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10 Common Spreadsheet Mistakes You’re Probably Making

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10 Common Spreadsheet Mistakes You’re Probably Making

Spreadsheets are a stable in the business world. If you work anywhere in money, finances, business, or anything similar to those then you likely use a spreadsheet. They’re even used in the military to keep track of supplies. With so many people in so many industries using spreadsheets, you would imagine that people make a lot of errors. Correct! Here are ten common spreadsheet mistakes that you’ve probably made before.

common spreadsheet mistakes

    1. Mistakes in spreadsheet logic

    Spreadsheets are notoriously strict with things like order of operations. If you don’t type your equations and formulas in properly, you will get the wrong math which can wreck an entire spreadsheet. Thankfully there is something you can do about that and it’s simply a matter of using more parenthesis. Put parts of your equations in them in order to get the desired effect.

    common spreadsheet mistakes

      2. Misuse of built-in functions

      A single wrong letter in a function can change its entire meaning. For instance, AVERAGE will ignore all text and false entries. AVERAGEA converts all text and false entries to zero. That one letter can totally change the outlook and values in your spreadsheet. Companies have misused functions and had wrong values in their spreadsheets for years and it caused damage of millions of dollars. If you’re using a function, then double check to make sure you’re using the right ones.

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      common spreadsheet mistakes

        3. Not copying all the cells you need

        When you work with spreadsheets, there can be a lot of copying and pasting. It’s a very common problem that people don’t select all the cells they need to copy and paste into the next workbook. If you don’t, you’ll have missing information. That can cause a lot of problems if it isn’t caught. Since spreadsheets can get ridiculously big, this is actually harder than it sounds. If you have 15 years of financial history and you only copy ten years of it, you may not catch that right away.

        common spreadsheet mistakes

          4. Keep your data entry and formula cells separate

          Formula cells and data entry cells should never be anywhere near each other. The reason for this is relatively simple. If you put values in the formula cells that are supposed to be in the data entry cells and vice versa, then you can seriously mess up your books. When you keep them separate, you run little risk of mixing the two up and that keeps your books and your bosses happy.

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          common spreadsheet mistakes

            5. Save only when you need to

            This one seems odd but it’s true. You should only save when you need to. This bit of advice flies right in the face of the oft-told advice to save frequently. Here’s why you should only save when necessary. Assuming you hadn’t made a mistake up to the point when you opened a saved spreadsheet, you went through the project with a spreadsheet without a mistake. If you make a mistake and save it for a bunch of times, then your mistake gets saved and you won’t be able to recover your flawless copy later. Thus you should only save when you know what you just did was correct.

            common spreadsheet mistakes

              6. Create new spreadsheets if you want to experiment

              If you want to play around with your spreadsheets, you should make a copy and alter that instead. You should never tinker with your main spreadsheets because you could lose your original copy in the event that you accidentally saved. To avoid what could be a cataclysmic mistake, do yourself a favor and keep copies.

              common spreadsheet mistakes

                7. Give new cells a range name

                Range names can help you keep things organized. You can sort by range name and it helps you find information more quickly. It only makes sense that if you create new cells that you should give them a range name. Not giving new cells a range name can limit how they’re sorted and searched which can make them hard to find. You’d be surprised how many people add new cells to a huge spreadsheet and don’t give them range names. It makes things cluttered and more difficult to work with.

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                common spreadsheet mistakes

                  8. Delete range names when you delete all of its cells

                  You should also delete range names when you delete all of its cells and it’s for exactly the same reasons as number seven. When you make major changes to your spreadsheet, you need to update everything around the change in order to ensure proper documentation. Not doing so can cause others to re-enter information that was supposed to be deleted and can also hinder things like searching and sorting.

                  common spreadsheet mistakes

                    9. Check your math

                    This seems like an obvious mistake but it’s absolutely essential. A company named Fidelity once had their books messed up by $2.6 billion over a silly minus sign. You can imagine what effect this had with investors and with the company’s higher ups. One tired night and you tap the minus sign on accident and you can make your company look like it has gained $1.3 billion more than it actually earned. Make sure you check even the most basic arithmetic you perform.

