A Cheat Sheet to get more out of Microsoft Excel
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Rick: Next up is our special guest Jon Acampora. You may remember Zack Barresse mentioning Excel MVP John Acampora of ExcelCampus.com. Jon, say hello and tell us what ExcelCampus is about?
Jon: Hello and thank you for having me. ExcelCampus is a blog that is about learning how to use Excel and saving time with your everyday tasks. I have a bunch of blog posts with in depth articles on there. I do videos and video tutorials. I have developed quite a few add-ins that you can download. The majority are free. It’s growing every day. It is a fun place to hang out and learn about Excel.
Oz: How did you start? Did you grow up saying I want to build Excel add-ins?
Jon: Who says that? I want to meet that person. It started in my first job after college. They were using Excel for everything; inventory, planning, accounting. I think most small businesses use Excel for a lot of things. I was immersed right away and fell in love. It’s hard to get away from it if you are in the finance or accounting world. I think it’s cool. It’s been a journey ever since. I started developing add-ins. Every company I’ve worked for has had problems with processes. There is a lot of room for automation. So that is how I got into add-ins; seeing the need to do things quicker and efficiently. I hate doing repetitive tasks. I get bored pretty quick. With Excel, you can program it. It is an amazing tool. There are endless opportunities.
Jon: Yeah, part of me does. I’m very open to learning other languages. But there are companies still using Excel 2003. I don’t see it going anywhere. So it doesn’t scare me. I’m fine with that.
Jordan: You should not be fine with that!
Oz: What do you do day to day? Do you do consulting? Do you meet with small businesses?
Jon: I still have a day job. I’m a finance manager for a software company in Southern California. I just started doing the blog on the side four years ago. I really didn’t start doing much until the last year when I started writing more articles, posts and different VBA utilities. I’m still doing the day job.
Rick: You talked a little bit about Tab Hound and some of the software you are putting out there. Will you talk about how you went about developing an add-in? What is the process like?
Jon: It is not easy. I think my first add-in was a tool bar I developed internally for a company I was working for that was using an Oracle product for forecasting, planning and that sort of thing and then a spreadsheet interface called S Base. I developed a tool bar in the ribbon that automated a lot of tasks because Oracle sunsetted that product. I have done smaller scale automation before using the ribbon. I used Ken Puls book to learn about the ribbon. From there it was, “Wow, there is so much potential to do other things to streamline processes and automate things that you might spend time doing.” I’m still working on a lot of different add-ins. I have a lot of ideas.
Oz: I’m curious about when you go to develop an add-in. Where does that happen? People don’t know about going to developer tab and pulling up tabs. At what point are you in add-in territory versus formulas or VBA? Where does the add-in happen?
Jon: Alt+ F11 is the short answer. You can start writing macros there and you can write modules in your workbook. Everyone learns usually by recording macros using the button on the left-hand side. You can record macros and then you will be able to figure out what you did. The code is easy to read. It is called Basic for a reason. It’s very powerful at the same time. You can save a lot of time if you’re doing repetitive task all day.
Oz: An add-in is written in VBA code?
Jon: Yes. Basically, an add-in is installed in Excel and it opens up every time. So you have that code there every time you open up Excel. A macro is just limited to a workbook whereas an add-in takes it a step further and is in Excel no matter what workbook you are in it operates.
Rick: On the live show blog, Ryan Wilson is talking about how he used it. I want to encourage everyone to answer questions on John Acampora’s blog. Jon, give us an idea of an Excel add-in. What are you talking about when you talk about an Excel add-in?
Jon: On my downloads page of my website, I have a list of add-ins I have developed, such as Tab Hound or Quarter Sum Formulas; tasks we do quite often. This add-in sits in the toolbar. Just click on it and it will automatically create the formulas you need. Microsoft itself is developing a lot of add-ins like Power Pivot and Power Query to make life easier with sets of data.
Rick: Can you let everyone see your page?
Jon: This is just some of how my add-in works. It downloads in a zip file. I have articles on how to install it to step you through installing an add-in in various Excel versions. The add-in tab will be there every time you open Excel. On this page, there are details on how it works.
Jordan: Two things. First, we can tell how cool you are because I see your bookmarks are surf and snow. So, you’re a cool guy. Bookmarks are like your radio presets.
Jon: I live in Southern California and my wife and I surf quite a bit. It’s a lifestyle we strive for.
Jordan: Second, can you tell us about the name ExcelCampus? How did you come up with that?
Jon: That’s a great question. When I first started doing this, I read a book on blogs and content marketing. I bought a few different domain names with the word ‘Excel’ in it. I didn’t like any of them like SpeedyExcel. I wanted to talk about doing Excel things faster. Then one day, I was driving home and I drove by a road named Campus by a college campus. That was it. It kind of stuck. It was all a road sign.
Rick: That has to be another whole episode; available Excel URLs.
Jon: Yes. That’s true. I bought quite a few.
Rick: Even the bad ones are taken. You think you have a good one, but there is no way it is available because it’s bad. Excel on a stick, or something, gone! Not only .com, excelonastick.ca,.net, .info.
Jordan: .Biz is gone.
Jon: You got Excel TV show!
Rick: Yes. Thank you.
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