The Amsterdam Excel Summit 2016 open for registration


Hi Everyone!

We’ve opened registration for our third annual

Amsterdam Excel Summit.

May 26, 2016

Join us in  Amsterdam to learn how to Excel from our Experts (all MVPs):
Jon Peltier, Bob Umlas,  Roger Govier, Henk Vlootman, Oz du Soleil, Tony de Jonker,  Jan Karel Pieterse.

Tentative program

Attend this comprehensive training event and you will:

  • Improve your Power Query skills
  • Learn how to Customize the ribbon for your workbooks and add-ins.
  • Get insight how to Build Excel models based on ranges and positions.
  • Understand how to create involved Array Formulas
  • Get advice on Best practices in Power pivot.
  • See how to use VBA to customize charts
  • Receive Tips & Tricks, documentation and lots of valuable files

The Excel Charting And Dashboard Masterclass

May 27th 2016

The Amsterdam Excel summit also features a post-conference training. Attend this one-day masterclass and:

Excel MVP and charting Guru Jon Peltier teaches you how to visualize your numerical information in the most effective way.
Excel MVP and financial expert Tony de Jonker and communication &  visualization expert David Hoppe unveil the secrets of creating powerful and flexible dashboards.

So head over to our website to register or to signup to our mailing list so we can keep you posted!


Jan Karel Pieterse

The Amsterdam Excel Summit 2015

Hi Excel lovers!

Last year we had a terrific Excel event in Amsterdam in May. This year we’re in for a repeat!

I have just opened registration for what is going to be the place to be for anyone Excel-minded. We have two days full of excellent subjects. An impression:

  • Three in-depth Power Query sessions
  • Two sessions on improving your spreadsheet quality
  • Two sessions on charting, making your life easier and enabling you to build charts you didn’t even know you could
  • Two sessions on pivot tables and formulas
  • A session on how to build UDFs

So why don’t you book your flights and hotels and join us on April 13th and 14th for an unsurpassed Excel experience!


Jan Karel Pieterse

Data Comparison Tricks

Hey Dick, thanks for having me over. Wow, it’s even nicer in here than I imagined. Look at all those posts! Hey, is that an Office XP beer stein… where’d you get that? Gosh, do you really wear all these baseball caps?

Okay, well great to be here. I hope I don’t blow it. I’m going to talk about a fairly pedestrian topic, but one I deal with daily as a data analyst and report writer: comparing versions of output data.

At my work we have a report modification and publication process to verify that they’re outputting reasonable results. A lot of times this means comparing a report to its previous published version and confirming that the outputs are identical before moving on with the process.

I’ll show some tricks I use to do these comparisons. Please note these examples all assume the data you’re comparing is easily re-creatable, e.g., it comes from a data connection or was exported from another tool. In other words, don’t do these tests on the only copy of your output!

The Most Basic of Tricks – Comparing Sums

One quick trick you’ve probably used is to grab an entire column of output and check its SUM in the status bar. Aside from comparing row counts, this is about as simple as it gets.

Status bar sum

I usually just look at the first three or so digits and the last three or so, mumble them to myself, switch to the other column and mumble those to myself. If my mumblings match, I call it good.

Mind you, I only do this as an informal check. Still, writing this got me to wondering how reliable it is, and about the likelihood of a false positive, a coincidental match. So I did a little test and filled two columns with RandBetween formulas then wrote a bit of VBA to recalculate them repeatedly and record the number of times their sums matched. With two columns of 1000 numbers, each filled with whole numbers between 1 and 1000, I averaged around three matches per 100,000 runs, or a .003% chance of a coincidental match. That’s a pretty small range of numbers though, equivalent to a span from one cent to ten dollars. So I upped it to whole numbers between one and a million, similar to one cent to 10,000 dollars. With a million calculations of 1000 rows there were no coincidental matching totals.

A More Thorough Trick – Compare All Cells

When I really want to make sure two sets of data with the same number of rows and columns match cell for cell, I do the obvious and … compare every cell. That could look something like this (but eventually won’t, so stick with me):

AND compare 1

The two sets of data (a modified version of the indispensable table from are on the left, with the comparison formulas for each cell on the right. In this case they all match and return TRUE:

If you’ve got more than a few columns and rows, you probably don’t want to scan all the comparison cells for FALSEs. Instead, you can wrap up all these comparisons in a single AND, like this. It will return FALSE if any of the referenced cells are FALSE:

AND compare 2

Or just eliminate the middleperson altogether with a single AND in an array formula:

AND compare 3

What If They Don’t All Match?

If they don’t all match you can add conditional formatting to highlight the FALSEs…

Conditional Formatting for FALSEs

… or just add it directly to the two tables. However, rather than conditional formatting I’d use a per-row AND array formula and filter to FALSE:

per-row ANDs

Same Data, Different Order

Sometimes my rows of data are the same, but they’re out of order. I try not to yell at them like Al Pacino. Instead I might test them with a COUNTIF(S) formula, like so, which just counts how many times the name in a the second table appears in the first table:


To compare whole rows, you’re stuck (I think) with longer COUNTIFS formulas than I care to deal with. I’d rather concatenate the rows and compare the results with a COUNTIF. I don’t have many worksheet UDFs in my tools addin, but one exception is Rick Rothstein’s CONCAT function, which I found on Debra’s blog. It’s great because, unlike Excel’s Concatenate function, it allows you to specify a whole range, rather than listing each cell individually.

