This is the first in a series of interviews targeting people who “Make a Difference” in the Excel community. Authors, Blog Writers, Teachers, excel help gurus, etc. If they are a Microsoft Excel expert — then I am trying to tackle them and get them to speak to you here. Many of these interviews will be video skype interviews, and others will be text.
First up is Mourad Louha, Excel MVP. I am a fan of one of Mourad’s sites, Excel Formula Translator. Mourad is based out of Germany. But as the interview progressed, I found out several things that I didn’t know before. Like — his first book is about to be published and he is well known for putting together a Soccer Site that tracks the World Cup. Well… we are a Soccer Family (or futbol depending on where you are)… so I was HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Mourad Louha. I live in Herzogenrath near Aachen, a town which lies on the tripoint of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Aachen is well known for its university (RWTH) or for its annual CHIO, an equestrian meeting.
I am self-employed since 2006 and mainly developing Microsoft Excel Applications in VBA. The complexity of my applications varies from general business reports in Excel up to modular database driven applications, for example for use in production planning or product quality management.
Where should a beginner start with learning Excel?
From my personal view, the best way to start learning Excel is the classic way: to buy an excel book. A book allows you to learn at your speed, you can also scroll through the pages as you like and you can get back to a chapter at any time you want. You can read the book at many places without, for example, being dependent from an online connection. And, another advantage of a book is that you are guided through learning Excel, as many book authors apply didactic methods.
Of course, you can also learn Excel by using online resources. For example, video tutorials allow to quickly get familiar with Excel features or specific themes in Excel. However, sometimes the huge offer of online resources may make it a little bit difficult for a beginner to choose the right one. That’s why I recommend to use the online resources additionally to the classic method. For example, if you combine the guidance given by a book with the additional information given from online resources, I think you will get most of both ways.
Which functions are the most overlooked but should be used by everybody?
There are so many cool functions in Excel and I must say that I am not familiar with all functions. I think, the familiarity of a function also depends from the expertise of the person using it. Someone with a strong financial knowledge will surely focus on financial functions rather than someone needing to do statistical reports.
However, there are some fold cross-divisional functions, which I think everyone should know about. One of these functions is the INDEX function, which returns you a value from a list by querying its position.
Example: get the third item in the second column in the list. And when, for example, combining the INDEX function with the MATCH function, you get very powerful formulas.
Another powerful function is the SUMPRODUCT function. By default, the function allows you to multiply the items in each row of two or more arrays and then return the sum. But the function can also be used to filter out values in the array in a very easy way.
Example: SUMPRODUCT((A1:A8=”Smith”)*(B1:B8)) only considers the values equal to “Smith” in A1:A8.
Finally, a function I personally like, is the CHOOSE function. This function acts like a Select-Case-Function and allows you to reduce the complexity of IF-Statements.
What to do if there are technical problems with a spreadsheet?
Ask your colleague, ask your friends and go to forums!
They are so many good forums where people help and get helped. Just, for example, my preferred forums in English:
- Excel Guru from Ken Puls and
- The Code Cage from Simon Llyod.
If you are not speaking English, I am sure that you will also find excellent forums for your language. For Germany, I can recommend
And finally not to forget: Microsoft is also offering the
What are the best Excel books or tutorials which you recommend for a beginner and for advanced excel users?
I cannot recommend a specific book, because there are many personal factors which influence the choice of a book. For example, what are the expectations to the book or is the book author writing in a pleasant style? Concerning me, before buying a book online, I always read the preview chapters, the table of contents and the index, if available.
Rick done a great compilation of resources on his website (Excel Help Resources), so please have a look to his huge list of websites round about Excel. You will find sites for beginners, intermediates and advanced users. [EDITORS NOTE: “He mentioned my Site! Woo-Hoo!”]
Did you take some Excel Online Courses yourself?
No, I didn’t. My way was most time “learning by doing“. At the time I started with Excel, online courses were not as common as today.
How did you get started and how long are you using excel?
In the mid 90-teens and when I was student at the Aachen University, I had to do a practical training in a German company. I had to do some technical calculations and create some reports with Excel. Little bit later, I discovered Visual Basic for Applications and its possibilities to automate tasks and create own applications. I am now using Excel for more than 15 years and I still cannot imagine a day without using this great software. Ok, excepted my holidays 🙂
Your website again, What is it about?
Excel Formula Translator
I am running several websites, most of them for the community. Microsoft has localized the Excel functions for many countries, for example Germany, Italy or Spain. The Excel Formula Translator on is an online tool for translating single and combined Excel functions (formulas) from one language to another. The Excel Formula Translator Website itself is available in five languages: German, English, French, Italian and Hungarian. And the website also offers a list of the translation for each Excel function in all available languages and different Excel versions.
Another site which I am running is the Excel Wiki. This project is very young and in its first steps. The wiki will offer articles about Excel and programming excel. By the way, I am currently searching for authors. If you are interested, please feel free to contact me. [Editors Note: Are you an aspiring Excel Author? Tired of wasting your BRILLIANCE on some no-name Blog? Need a bigger platform for your obvious talents? (yeah… me too). Then reach out to Mourad]
My Excel Soccer on www.excel-soccer.de project which I launched with my friends for the Soccer World Cup 2010 in South Africa was firstly a just for fun project. We had 420,000 downloads for the first version and so we decided to maintain the project and regularly create new versions for the coming European and World Cups. The next version for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil is currently under development. The Excel Soccer is a planning tool for the games and includes a prediction game. Of course, all done with Excel. [Editors Note: We will post a link to the new Tool when it become available]
Mourad’s Business Website
Finally, you can find my business website on www.software.maninweb.de. A new version of this site will be launched next year. [Editors Note: This is where you go to hire Mourad]
I am Microsoft MVP since 2011. Microsoft recognizes exceptional independent community contributions with this award. I am very happy that Microsoft awarded me and this award became essential for me. Please visit the Microsoft MVP website for more information about this program.
Thank you Mourad Louha
Thanks for joining us Mourad. I appreciate you taking the time to share with my readers. I look forward to the release of the new Soccer Excel tool. I am going to be the coolest Dad on the block when I show that off to my kids. Feel free to stick around in the comments section. My readers are a chatty bunch 🙂
Everyone not named Mourad… (I am guessing that is most of you).
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Want to hear from more Excel experts? If so… Let me know in the comments section. Hit one of those cool Facebook/Twitter/Like buttons. Share this article with your Momma or something. You know she likes Excel (and Mourad) 🙂