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 Arranging Your Data

Last week, someone sent me a workbook because he was having some problems with it. Here's a small section from the file:

It was arranged in categories, and each category had tasks below it, arrange in a row. Under each task name was date to indicate when the task was performed. Many of the date cells contained a cell comment to clarify (3,810 comments in all). Summary formulas were entered to count the dates. And each formula was hand-crafted because the layout was so haphazard.

I was very surprised to see such a poorly organized worksheet. But, after giving it some thought, this sort of thing is probably not at all unusual. The typical user, I think, probably starts entering data without giving the organization much thought. At first, it's easy makes sense. But after a few years of data entry, you end up with a complete mess.

I suggested that this person spend a day or two and copy/paste the data into a normalized table with four column headers: Category, Task, Date, and Comments. Data entry would be much easier, and the information in this table can be easily sorted, filtered, or summarized with a pivot table.

To a typical user, it probably seems very inefficient to repeat the category name and task name for every entry in the table. But it's actually the most efficient way to store data.

Permalink | Posted in General on 13 March, 2010 10:02am

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