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What do you use Excel for? [Weekend Poll]



It is Friday again, time for another poll on PHD. This time, we will keep it very simple.

I want to know what you use excel for?

I use excel for,
What do you use excel for?

  1. Preparing dashboards, reports, automation solutions for my clients
  2. Making invoices, estimates, plans for my projects
  3. Tracking various project activities (bugs, issues, changes, requirements etc.)
  4. Keeping track of personal finances, future plans, investment analysis of PHD family
  5. Learning new things, exploration (so that I can write about them on PHD)

What about you? What do you use excel for?

(Be as specific as possible. The idea of this poll is to know what you do with excel so that I can write more about topics that would help you.)


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56 Responses to “What do you use Excel for? [Weekend Poll]”

  1. TheQ47 says:

    I use Excel for the following:

    At work:
    1. I train staff in the use of Excel to a basic level;
    2. I am seen as a troubleshooter when more difficult Excel problems arise, e.g., involving longer or more difficult calculations, macros, Etc.
    3. I keep weekly work returns for myself and my staff.
    4. Learning new things and exploration to keep up-to-date (big thanks to you, PHD, for your part in that!)

    At home:
    1. I am the secretary of my local kids sport club, and I use Excel to keep details of competition entries, Etc.
    2. I keep track of mine and my wife's weight loss programme (it's not the fault of Excel that the graph is heading the wrong direction!)

    I probably do much more with it, but that's all I can think of right now.

  2. Jokerman says:

    1. A to-do list with formulae to calculate priority of to-do items on the basis of importance of the task, priority for completion and due date
    2. Score tracking sheets for informal bets made on sporting events (with recording of predictions, actual results, variances and points)
    3. Calculations of various work-related rule-based scenarios

  3. Hui... says:

    1. Mining Schedules
    2. Capital and Operating Budgets
    3. Acquisition/Investment analysis
    4. Personal records, CD Collection, Serial No's, etc
    5. Investment Analysis/Tracking
    6. Solving PHD Forum problems

  4. Matt says:

    - Personal finance / financial projection
    - modelling heat exchangers
    - tracking work activities and projects
    - tracking vehicle usage and maintenance
    - running an awesome ncaa hoops pool (www.upsetpool.com)

  5. Sid says:

    1. Manipulating text - monolithic log files with no metadata can be quickly whipped into shape with text > columns, a few formulae to extract info, conditional formatting, filtering and pivot tables.
    2. Scraping annoyingly formatted web data, and doing something useful with it (dashboards, or even just making it sortable and filter-able)
    3. Generating repetitive batch files to run the same process on a list of files. Utilities exist to do this, but most are a one-trick pony.
    If I could write code, I'm sure I could whip up scripts to process this sort of thing.
    As it is, 10 minutes in excel with some CONCATENATE functions, and I've got a set of unattended DB maintenance scripts; robocopy batches to migrate data from server to server, then run integrity checks afterwards; allsorts.
    4. Compare configuration files by pasting them in, sorting them, extracting variable names and values, then using conditional formatting to highlight the differences.

    None of this is what Excel is designed for, but it's the best tool I've found!

  6. Lu says:

    1. Cross referencing data between spreadsheets
    2. Compiling data from various sources
    3. Transforming mainframe reports to functional spreadsheets
    4. Manipulating and transforming data that IT can't/won't touch

    1. Scratch pad (tend to think in Excel, not Word, etc.)
    2. Schedules, todo lists, grocery lists, budgets, checking account balancing
    3. Girl Scout Cookie sales (really my favorite - best ever home application)

  7. Patricia says:

    -Monthly P&L
    -Track Orders
    -Track investments
    -Troubleshoot Excel problems of others
    -Explore/Learn to keep up to date and use information for my Excel self study manuals
    Investment analysis
    Track personal finances and investments
    Calorie tracker (unlike TheQ47- I don't chart as I fear I may see that same upward trend 🙂
    Set up knitting patterns by row
    Helping middle schooler with math homework

  8. Mark says:

    1. Personal Finances
    2. Weight Tracking
    3. Auto Maintenance & Forecasting
    4. Calculator/Numerical Scratchpad

  9. Mark K says:

    1. Preparing lists for import into our database
    2. Preparing reports that sql query puts out that are more readable
    3. Tracking bank accounts
    4. Reconciling GL accounts
    5. Converting lists for import or that have been exported

  10. Fred says:

    1. preparing dashboards and reports
    2. business data mining and analysis
    3. personal finance (taxes, expenses, stocks etc)
    4. simple databases
    5. learning new things.... 😉

  11. Marcy says:

    Crikey! I use excel for oodles of things!