COUNTIFs can get slow though once you’ve got a few thousand rows of them. So, another approach is just to sort the outputs identically and then use an AND to compare them. Here’s a function I wrote to sort all the columns in a table:

Sub BlindlySortTable()
Dim lo As Excel.ListObject
Dim loCol As Excel.ListColumn

Set lo = ActiveCell.ListObject
With lo
For Each loCol In .ListColumns
.Sort.SortFields.Add _
Key:=loCol.DataBodyRange, SortOn:=xlSortOnValues, Order:=xlAscending, DataOption:=xlSortNormal
Next loCol
With .Sort
.Header = xlYes
.MatchCase = False
End With
End With
End Sub

At this point I should mention that I almost always work with Tables (VBA ListObjects) when doing these comparisons. A lot of the time I’ve stuffed the SQL right into the Table’s data connection. If the data is imported from something like Crystal Reports, I’ll convert it to a table before working with it.

Using Pivot Tables For Comparing Data – Fun!

As I get farther along in a report’s development, odds are I might just want to compare a subset of the old version to the whole new version, or vice-versa. Using pivot tables is great for this. Say for instance my new report is only for people whose weight is under 48 kilograms. I’d like to compare the output of the new report to a filtered list from the older version and confirm that I’m returning the same weights for the people in the new subset. A pivot table makes this easy:

Pivot compare

The pivot on the left, based on the original data, has been filtered by weight and compared to the pivot on the right, based on the new, less-than-48 data. An AND formula confirms whether the data in the new one matches the original.

I was doing this the other day with multiple subsets, causing the pivots to resize. I thought “wouldn’t it be cool to have a function that returns a range equal to a pivot table’s data area?” The answer was “yes,” so I wrote one. It returns either the used range or the data area of a table or pivot table associated with the cell passed to it. Here’s the code:

Public Enum GetRangeType
UsedRange '0
'CurrentRegion - can't get to work in UDF in worksheet, just returns passed cell
PivotTable '1
ListObject '2
End Enum

Public Function GetRange(StartingPoint As Excel.Range, RangeType As GetRangeType) As Excel.Range
Dim GotRange As Excel.Range

With StartingPoint
Select Case RangeType
Case GetRangeType.UsedRange
Set GotRange = .Worksheet.UsedRange
Case GetRangeType.PivotTable
Set GotRange = .PivotTable.TableRange1
Case GetRangeType.ListObject
Set GotRange = .ListObject.Range
End Select
End With
Set GetRange = GotRange
End Function

The array-entered formula in H1 in the picture above becomes…

=GetRange(A3,1)= GetRange(E3,1)

… where 1 is a pivot table. You’ll note that the code itself uses the enum variable, which would be great if you could use the enums in a UDF. Also, you’ll see that I tried to have a cell’s CurrentRegion as an option but that doesn’t work. When returned to a UDF called from a worksheet, CurrentRegion just returns the cell the formula is in.

So Long

Okay then, see you later Dick. Thanks again for the invite. It means a lot to me.

No, no, don’t get up… I can show myself out and it looks like you’re working on something there. Wait a minute… no it couldn’t be… for a second there it looked like you were using a mouse… Must have been a trick of the light.


Draw a circle in an Excel chart

By default, Excel has a limited number of charts. That does not mean that those are the only charts one can create. It turns out that with a little imagination and creativity, we can format and configure the default charts so that the effect is like many other kinds of charts.

One of the more versatile of charts is the XY Scatter chart. We can use it as the base for many data visualization tasks. Recently, for a client, I used one to create a radial org chart as in Figure 1. Such a chart is also called a Node-Link chart or a Reingold–Tilford Tree.

Figure 1 – Example of a radial org graph created in an Excel XY Scatter chart
after removal of all identifiable information and the obfuscation of data
necessary to protect the client’s confidentiality.

A lot of “out of the box” work into making this chart. One key element was the set of equidistant concentric circles that provide a visual reference for the small colored dots. This note demonstrates how to create concentric circles in an Excel XY Scatter chart.

For a version in a page by itself (i.e., not in a scrollable iframe as below) visit

Tushar Mehta

Worksheet as a chart – multiple conditional formats

Several years back, I wrote an article on how to use multiple cells to simulate conditional formats that involved more than 3 conditions. Three versions of Excel later, I still receive requests related to this post. So, I updated it to include more screenshots and a downloadable file.

In Excel 2003 and earlier, conditional formatting works well for up to three conditions. But even when the number of conditions exceeds that limit, it is possible to do without any programming support. For example, one possible way to show twelve possible rankings through color is shown below.


For more see

Tushar Mehta

Sparkline Gauge

I have a list of labels and a list of values. I also have a value from somewhere in the range of my values list.