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                    common spreadsheet mistakes

                      10. Have someone double check your work

                      Most of the largest mistakes made in the world of spreadsheets came from people not double checking their work. This mistake is then transferred up the chain of command without anyone else seriously checking everyone else’s work, and it can result in horrible problems. If you work with spreadsheets, then you should find someone to check yours every now and again to make sure the numbers add up. If you’re in charge of people who work on spreadsheets, then you should double check their work more often. An article from 2013 posits that 88% of spreadsheets have an error in them. That’s not a promising number.

                      At the end of the day it comes down to just paying attention. When your eyes stare at tiny numbers in tiny blocks all day long, they’re bound to start missing things. Make sure you take a step away from the computer every now and then and give your eyes and your brain a break. Spreadsheets are great but they’re also very tedious and it’s very easy to make a mistake if you’re not paying attention.

                      Featured photo credit: Sunoray via sunoray.com

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                      Joseph Hindy

                      A writer, editor, and YouTuber who likes to share about technology and lifestyle tips.

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                      Last Updated on November 25, 2021

                      How to Make Private Browsing on Safari Truly Private

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                      How to Make Private Browsing on Safari Truly Private

                      There comes a time when we may be searching online and don’t want the browser to remember our footsteps. The reasons don’t always have to be what we obviously think of as the main reason; for example, sometimes, you may not want Safari to remember your passwords or prompt you to enter your password when surfing the web.

                      Whatever the reason, we may think that we are totally in the clear with Private Browsing on Safari and the other browsers on a Mac. However, a quick Terminal command can bring up every website you’ve visited. How do you do this? Also, how do you clear your tracks for good? We will provide both answers and more today.

                        What Does Private Browsing Do?

                        When activated, Private Browsing on Safari prevents your browsing history from being kept in the history tab of the application. Along with this, it doesn’t autofill information that you have saved in the browser. In this mode, you essentially become incognito and any references of previous use is essentially hidden when you are in private mode.

                        For example: if you are on Facebook or filling out a form and some information or your login is already filled in in the spaces provided, this is called autofill. It’s activated by simply clicking Safari next to the Apple symbol in the menubar and selecting Private Browsing, then clicking “OK” to the prompt.

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                        The reasons behind private mode differ for each individual. While we won’t go into all of those reasons, one thing that is  important to remember is that private browsing doesn’t forget the websites you visit. As we will see later on, Macs keep a second copy of the websites you visit in either mode. If you are in frantic mode looking for a solution to this, look no further.

                        The Terminal Archive

                        While Safari does a good job of keeping your search history out of prying eyes in the history tab, there is a less-than-obvious way to view a full list of visited websites on Mac. This is done in Terminal; the command-line emulator that allows you to make changes to your Mac.

                        Terminal is located in the Utilities folder on your Mac. Once activated, simply add the command:

                        dscacheutil -cachedump -entries Host

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                        Once you hit “enter”, a list of the visited sites appear. Showing only the domains, the sites appear in a format of:

                        Key: h_name :(website domain)ipv4 :1

                        However, there’s no need to fear—there is a way you can clear this information from Terminal with a command that’s just as simple.

                        Clearing Your Tracks

                        Just as simply as you were able to enter the command to view the websites, you can clear the cache that Terminal showed you with the comamnd:

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                        dscacheutil -flushcache

                        As the command denotes, this literally “flushes” the domains from Terminal. This does not prevent the record from continuing to be recorded for future sites, however, so if that’s an issue for you, repeat this process regularly.

                        Other Browsers and Private Browsing

                        Other browsers have this form of privacy mode for their service. They promise many of the same things as Safari, but they do not have the same Terminal issue due to how this command only presents websites visited on Safari (the browser Macs come shipped with).

                        If you use Firefox, you’ll notice that its private mode is also known as Private Browsing. Chrome calls private mode Incognito, while Internet Explorer refers to it as InPrivate Browsing. Opera is the newest to the scene, denoting it as Private Tab. Safari is the oldest well-known browser with this feature.

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                        As you can see, despite Private Browsing not being 100% private, Terminal allows for your browser to be. In what ways has Terminal helped your life or allowed you to become more productive? Let us know in the comments below.

                        Featured photo credit: Benjamin Dada via unsplash.com

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