    To track where my wages go (and how many pairs of shoes I buy in a year! That was a fun exercise...)
    To log and predict credit card payments and how long it will take to pay this off (not as much fun as above)
    Generally finding weird and wonderful uses, and finding alternative ways to get one result.

    Training plans and qualifications
    Assessment Tracking
    Reporting for Management
    Creating process flow / problem resolutions (Does the on button work - Yes / -No type)

    Marcy :0)

  12. Terry P says:

    Used for construction project management


  13. VJ says:

    You have a great website BTW. I love the cool stuff you post. I recently developed a dashboard using your techniques. Thanks a ton.
    1. Perform comprehensive data analysis
    2. Use Statistical and optimisation functions ( solver etc.)
    3. Create reports using dashboard techniques.
    4. Use macros to improve efficiency. I would love to see users contribute VBA codes that others can use.
    5. Use the capabilities of excel to its potential.
    6. Would like to know more about Excel 2010 capabilities and new features available.

  14. Pat says:

    1. Just finished a dashboard!!!!
    2. Monthly reports
    3. Importing data for calculations
    4. Misc. sales reporting

  15. Michelle says:

    I basically use it for...
    - Customers database
    - Invoicing and income tracking
    - Statistics of sales, customers, etc
    - Cost calculation sheet
    - Project tracking
    - Tabulation
    - Personal finances
    - and... being the office excel hero thanks to PHD!!!

  16. sb says:

    My main usage is for (4) and (5) in your blog! learnt a lot of interesting things from this site. thank you!

  17. Michael says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    it's an "art to provide information in the right way". That's why I'm creating a lot of different reports mainly at work and in form of dashboard or dynamic views with dropdowns etc.

    The challenge is to make it:
    1. simple
    2. structured
    3. good look & feel
    4. dynamic

    But at least it should be an information that supports decision makers!

  18. bill says:

    I use Excel for consumer marketing research: survey raw data organization, information generation and analysis, information modeling, simulation, and results communication through presentation tables and graphs. I also use Excel for balance sheet and P&L analysis. I am not a Excel VB programmer but find I am using more and more of it to accomplish repetitive tasks.

  19. Wilian says:

    1. Personal Finances
    2. TODO - 101 things in 1001 days
    3. Learning new things, exploration

  20. Rob Miller says:

    Mostly I use Excel for my myriad fantasy baseball leagues.

    I also work in the real estate industry and use it for market analytics and forecasting.

  21. Giovanni Capezio says:

    I basically use it for…
    - Customers database
    - Invoicing and income tracking
    - Statistics of sales, customers, etc
    - Cost calculation sheet
    - Project tracking
    Finally I'am using palo jedox

  22. Venus says:

    What don't I use Excel for?
    1) Tracking wages, deductions, and anything else payroll
    2) Creating automated time-sheets and other forms
    3) Budgets
    4) Audit stuff
    5) Balancing to reports from outside sources
    6) Scheduling
    7) Helping/troubleshooting for co-workers
    8) Tweeking the heck out of formulas
    9) and learning new stuff from Chandoo! VBA, formulas I never thought of, etc.
    Surely not for tracking my weight loss... or gain!

  23. Dave says:

    1 Spend analysis
    2 Supplier database
    3 Whole Life Costing analysis
    4 Personal finances
    5 Invoicing
    6 Revenue tracker
    7 Forecasting
    8 Lists!!!9
    Process mapping

  24. Shel Price says:

    Reports heavy on pivot tables, getpivotdata, vlookup formulas, data validation, named ranges, etc. Recently starting incorporating macros to simplify or automate reports for my end users.

    Make scoresheets for my husband to use for disk golf.

    Interesting in learning more about pulling data directly into Excel via ODBC.

  25. Jody says:

    1. Collating big chunks of data into more bite size tables.
    2. Parsing variables into a CONCATENATED string (usually a URL)
    3. Distilling large chunks of data from multiple data sources into a single "rawData" page for charts.
    4. Repeat number 3 but creating a "Parsed" page with a smaller set of data I can copy and paste into Google Spreadsheets for online Dashboards.
    5. Charts - I can't easily create charts with multiple axes elsewhere, though I'm studying up on the Google Chart API for that.

