Monthly Report Tutorial

As posted on my blog yesterday.

At a former client, I was asked to submit monthly reports that show details of work performed in 15 minute increments.

My line of thought went something like this,

“Let’s see, a monthly calendar, something like the one on my fridge door comes to mind and making one in Excel should be easy…”

One problem is space. If I do several tasks in one day, do I use tiny font to make the details fit, or do I make the calendar larger to the point that I have to scroll copiously?

Also, just how practical is that style of calendar going to be when it comes to adding up total time per task? Something along the lines of a regular timesheet would be better.

I can easily fit 32 rows on my laptop screen. That’s a good start. So here’s how to do the same thing I did, if you are interested.

Leave the first row for your headers. In cells A1 and B1, enter “Date” and “Day”, then change the orientation. Right click the cells, select Format Cells, Alignment, and change Orientation to 90 degrees.

(You might want to change the Alignment too. Choose from the options on the Alignment Group on the Home Tab)

Enter the first day of the month in cell A2. Select range A2:A32, then change the format to either “d/m” or “m/d” as you prefer. Right click the cells, select Format Cells, Number, and enter the format in the Type text box in the Custom section.

Now enter =A2+1 into Range A3:A32 and click your Ctrl and Enter keys simultaneously to enter the formula into all selected cells.

In the same way, enter =CHOOSE(WEEKDAY(A2,1),"Su","Mo","Tu","We","Th","Fr","Sa") into Range B2:B32.

Adjust the width of both of these columns and set the alignment to suit.

You should have something like this.

And now for the details. Long descriptions take up space, so let’s use numbers instead. Keep in mind that longer tasks won’t be completed in 15 minutes, and recurring tasks will be duplicated so that’s going to cut down the number of tasks in total. With any luck, we can keep things within double digits.

Start times allotted for the 15 minute intervals go in Row 1. Adjust the Orientation to 90 degrees. “h:mm” is a suitable format.

The task descriptions that match the numbers can go on the right. But note the numbers to their left to perform a lookup.

Important: adjust the following ranges to suit your requirements. Use Named Ranges if you prefer.

Enter formulas to add up the time. Type the following formula into Cell AI2, and drag down to the end of your list.


You should have something like this.

You can freeze the first row if the number of tasks exceed the number of visible rows on your screen. (View Tab, Windows Group, Freeze Panes, Freeze Top Row)

Now for some extra features to enhance visibility. Why not add some Conditional Formatting to highlight the weekends? With Range A2:AE32 selected, click the Home Tab, Styles, Conditional Formatting, New Rule, then “Use a formula to determine which cells to format” and enter this formula. (Click the Format button to choose a suitable format)

Here’s the result.

An ActiveX Combo Box and a bit more Conditional Formatting makes it easy to see when the work was done. If you can’t see the Developer Tab on the Ribbon, select the File Tab, Options, Customize Ribbon, then tick “Developer” on the list to the right and click the OK button.

On the Developer Tab, select Insert from the Control Group to add an Active X Combo Box. (I’ve already added one to Cell AH1)

Right click the Combo Box and select Properties. Set the LinkedCell and ListFillRange properties. I’ve hard-coded my ListFillRange range reference but you can use Named Ranges too, as in “=Tasks” without the quotation marks.

When finished, toggle off Design Mode on the Developer Tab.

Note the linked cell. That gives me the selected item of the list. Now I use another formula to get the reference number which I have put in the cell below the linked cell (In this case, Cell AJ3).


If I select the first item on the Combo Box, Cell AJ3 will show 1.

Here’s the Conditional Formatting for the details part of the report. (Range C2:AI32)

And here’s the Conditional Formatting for the list. (Range AG2:AH32)

I also added some Data Bars to the hours.

And we’re done.

No VBA was used so you can send the file without explaining the need to enable macros.

Here’s a download link if you want to skip making one yourself.

Comparing Worksheet Sizes

My friend and colleague, John Miller, taught me a nice trick the other day.

My compression software of choice is 7-Zip. As you know, modern Excel files are nothing more the zipped XML packages. If you change the extension of your file from xlsx to zip, you can unpack the xml using any compression software that supports zip (which is probably all of them).

7-Zip has a menu item that I’ve never used. It’s the first on the list and it’s called Open archive.

