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        28 May 2015, 12:58 pm

        When Excel Fails to Deliver (Issue 57) by Tiamari

        My laptop was in a mood. The spreadsheet I worked on kept freezing, and then Windows would restart my computer without warning. This happened repeatedly!

        It reminded me of the old saying we had in my University days: “Every 5 minutes, nothing happens, and then it lasts for 10 minutes”.

        As a computer software lecturer I am fairly comfortable with Excel and I make use of things like GROUPING and FILTERING.

        But before I get carried away, let me quickly explain these two tricks!

        With GROUPING one can quickly hide and unhide a few rows or columns, with one click, instead of using the tedious “hiding” and “unhiding” commands. You simply select the rows or columns that you want to group together, and then select the GROUP command. In the 2013 version it is on the DATA tab, in the OUTLINE group. A little “minus” sign will appear. Clicking on it will collapse the section and a “plus” sign will then be available for quick expanding.

        FILTERING is another awesome feature. Be sure to click somewhere within your data first. Now select the FILTER icon, located on the DATA tab, in the SORT & FILTER group. You will notice little arrows appearing next to your data labels. Clicking on these arrows allows you to filter your results. For example, you may want to see only staff members in the Procurement Department, or staff members over fifty.

        OK, so Excel has some amazing features. But when you use them all together, on a rather large spreadsheet, it doesn’t like it.

        I needed to design a spreadsheet that could track student class attendance for a number of periods a day, in order to calculate absenteeism percentages per subject. The data required was not only for every day of the year, but also for each time slot! Working with existing records, I had to add a few rows of additional data for each of the 80 students.

        Technically one could create a macro to do something like that, but when the program is already straining, it seems wise to do it manually instead. I soon found that each time I pressed the PASTE command, Excel froze for about 10 to 15 minutes and caused my computer to restart randomly. It was clear that I would have to set a full day aside to copy and paste a few rows…

        Luckily I remembered about a little life saver called Kingsoft Office. It is similar to Excel, with all the exact same features, and without straining to handle large spreadsheets. Kingsoft Office is free to use for a year and a legal copy can be downloaded in a jiffy.

        Email me if you need any help with it!

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