    Home - Technically I use Google Spreadsheets for these but I carry skills between Excel & Spreadsheets
    1. Tracking skills in games (World of Warcraft)
    a. Predicting prices for items in game auctions (as above) - surprisingly close to real markets
    2. Parsing & Reporting search results for Homes/Real Estate while I try to sell my home
    3. Tracking Finances/Expenses
    4. Managing bulk orders for Co-Op orders with friends
    5. Tracking anything that has 2 dimensions of data. (c;

  26. campingshadow says:

    Been using Excel for many years for business and personal use. Some things used for include:
    * Tracking all bills and payments
    * In house trainer for new Excel users
    * Creating calendars
    * Tracking weight loss and blood sugar readings
    * Creating invoices
    * Creating LOTS of forms and notices
    * Creating display signs
    * Creating campground site maps
    * Creating campground brochure
    * Daily work tracker - including clients, hours, miles photos, etc
    * Combining and reconciling weekly & monthly expense reports
    * Cataloging videos
    * Charts, charts and more charts
    * 80% of all Word Processing stuff (yes Really! who needs Word?)
    * Inventory & new items received log (who needs Access?)
    * Seating charts
    * Wide variety of spreadsheets
    * Yearly campground occupancy reports and charts
    * Data analysis
    * and lots more.
    Excel is my favorite program and the first place I turn to do get something done. Now, after finding PHD I am delving deeper and taking the Excel School.

  27. Russ Munyan says:

    I use it for lots of educational applications. I am an administrator in California's educational system and I generally take testing data of all sorts (teacher created, district benchmark and state criterion referenced tests) as well as demographics, then find trends (I call them "disconnects") by using graphs, pivottables, conditional formatting and my eagle eyes. I often work with 50000 points of data or more at once trying to see what adds up - or doesn't! Lots of data analysis and finding trends.

    Personal use is infinite -
    * I created a table with calculations to score track meets "on the fly" when I was coaching
    * track my children's workouts/track meets/times/personal bests
    * checkbook
    * rosters for the track/cross country team
    * track fundraiser dollars/donated hours
    * science fair projects
    * "align" verses in the Bible - putting similar concepts in one column and arrange the columns into a progression or pattern, for instance the Fruits of the Spirit line up with the Beatitudes, etc.

  28. M. Gonzalez says:

    1. Use data tables to analyze access queries
    2. Scenarios testing
    3. Write standard operating documents

  29. Jim Faris says:

    I use excel 2000, main uses are the development of app's for machinists, I keep my checkbook, database for shopping.
    I like your email tips.

  30. John says:

    I use excel for:

    1. Modeling my companies business so that I can properly budget and make strategic decisions.
    2. Creating Dashboards for our licensing sales business.
    3. Using it for analysis of decks in the card game Magic the Gathering (http://www.tinyurl.com/4b6l8j). I am doing some cool stuff like displaying card probability, downloading card images, displaying sample hands, etc.
    4. Learning new uses of Excel

  31. Santino says:

    1.Preparing dashboards, reports, automation solutions for my clients

  32. Viney Mehta says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    I use excel for ..

    1. a lot of pivoting and OLAP usage.
    2. Training People.
    3. Learning new things and exploration to keep up-to-date.
    4. Linking Excel Charts to PPTs - to avoid re-work.
    5. Preparing dashboards, reports, automation solutions
    6. Data analysis
    7. using Macros at very basis level......copy from sites and pating it to excel VBA....and small modifications too

  33. GrahamG says:

    1. For my work as a Structural Engineer. Preparing spreadsheets that will design steel, concrete, timber masonry and other elements of buildings. Also other spreadsheets of typical forms used by the company for drawing issue, resources etc.
    2. Modifying data for importing into Access databases.
    3. Keeping track of my bank account.

  34. wilson says:

    Dear all,
    This is an amazing site which opened my eyes in the Excel world.The person behind this site is really a great person who changed my limited knowledges in Excel.Thank you very.......Much


  35. Nate says:

    Fantasy baseball

  36. Lavina says:

    I use Excel for work for mostly charting reports until we can get them into BI & for keeping track of my hours to charge the client.
    At home I currently use it to keep track of different yearly salary levels based on current per hour rate as well as using it for a cookbook to share my kids favorite recipes with them.

