The Ultimate List of Excel RSS Feeds

Do you read blogs in an RSS reader? If so, I’ve compiled the ultimate list of Excel RSS feeds.

Currently, it’s a list of 29 Excel-related blogs that have RSS feeds. To save you the trouble of subscribing, there’s also an OPML file that you can download and import into your RSS reader to create instant subscriptions to them all.

Here’s a quote from a satisfied user:

“I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of a few of those blogs.” – Dick

Have I missed any?

The NEW Spreadsheet Page

Finally, I redesigned The Spreadsheet Page. The official launch is Friday, but you can take a sneak peek if you’re interested.

Out with FrontPage, and in with Expression Engine. Man, that’s some powerful software. The site is all database driven now, so it will be much easier to maintain and update.

Feedback is welcome. If you encounter any major glitches, please post a comment at the blog.

Office Community Clips

Have you seen the new Microsoft Office Community Clips?

People upload videos that demonstrate how to perform a task. I guess people like this because it’s almost like watching TV. Never mind that you actually have to click and watch in order to determine if it’s useful. And, a 3-minute video contains roughly the same content that you could read in about 20 seconds.

It’s billed as a “community.” Anybody can watch the videos, but to contribute one, you must be a member of the community. I think this means that you must have a Windows Live ID. Is that the same as a Passport? I have no idea. In the past few years, I’ve told Passport (or whatever it’s called) to “remember me” at least 100 times. But I’m forgotten every time. But I’ve come to expect it, so it’s no longer a big deal.

Joseph Chirilov, at the official Microsoft Excel blog seem to like Community Clips (but then again, could he really say that he hates it?):

The folks over in Office Labs are testing out a new idea called Community Clips and I, personally, think it’s a fantastic idea. It’s a community site where anyone, not just Microsoft employees, can upload “how to” videos that take you step-by-step through accomplishing a particular task. Think of it as YouTube meets Office Online. If, like me, you’re a visual learner, this is a great way to learn new tips and tricks on how to do any number of things with Microsoft products. There are already quite a few Excel-related topics, from using freeze rows to creating your own UDFs in VBA.

I guess I’m not a visual learner. Watching these videos is almost painful to me. It’s all so slow and inefficient, and I can’t easily skim to get to the relevant part.

So what do you think? Are videos a viable way of learning?

Google Chart API

This is the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time: Google Chart API.

The Google Chart API returns a PNG-format image in response to a URL. Several types of image can be generated: line, bar, and pie charts for example. For each image type you can specify attributes such as size, colors, and labels.

You can include a Chart API image in a webpage by embedding a URL within an IMG tag. When the webpage is displayed in a browser the Chart API renders the image within the page.

Here’s a chart that is generated on the fly:

And here’s the URL that creates it:

You’ll find more examples here.

I wonder how difficult it would be to write VBA code that analyzes an Excel chart, and then creates a Google Chart API URL to reproduce it?

(Cross-posted at J-Walk Blog)

Chart Pattern Fills in Excel 2007

I’ve heard several people complain about the fact that the chart pattern fills are not available in Excel 2007. This feature can be useful if you print charts on a non-color printer. Although charts created with previous versions of Excel continue to display the pattern fills, there is no way to apply patterns fills using the Excel 2007 UI.

Microsoft’s Eric Patterson addressed this problem by creating an add-in. You can download it here: Chart Pattern Fills.

This add-in creates a new group (Patterns) on the Chart Tools / Format tab. The group has one control that, when clicked, shows the available patterns to apply to the selected chart element.

Excel Easter Eggs

My Web site has a page that describes how to access the Easter Eggs in Excel 95, 97, 2000, and 2002. Greg Schultz, at Tech Republic, takes it one step further and provides lots of screen captures: Looking back at Microsoft Excel Easter Eggs.

In the past, Microsoft’s developers used to go to great lengths when it came to secretly embedding Easter Eggs into their products. I stress the word past, because Microsoft now officially bans the practice for security reasons as part of their Trustworthy Computing initiative.

The increase in the prevalence of malware led to the notion that undocumented code embedded into a major application could be used to compromise sensitive or confidential data. In fact, many companies and government offices forbid the use of software containing Easter Eggs for security reasons.

Here’s an example: The Hall of Tortured Souls, featured in Excel 95.

Data Entry Form Enhancements

One of the most popular downloads at my Web site is the J-Walk Enhanced DataForm v2. It’s an add-in that provides an alternative to Excel’s built-in Data Form (accessed with Data – Form). Personally, I think the most efficient way to enter data into a worksheet is to do it directly. But, for some reason, many seem to prefer using a form.

I’m going to make an Excel 2007 version of this add-in, and I thought I might add a few new features while I’m at it. Besides a new UI, I’m going to try to incorporate Andy Pope’s clever Resizable UserForm technique.

Any other suggestions?

By the way, Excel’s built-in data entry form is not present in the Excel 2007 UI. To use the feature, you must customize your Quick Access Toolbar and add theForm command from the Commands Not in the Ribbon group.