Tag: Excel

I find comfort in strange names and it works

I’m currently sat writing this on a train, the 18.57 train from Banbury to Manchester Piccadilly. I’m getting off this train at Wolverhampton. I’m making the most of this opportunity (being sat on a train with a laptop and wifi) to do some work. I like working on the train. I find it easier to work on a train than at home (shame I just can’t travel on trains every day I’d be so productive). I ike the noise and commotion that a train provides: the people; the bags; the conversations; the tap, tap, tapping on nearby laptops and the smells of bacon butties and lager.

View from the Train

However, I was just sat here, working away, when something odd about my way of working occurred to me that I normally take for granted. There’s a chap sat next to me also tapping away on his own laptop and I tried to imagine what he would think if he were to glance at my screen. Imagining seeing my screen through another’s eyes gave me that uncanny feeling that things are strange when seen with fresh eyes.

The strange thing I am referring to is the fact that I give my documents, spreadsheets and folders odd names and I think that is normal. However, to the man sat next to me, this is surely not normal. Or, I assume that to be the case. I need to know now whether other people call their folders and documents odd names and organize them as haphazardly as I do. Here is an example of an oddly named spreadsheet.

My timekeeping spreadsheet is called: Copy of Time After Toes July 2017

It’s not called ‘Timesheet’ or even just ‘Time’. That would be sensible. The astute reader of this blog will notice that the word ‘time’ does appear in the name, giving some sense of normality, but the meaning of the rest of the spreadsheet’s name is rather ambiguous. The interested reader may want to know what, or who, is ‘Toes’ and why is it ‘time after Toes’ (what happened before Toes?)? There is a logic to it. After my youngest son was born (who I fondly call Toes) I started a new spreadsheet for my timekeeping for work and called it ‘Time After Toes’ as that is what it recorded: time spent working after the birth of the child called Toes. Subsequently, as I saved more versions of this spreadsheet I started to date them by month, hence the ‘July 2017’ part of the title (although I haven’t been consistent in renaming this every month given that it is now September). ‘Copy of’ I think just appears in the name of a spreadsheet when you save a spreadsheet after it crashes. Incidentally, Toes is now nearly 8 years old.

This is just one example. I could provide more (on request). This naming oddity doesn’t just apply to documents. It also applies to folders.

The folder I currently use for everything I’ve worked on since 2013 is called: VSIs for Edingburgh

That name won’t make much sense without some some context. A few years ago I worked on a project for Oxford University Press which involved creating short abstracts for titles in their Very Short Introduction series which were due to be launched online that same year. I then went to Edinburgh on holiday. I needed a folder for the work for this project while I was away. Hence the name. However, after creating that folder, I carried on using it as a general dumping ground for ALL work I did when away from home (so work not saved on the home server). The occupancy of VSI abstracts in this folder is minor.

A Very Short Introduction

At some point, this folder got a bit messy. So I created a subfolder called: OSO Stuff (OSO being Oxford Scholarship Online, a project I spend most of my time working on).

I then  started using this folder as a dumping ground for all away-from-home work (not just OSO – anything and including VSIs). This folder also gradually outgrew its usefulness.

So I subsequently created another subfolder to put new work in with a new name: General OSO

I then went on holiday to Wales.

The next folder within this folder was logically named: Wales October 2015

The same happened again, ‘Wales October 2015’ became my dumping ground. Everything was saved in here.

Wales where I did some work in October 2015 – when I had wifi

A year later I went to Wale again and so along came a fresh, new subfolder: Wales Oct 2016

I am currently still dumping into this folder but I am now already finding this folder really messy, following in the footsteps of its predecessors. I think I need a new folder (perhaps ‘Haddenham September 2017’ might be a good name as that is where I have been today?).

This is file path of all my away-from-home work at the moment:

C:\_Moved\Desktop\VSIs for Edinburgh\OSO Stuff\General OSO\Wales October 2015\Wales Oct 2016

That’s not great, is it? Anyone who is quite tidy will be quaking right now. It is messy, it is disorganzied, but I know where everything is. It works for me.

Organized chaos is a real thing. Long life folders and spreadsheets with weird names. I think life would be boring if things were named to describe exactly what they are.

Ten things that annoy me about Excel

I love Excel. I couldn’t do my job without Excel. It is a thing of beauty. It is geeky. It is simple yet so very clever. Spreadsheets are my working life. Oxford Scholarship Online could not operate as smoothly as it does without Excel. This is not an exaggeration. The lists of forthcoming titles are all kept in Excel spreadsheets and the master copies of these all live in a server in Shrewsbury. I like Excel because I can use colour – for text or background. I like it because I like numbers and I like statistics.

However, there are ten things about Excel that make me want to throw it out the window sometimes, or at least put it on the naughty step for a few hours.

1. If I copy some text, then type something before I need to paste that text, Excel forgets what I copied so I have to do it again. In other words, it doesn’t retain data in the clipboard in the way that Word does. It also forgets if I accidentally type control+C instead of control+V when I want to paste.

2. If I press page up when I am only a few cells from the top Excel tells me off with an annoying bong as if to say: ‘stupid idiot, how can I go page up from here?’

3. I’m not clever enough to use Excel to its full potential. For example, if I copy and paste formula to another cell and to relate it to a different row or column of data Excel gets confused. I know the $ sign can be used for such needs but I don’t know how to do this. I wish I did. I have tried using Excel Help but it always serves to disappoint as it is a maze of interconnected questions and answers.

4. My version of Excel (I’m not sure whether this is universal) won’t let me name a tab ‘history’. This is very annoying as for my job I need to name tabs by subject, e.g. Economics and Finance, History, Literature. If I try, I get this message:

Why? Why? What is wrong with History?

Why? Why? What is wrong with History?

5. At the bottom of the above annoying window, the text ‘Was this information helpful?’ appears. NO!

6. If I accidentally select a range of cells, and accidentally place the mouse near the corner of the cells and move it, I get asked this:

I hate this message

I hate this message

The answer is always ‘no, isn’t it obvious I just have poor mouse control?’

7. Excel tries to be intelligent but fails. It doesn’t always work out what range of cells I want to add up if I have copied and pasted a formula from one sheet to another. This annoys me. Surely it should be obvious that if I added up previously from cell A1 to A20 in sheet 1 then I will want to do the same in sheet 2?

8. It crashes more frequently than Word, especially when I have huge enormous spreadsheets full of superfluous data.

9. More than once I have accidentally saved an older version of a spreadsheet over a newer version and it doesn’t ask me if I’m sure I want to save the older version over the newer one. It should do. I am human and it is very unlikely that someone would actually want to do this. I once lost 12 hours work by doing this. This is actually the one time when I would appreciate a pop-up window asking me ‘are you sure?’

10. This might be just me but sometimes, if I have two spreadsheets open, it only seems to think I have one open. I have to keep returning to ‘open recent’ to locate the second spreadsheet even though it is open. I have no idea what this means.

There are more things that annoy me about Excel (such as if my top line is bold, why does it think I want the next line of data to be bold as well?) but that is enough for today. And my love of it outweighs the annoyances. After all, it can be used to create art as well as data.

Bored of data? Create art instead.

Bored of data? Create a portrait of your geeky friend instead.