  37. chrisham says:

    I use excel for just about everything under the sun!
    1) Charting
    2) Reports
    3) Presentation - Dashboard
    4) Personal Finance handling
    5) Tweak the office procedures by coupling the use of the ERP (SAP) along with Excel
    6) As a Wow Factor! To receive kuddos from colleagues and my boss as the Excel Guru!!

  38. HR says:

    There's a great feature that saves tonnes of time for me. I love using the extra add-ins that simplifies stuff even more.
    John Walkenbach's recent file for finding Bible Verses is a such a great tool that save hours of time flipping through the Bible.
    I work as a Buyer and datamining is one area where I extensively use Excel, besides handling personal budget.

  39. Ralph says:

    I use excel to track performance of option / stock trading.
    This involves;
    - Functions & intensive dynamic calculations of imported trade history
    - Dashboard display of performance
    - Equity Curve
    - Win / Loss metrics per strategy
    - Expectancy
    - Projections - Monte Carlo simulations
    I wold greatly appreciate help with the last one Monte Carlo simulations.

  40. Hui says:


    A quick and nasty way to do monte carlo simulations is to pick an input variable, setup a Data Table, with a Random number or formula with the input variable range as one input and what ever output variables as the Row Inputs

    I have setup an example of a small gold mine with a Gold Grade simulated using a Data Table
    The column of the data table has a formula of =1.5*Rand() which will give a range of gold grades from 1.5 to 2.5 g/t

    You will see that the Costs, Revenue and Profit are then calculated for each Input grade

    These can then be plotted against the input grade distribution and confidence ranges determined.

    Have a look at an example here

    When doing monte carlo work, you need to understand the random distribution you are using as normally they should be repesentative of whatever parameters you are modelling, I am not sure f the distribution or randomnes o the Excel Rand() function.

  41. Julien G says:


    I use Excel for :
    1. Dashboard and reports for specific SEM data
    2. Cleaning, regrouping and optimizing data before creating PPC campaigns
    3. Generating PPC campaigns with dynamic fields
    4. Basic tasks for projects follow up

    BTW, thanks and long life to PHD !

  42. I use Excel for

    * progress dashboards in projects
    * performance tracking
    * Earned Value analysis
    * interface reconciliation
    * accounting
    * requirements gathering/tracking

    Thanks for the effort!


  43. Ewoud says:

    I use Excel for;
    1. Dashboarding
    2. Pivoting
    3. Importing datafiles
    4. Car maintenance
    5. Personal Finance

  44. chris P says:

    I use Excel for:
    1. Budget planning for various departments
    2. Survey analysis via pivot tables
    3. Helper worksheets for my taxes
    4. Calculating my 401k deductions
    5. Forecasting sales
    6. Converting Annual numbers to monthly/quarterly numbers via macros
    7. Data cleaning and reformatting for Word/PPT presentations

  45. Georges says:

    I use Excel for:
    1. Track finance results, do finance forecast.
    2. track contracts performance in several dimensions (quality, customer sat, cost to deliver, GP, new revenue, issues, invoices sent status.
    3. Prepare monthly consolidated dashboard of accounts.
    4. Track Projects implementation, dates, tasks, owners, status, issues, problems, open actions, etc.
    5. Remember friends birthday date. 🙂
    6. Track personal finance.

  46. Ramon says:

    I use Excel for my daily structural engineering duties. I have crafted special programs based on macros and VBA to standardize calculations. From there, I use fileds to automatically trasfer those calcs to Word and publish. I also use it for pre-processing large files for e.g., Access, Google Erathy, and other apps where hundreds, or even thousands of records are managed.

  47. Gert-Jan says:

    I work in Finance and use Excel for a lot of things

    Monthly reporting:
    * Calculation of accruals using output from various accounting systems.
    * Collecting input files from our entities all over Europe and prepare them for upload into Hyperion Essbase (reporting tool)
    * Combining multiple sources for input: Access, Excel, Hyperion and so on.
    * Quick check on aggregated data once it's uploaded to see if it makes sense.
    * After that preparing a number of reports for both management committee as well as individual entities such as: P&L, sales reports, reports on assets managed, personnel and so on

    * All kinds of analysis: Periodical, ad hoc, data mining, trend analysis etc.
    * Once again combining data sources. In our database (Hyperion Essbase) there is one cube per year, so I combine them in Excel.
    * Reformatting data, e.g. when two customers merge.