When you use Open archive, 7-Zip doesn’t care what the file extension is. It looks at the file contents, determines how it was compressed, and displays its contents.

From here you can navigate to xl/worksheets, for example, to see all the sheet XML files and their sizes.

That’s much easier that changing file extensions. Of course you can use this for inspecting anything in the file, not just worksheets.

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

DDoE Servers

Don’t call it a streak, but it’s been almost five days since MySQL crashed. I made a change late last week that masks the problem appropriately. I still don’t know what causes the problem, and probably never will, but as long as the server stays up, I’m in a better place. I’ve been fighting this for over a year.

I run DDoE on a 1GB virtual server at Digital Ocean. The heart of the problem is that a memory usage spike causes the Ubuntu kernel to shut down the MySQL service and it never gets started again. Memory management is one of the things a kernel does, so it’s not strange that services get kicked out of RAM when there’s a spike. MySQL will try to restart itself, but it’s not able to because it doesn’t have enough memory. I don’t know what’s causing the memory spike. I do know that the only services of consequence that are running are MySQL and a bunch of Apache2 services. Apache2 is the web server that directs the traffic.

I don’t recall where I read it, but someone on the internet said that it’s likely Apache2 is spawning too many processes. I don’t know how to verify that. I followed the advice on ServerFault on how to tune Apache on Ubuntu. When I shut down Apache, I could see that I was using about 660MB of memory, leaving 340MB free. I was surprised how much memory it was using without Apache, which I assumed would be the biggest component. Using the

command, I could see that an Apache2 process was using 30MB on average. That means if I limit my Apache2 processes to 10, I should not run out of memory. I changed the MaxRequestWorkers parameter from 150 to 10, and so far it’s worked.

There must be a cost to that change. I imagine that when the memory spikes, for whatever reason, and Apache isn’t allowed to spawn more processes, that the user gets an error and is unable to reach the site. As bad as that is, it’s better than what was happening – MySQL would shut down and nobody could reach the site until I got up the next morning and rebooted.

Now that we’re seemingly stable, maybe I’ll make some posts. I’ve been working in SQL Server a lot lately and have a lot to say about it.

Summer sale at

Hi there!

Now that summer has arrived I’ve planned a summer sale. From July 1st up to July 10th I offer a 25% discount on both products I sell:
The Excel File Remediation Utility
To get your discount, just go through the purchasing process and enter this coupon code to redeem your discount:

Regards and have a great summer!

Jan Karel Pieterse

The Amsterdam Excel Summit Last-minute discount

Hi everyone,

Our event is coming real soon now and we’re very much looking forward to it. We have outstanding speakers and excellent content, so everything is lined up to make this a superb Excel event.

To entice the undecisive Excel lovers to make up their minds and subscribe after all, we decided to make it even more attractive to attend.

As of March 27st, 2015 we offer a € 200 last-minute discount per attendee for both days and € 100 for one day!

Register now at and meet us on April 13th and 14th in Amsterdam.


Jan Karel Pieterse

Pimpin’ My Site

When Doug posted about Data Comparison Tricks, I saw Dick tell him to “pimp his site” in the comments.

Having a vivid imagination, this is what went through my head.

Yo Dawg!

Anyway, that’s what I’ll now proceed to do. (Having obtained Dick’s permission first of course!)

Here’s some stuff I’ve been working on recently.

A multi-field Find and Select/Replace tool.

AET Find and Replace

Although a bit old, (like me), some of the code came from this.

AET Cell Watch Form

Here’s the old post about it from back in 2009. (From my former blog, which I’ll also pimp!)

An alternative Status Bar that recognizes numbers even if the format is text. Woohoo!

AET Status Bar

And some games. (For the kids, but you can play too)
That’s enough pimpin’ for now. (I’m making new stuff as I write this) See you next time?

The 2012 Financial Modeling World Championships

I “pre registered” even though there’s not a lot of information on the site. For example, I could not find any information about the organizers, nor could I find any motivational details other than “The prize pool…will include cash, interviews with leading global Financial Institutions, product giveaways and more.” Neither is there any information about how the finalists will participate in the “Live Judged Event in New York.”

Of course, the competition, by necessity, will be measure ability / skill along whatever dimension(s) the organizers value. Nonetheless, it might be fun and an opportunity to see what others do in such an event.

Tushar Mehta