Notes

Notes on various topics imported from my previous website, which was active until around April 2007.

A spreadsheet may have the following types of user: A Viewer looks at the results, but makes no changes. A Viewer may never see the actual spreadsheet, but only printouts of selected parts, but they are still using the spreadsheet. A Player changes input cell values, but doesn’t change formulae and layouts. They may execute […] Read more

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Spreadsheet documentation may do any of the following: Specify the intended working of the spreadsheet Record what was done Explain how the spreadsheet works Instruct the user how to use or update the spreadsheet Ideally, a spreadsheet would have documentation serving all four purposes. A specification may be anything from a single sentence to a […] Read more

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Just about everybody benefits from clear, accurate documentation. The benefits of out of date documentation written without a specific purpose in mind are less obvious, and indeed are often non-existent. To get the most out of documentation, the following should be true: It should be written specifically as specification, record, explanation or instruction. That way […] Read more

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Documentation may take many different forms: A separate document is often used for long, formal specifications that are themselves subject to review and sign-off. Records of changes and versions may also be kept in a separate document or database. The potential disadvantage of a separate document is that it may be difficult to maintain consistency […] Read more

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There is no type of documentation that is always useless to any type of user, but in general some types are more useful than others. The following table summarizes the general utility of the different types of documentation to different users: Specify Record Explain Instruct Viewer X X X X Player X X X X […] Read more

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The HLOOKUP() and VLOOKUP() functions are two of the most commonly used functions in Excel, but there are a number of pitfalls that should be avoided. Both functions take either three or four arguments (the fourth is optional): lookup_value the value that you are trying to match. table_array the range in which you are trying […] Read more

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Wouldn’t it be nice if you could create bookmarks in Excel, in the same way that you can bookmark pages in your browser? The ideal would be to record the exact screen position, so that you could automatically return to the same view at some point in the future. Well, you can! But they are […] Read more

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In late 2004 one of the big US banks, SunTrust Banks, announced a restatement of earnings for the first two quarters. This followed problems they had found with their loan loss allowances, or more specifically, with the model they were using for their loan loss allowances. Part of their press release says: “There were numerous […] Read more

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In January 2006 it was discovered that there was a deficit of $5 million in the budget for Nevada City. The budget spreadsheet was the same as the one for 2005, updated for 2006. Apparently it was working correctly until sometime in late December, when it developed a problem. The difference was a $5M deficit […] Read more

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In November 2005 Kodak restated its Q3 results by $9 million. The restatement was attributed to restructuring and severance costs, plus a real estate gain. The restructuring costs were apparently because they got the accounting treatment wrong; we were told that “the magnitude of the worldwide restructuring program the company is undertaking imposes significant challenges […] Read more

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