I want to show where the value falls in the list of values with a red mark. The labels need to be proportional to their values. An XY chart seemed like the obvious answer, but would require the XY Chart Label add-in or some better charting skills on my part. Also, there may be a few of these on a sheet, so I wanted to keep it more light-weight. Sparklines move nicely with cells, so I tried that route.

First, I needed to get the labels spread proportionally across a cell. I made the cell 20 characters wide by typing '00000000000000000000, setting the font to Courier New, and resizing the column. Cell C6 shows the positions. To get the proper spread of labels, I used a UDF, shown below.

Public Function PropAxis(rLabels As Range, rValues As Range) As String

Dim vaLabels As Variant
Dim vaValues As Variant
Dim i As Long, j As Long
Dim dSpan As Double
Dim dIncrement As Double
Dim lPosition As Long
Dim aReturn(1 To 20) As String

'Put ranges in an array
vaLabels = rLabels.Value
vaValues = rValues.Value

'Find the span of the values range
dSpan = vaValues(UBound(vaValues, 1), 1) - vaValues(LBound(vaValues, 1), 1)

'initialize the array with spaces
For i = LBound(aReturn) To UBound(aReturn)
aReturn(i) = Space(1)
Next i

'put the first and last labels in the array
aReturn(1) = vaLabels(1, 1)
aReturn(UBound(aReturn)) = vaLabels(UBound(vaLabels, 1), 1)

'Put the middle labels proportionally
For i = LBound(vaLabels) + 1 To UBound(vaLabels) - 1
dIncrement = (vaValues(i, 1) - vaValues(1, 1)) / dSpan
dIncrement = dIncrement * (UBound(aReturn) - 1)
lPosition = Round(dIncrement, 0)

'If they're too close, just move one over
If aReturn(lPosition) <> Space(1) And lPosition < UBound(aReturn) Then lPosition = lPosition + 1 End If aReturn(lPosition) = vaLabels(i, 1) Next i PropAxis = Join(aReturn, vbNullString) End Function

The values still have to be reasonably spread out or this will overwrite some of them. But it worked for my purposes. The formula =PropAxis(F3:F8,G3:G8) is in C3.

Next I set up the range I2:AB3 to feed the sparkline. Row 2 represents the 20 characters in the cell. Row three should be all zeros except one, which will be a 1. Then a win/loss sparkline will show the one 'win' as a mark.

In H2, I calculate which character gets the win. Here's how that formula progressed:


That figures where the value is in the list of values as a percentage and multiplies by the number of characters in the cell (20). I wanted to protect against a value that was not in the range, so I modified it to this:


Now it will never be less than 1 or greater than 20. Because of rounding, the mark may be one character off of an exact match. That's probably not a problem - it's obviously not supposed to be hyper-accurate since I'm only using 20 characters - but it just doesn't look right. So I handle exact matches as special cases.


If there isn't an exact match, find the percentage and get close. If it is an exact match, find the character's position in the string and put the mark there. Now in Row 3 of my sparkline data range, I use this number to find the 'win'.


I thought this whole process would be easier with sparklines. But it's not really any more light-weight than just a chart. Anybody else want to take a crack at it?

You can download

Excel Services Interactive View

Analyze data with Excel on the web

Microsoft has introduced a new web based capability that extends its Excel Services offering.  This new capability provides a limited interactive view of any table in a web page.

An introduction to this service is below.  For those interested in additional capabilities and more advanced and useful capabilities see:

For the consumer:

Learn more about Interactive View

Analyze a table in any web page with a dynamic interactive view

For the developer:

Implement the Interactive View feature for 1 table

Implement the Interactive View feature for multiple tables

Improve the formatting and layout of the 'Interactive View' buttons

As an example, the image below shows a table, the Interactive View button, and the result.

For a live demo, developer tips, and more, please see

Tushar Mehta

Use an Excel chart to show a time snapshot and trace a path

These Excel charts were inspired by Hans Rosling’s TED presentation on Religion and Babies ( He is absolutely great at engaging the viewer with his ability to bring data to life.

One of the things he did in his presentation was show the equivalent of an Excel bubble chart. He showed how different countries measured over the years. He also created a trail showing how a country progressed over time.

I decided to do the same with an Excel bubble chart – and implement both capabilities, i.e., the time snapshot and the time trail tracing the path, without any VBA code! The example I used was data from one of a series of seminars I had taught to healthcare executives. They participated, in teams, in a real-time, interactive, web-based simulation. In the simulation each team made decisions about how much of their limited resources to invest in (1) product development and operations and (2) marketing and sales. Their profitability depended both on their own decision and also their competitors. The simulation typically lasted 10 to 12 periods. The scroll bar in each chart controls the period shown or the latest period, as appropriate. The checkboxes control which teams have their performance history traced in the chart.

While I implemented the solution in Excel 2010, it should work in Excel 2007 and Excel 2003, though, in all fairness, I haven’t verified the older versions.

For a version in a page by itself (i.e., not in a scrollable iframe as below) visit

Tushar Mehta