Where To Find Answers

If you have a question about how to use Excel, there are some great resources available on the internet. When I have a question, I follow these steps:

First I go to Daily Dose of Excel and search for the answer. Okay, that’s not true, I just couldn’t resist a shameless plug.

If I have a simple question about the syntax of a worksheet function or a VBA keyword, I go to the online help system. Since Office 2003, online help system has a different meaning (and it’s not good) but what I mean is that I press F1. For more complicated queries, I may skip this step alltogether.

If I need more than just a syntax reminder, like I need usage, or if the help just doesn’t give me what I want, the next place I go is Google Groups. Type some keywords in the “with all the words” box. Then limit your search by typing “microsoft.public.excel*” in the “Return only messages from the newsgroup” box. Finally, click Google Search and you’re on your way. The quality of your results will depend on the quality of your keywords. No easy task, that. If at first you don’t succeed, try to find some different keywords – it don’t cost nothin’. If you ever have a question about using Excel’s help system, Google’s value goes straight down the tubes. Unfortunately, every post ever made in the history of newsgroups has the word “help” in it, so the results are rarely meaningful.

If you like Google Groups, then here’s a little tip. Download Ron de Bruin’s Google Search Add-in. It’s the bomb, as the kids say these days. Now, if Daily Dose of Excel isn’t listed in the Favorite sites box in the next release, then it will clearly be an affront to everything that’s decent. For now, you can add it manually.

More often than not, someone has already asked your exact question and you’ll find it using Google Groups. However, everyone’s fact situation is different and sometimes you just need more help than the archives gave you. At that point, it’s off to the newsgroups. Fire up your Outlook Express and go to Tushar’s site. Look for the tutorial on connecting to the Microsoft newsgroups. If you are currently using Outlook Express and connecting to the newsgroups through your ISP, then consider Chip’s arguments for connecting directly. And while you’re at Chip’s site, be sure to read Hints for New Posters. You should read this even if you’re not a new poster.

If you don’t get an answer on the newsgroups, there’s one of two reasons. Either nobody knows the answer (rare, but it happens) or your question is vague, unintelligible, or written in all capital letters. Do your research, and say so in your post, and you’re likely to get all the answers you need – even if the answer is “you can’t do that.”

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