Author: Steve Johnson
Publisher: Prentice Hall, 2010
Aimed at: Existing and new users of Excel
Pros: Well organised, comprehensive, advanced coverage
Cons: Indistinct screenshots, somewhat abstract
Reviewed by: Janet Swift
This is book that has evolved through previous generations but this is the first time I've looked at it and my first impressions were good. "Brilliant" in the title refers to the fact that it uses full color - as well as alluding to the quality of the content.
The color certainly helps the reader to navigate the content. For example, you can quickly turn to a chapter you are interested in by noting the color of its marginal tab. However, while displaying the screendumps in full color is certainly an advantage their size and resolution means that you cannot see the detail in a full screen image and this is a definite shortcoming.
This isn't a book to read - it is a reference to dip into when you need help. And in this role it is particularly useful to someone familiar with a previous version of Excel who wants to get the most out of Excel 2010. I have confessed elsewhere that, having stuck with Excel 2003 until a few months ago, I found the move to Excel 2010 something of a shock and this book is certainly helpful to someone in my position.
There are very useful New! flags on the contents pages and in all the sections referring to the newly introduced features which point out the very latest enhancements in Excel 2010. While they don't cover features upgraded in Excel 2007, Chapter 1 has a helpful page on Using the Ribbon, which is almost enough to explain the very different interface. The use throughout the book of "Did You Know" boxouts and "Timesaver" and "Trouble" sections draws attention to tips, fixes and points that even an experienced Excel user might have overlooked
The book takes a logical approach. Chapter 1: Getting Started with Excel covers the various aspects of the interface - commands, toolbars, dialog boxes and so on including moving around and switching views.
Then Chapter 2: Basic Workbook Skills goes through selecting cells, entering and editing labels, text and values and covers autofill and spelling.
Chapter 3: Working with Formulas and Functions is pretty fast paced. Having looked at creating a simple formula it introduces the ideas of relative and absolute cell references and then naming cells and ranges. Later in the chapter we encounter circular references and nested functions.
Chapter 4: Modifying Worksheets and Workbooks helps you get to grips with the structure of workbooks starting with inserting, deleting, moving and copying worksheets, hiding and unhiding them, going on through operations on rows and columns and concluding with Custom Views and Workspace Layout.
Chapter 5:Formatting a Worksheet quickly moves from the basics to conditional formatting and the newly introduced sparkline formatting then coves the use of color and Office 2010's new themes and styles. Next Chapter 6: Viewing and Printing Worksheets and Workbooks not only covers margins, headers and footers and page breaks but also the new Print screen features in the File tab and creatin a PDF document and an XPS document are in this chapter.
The next two chapters are on embellishing worksheets. There are lots of new picture-related features in Excel 2010 and they are covered, along with older capabilities in Chapter 7:Inserting and Modifying Graphics and while there is little that merits the New! flag in Chapter 8: Drawing and Modifying Shapes there is probably a lot that will be new to many readers - texture fills, gradient fills, shape effects including 3D and rotation effects, for example. We get to charts, where graphics is used to convey information about your data, next in Chapter 9: Creating and Modifying Charts.
Chapter 10: Analysing Worksheet Data is about tables - an idea introduced in Excel 2007; Pivot Tables; Groups and Outlines and then in Chapter 11: Building More Powerful Worksheets we come to the use of the Analysis ToolPak, What-If Analysis and Goal Seek, Scenarios and Solver, a new feature in Excel 2010. It also covers the use of many of Excel's functions. Power users will also find useful help in Chapter 12: Protecting and Securing a Workbook and Chapter 13 Reviewing and Sharing Workbook Data. You can save a workbook as a web page and Chapter 14: Publishing Data on the Web covers this and how to incorporate hyperlinks and also how to get data from web queries.
Chapter 15: Tools for Working More Efficiently looks at Excel's customization options and Chapter 16: Expanding Excel Functionality is about the supplied Add-ins, VBA and Macros and also Active X control. Finally Chapter 17: Working Together on Office Documents is about working with documents stored on the Web (cloud computing) with Office Web Apps and covers Windows Live SkyDrive, SharePoint Workspaces and Groove Workspaces. It concludes with a page on the new Office Mobile 2010.
While this book takes a very practical approach - with numbered steps to accomplish specific tasks it doesn't give you any small examples to copy as you work through it. this, Combined with the "fuzzy" screendumps means you need your own data to work with - or just treat it as an abstract exercise.
Now we've arrived at the end of the book we come to a Workshops section for which files are provided on www.perspection.com but the five projects are advanced and go beyond normal spreadsheet activities:
- Project 1: Creating a drop-down list
- Project 2: Adding a Form Control
- Project 3: Adding Conditional Formatting
- Project 4: Creating a VBA Script
- Project 5: Creating a VBA Interface.
Another aspect of this book is that prepares you for the Microsoft Certified Applications Specialist - but again you need to use it in conjunction with the website which will provide the MCAS objective and refer you to the specific pages in the book that cover them.
This is a book I would keep on my shelf in order to get help with specific tasks - and if I was working towards to MCAS I would definitely use it to hone my skills in preparation for the exam.
But it isn't a book I would recommend to a complete beginner as you need familiarity with the basics of Excel in order to appreciate the "brilliance" of the book and get the best from it.