section 4 on Formulas and Functions opens with a helpful, but perhaps off-topic couple of pages on Number and Text Formats and then an explanation that I found confusing rather than helpful of Relative and Absolute references. This is followed up with "Name References" - the used of named ranges. Operators and Calculation Sequence comes next and then we come to Functions - where the one used for illustration is =SUM in a situation where AutoSum would have been more appropriate. Compared to Section 2, where everything seemed natural, this seems awkward. The section ends with adding a comment - again out of place in this section.
Section 5 on Excel Tables relies on the same music track data as Section 3 which again might serve to disadvantage readers who don't have suitable data. Having covered table styles, the different types of table totals you can use and printing a table it introduces Pivot Tables as a way of summarizing data which may be a bit advanced at this stage.
The book continues to be a mix with some sections, such as Section 6 on Advanced Functions being too brief to be really helpful while others including Section 8 Charts and Section 9 macros being well presented. A recurrent problem that applies to Section 7 with the title, Control Excel, and the final two sections on Templates and Scenarios and Links and Connections being an odd mix of disparate topics that could do with being covered in greater depth.