    * Budgeting
    * Forecasting
    * Cost Calculation
    * Mapping processes using flow charts (and lots of hyperlinks)
    * Invoicing
    * Time schedules
    * To do lists
    * Digital scrap paper

    At home
    * personal finances
    * to do lists
    * learning new stuff

    Why I liked this site:
    * It generates lots of new ideas for me.
    * Practical
    * Very useful templates that I can use and modify (very important).
    * Business oriented (project management, dashboards etc.)
    * Great answers to questions.
    * Most people here really enjoy working with Excel (just like me) and it shows
    * Clean look that it pleasant to read. I found navigation slightly more difficult though. Did have some trouble in finding the forums the first couple of times for instance.

    My main interest is in business analysis, strategy and so on. As a controller I want to extract as much useful information from the available data as possible. That's why I use Excel. Nobody said it can't be fun at the same time though.

    There are lots of things i' interested in/ideas I'm looking for:
    * Excel as a BI tool.
    * Anything on reporting
    * I am working on a dashboard, never to much info on that (techniques, ideas, examples etc.)
    * How to best structure workbooks/reports. I like to structure them as much as possible (input, processing and reporting are the three main areas to me).
    * It's very important to me that others can work with my Excel files as well. That means a structured approach, lots of notes, but mostly keep it as simple as possible.
    * That also means little VBA. Personal experience has taught me that reports stay around longer than the people who designed them. Updating becomes tricky without sufficient knowledge. The level of Excel knowledge on this forum is already to much and quite often incomprehensible for most users.
    * Techniques for validating excel reports. I know there are several commercial options available, but buying something is not an option.
    * Deadlines are extremely tight during our monthly reporting cycle. If something goes wrong (and it almost always does) a structured approach saves time. Simplicity means that others can check for errors as well. Same goes for use of VBA and eliminating hard coded values and validating techniques.
    * Excel tables and database functions. Don't know much about, could be very useful for me though.
    * Working with lists
    * Analyzing other data sources using Excel (Access, data warehouses etc.
    * Formatting options (conditional formatting, custom formatting of pivot tables, so they can be used directly as a report, using styles etc.) Want to create a template for our department so all reports will have a similar look and feel. You need to find a balance between flexibility for the user on the one hand and uniformity that bring restrictions on the other hand.
    * Data mining using Excel.
    * Working with variables as much as possible, so the report can be maintained easily and prepared automatically with some VBA
    * Data visualization
    * Graphs in Excel. A powerful analytical tool.
    * Anything that helps to make the data processing part of my work simpler, so I can focus on the analysis and advice part.
    * Automate recurring tasks.
    * All kinds of tips and tricks. Often you can figure it out yourself, but have never thought of it (like hiding the zero's on a graph's y-axis).
    * Navigating through workbooks.
    * Other people's best practices.
    * Honest reviews of website and books

  48. Chandoo says:

    @All.. thank you so much for such exhaustive response. I really love this post. I have taken note of all the comments and I will use them to research, learn and share ideas and tips on the blog

  49. Richard Rees-Williams says:

    Everybody does some very complex stuff^^

    I use Excel for updating and recording climatological data, temperature, (max, min, avg) by month/date/year, along with precipitation, snow, sunshine data etc...

  50. Andre says:

    I have been struggling to teach myself all that Ralph mentions below. Is it possible for me to contact Ralph and get his help or advice?

    Thank you

    "39) Ralph
    March 28, 2010

    I use excel to track performance of option / stock trading.
    This involves;
    - Functions & intensive dynamic calculations of imported trade history
    - Dashboard display of performance
    - Equity Curve
    - Win / Loss metrics per strategy
    - Expectancy
    - Projections – Monte Carlo simulations
    I wold greatly appreciate help with the last one Monte Carlo simulations."

  51. Andre says:

    I think I began reading that post this morning. I will finish it when I return from work. I thought it looked like it might have the information I am looking for. Are these principles applicable to other spread sheet programs like Numbers for iPad?

    Thank you very much.

    • Hui... says:

      The Techniques are applicable
      The techniques use an Excel built in Data Table function
      I'm not sure if Numbers has a Data Table function or something similar ?

      UPDATE: Numbers Doesn't support Data Tables at least on the iPhone version. The Data Tables come in but don't update as data is changed, with the content of the tables remaining static as things change around it.

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