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10 Common Spreadsheet Mistakes You’re Probably Making

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 May 14, 2019

                      8 Replacements for Google Notebook

                      8 Replacements for Google Notebook

                      Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

                      1. Zoho Notebook
                        If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
                      2. Evernote
                        The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
                      3. Net Notes
                        If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
                      4. i-Lighter
                        You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
                      5. Clipmarks
                        For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
                      6. UberNote
                        If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
                      7. iLeonardo
                        iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
                      8. Zotero
                        Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

                      I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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                      In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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