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Excel Table of Contents

Sometimes I find that I really need to torture Excel in the name of work. At the moment I am working on an Excel file with about 40 worksheets, and multiple pages on each sheet; all up it will weigh in at about 200 page mark.

One of the things that I was asked to do was to create a table of contents for this monster. That’s not something that I’m keen on doing manually – especially as I still need to play with the page formatting!

Anyway a bit of googling turned-up a macro that creates and updates an Excel table of contents [^]. The results aren’t pretty, but it is something that I work with and it sure beats keying in the numbers each month.

Excel Table of Contents

Excel Formula Helper

Chandoo on the Pointy Haired Dilbert blog [^] has launched an excel formula helper [^].  The aim is to provide normal users of Excel with an easy to understand English explanations, and examples, of some of the most commonly used Excel formulas. 

Excel Formula Helper - max

I am a professional Excel-wrangler, and occasionally I have to resort to using Excel Help, and it is never a pleasant experience.  And, for the most part I know what I’m looking for / at, so what’s it like for “normal” people.

I am also a point of contact for some of less experienced Excel users around the office.  Usually it’s for formula help, “how do you …” and “why doesn’t this work?” type problems.  It’s nice to know that I now have a resource that I can point others to so that they can help themselves or if I’m too busy to explain a formula.

Chandoo has promised that if this popular then he will expand this initial offering, so help everyone and point people there.

Death by PowerPoint


Many people have died in meetings; well maybe that’s an exaggeration, but not much of one!  But the amount of serious assaults committed in meetings with blunt objects, namely PowerPoint presentations is unbelievable, and it continues to happen day after day.  There are not too many people in the world that haven’t been exposed to this.  Any Manager that needs to address the masses will immediately resort to PowerPoint.

There is good news, Alexei Kapterev of [^], a Russian trainer and presentation expert, has posted a PowerPoint presentation “Death by PowerPoint (and how to fight it)” [^].  It contains simple, easily implemented hints and things to avoid. 

The presentation emphasises the need for “Significance, Structure, Simplicity, and Rehearsal”.  These points are expanded on and explained, and along the way illustrated.  Anyone who uses presentation software should be made to go through this slide pack before they are allowed back into a meeting room!


CannibalRabbit is occasionally called upon to make a presentation; thankfully it has been very rarely.  But whenever it does happen (as with most people) it is accompanied by a queasy, sinking feeling.  What I have found is that a presentation is not the same as writing, it needs to flow the in much same way that you talk.  An elegant turn of phrase is absolutely useless if it leaves you tongue-tied in front of a group!

One of the key things is practice, and practice on a trial audience.  One thing that I have found is that if at least part of the audience has been exposed to the big ticket items in the presentation before the big days is that they have had time to digest, question the concepts and form a reasoned opinion.  This does at least two things to help you: it makes you question what you are presenting; and, it makes it obvious if there is a gap in your logic or a missing slides before you get to your last chance.

The other day a newsfeed [^] hit my work inbox that does a really good job of outlining the process of making a good presentation.  This isn’t a what to write, or a template layout, but how to.  Rands reinforces the point that every presentation is different, they have different audiences, and different content, but the same concepts can be applied to the preparation of the presentation.

If you are questioning the amount of effeort that you have to put in, then it is worth remembering this :

“. . . an audience can smell an immature presentation on the very first slide. It has nothing to do with the quality of the content; it’s you standing lamely in front of your slide and silently conveying the “Ok, what I am going to talk about here?” vibe, and it’s presentation death.” [^]