In the Indian computer teaching centers of the mid-90s, the two entries that were de rigueur in all beginner computer courses were Wordstar (word processor) and Lotus 1-2-3 (spreadsheet). After one such cursory brush at the spreadsheet program, I had been mostly avoiding the spreadsheet for more than a decade. The spreadsheet would go on to become the ubiquitous sidekick to the wordprocessor in all office suites from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org (now LibreOffice) and Google Docs. Recently, when dealing with numerical data that needed analysis, a friend played around so deftly with the data using Excel 2007, that I finally realized the power of the spreadsheet. Having to process some data and being close to a total illiterate, I again fell back on the Dummies series. I picked up Excel 2007 for Dummies written by Greg Harvey to introduce myself to the capabilities and possibilities of the killer application of the PC revolution.
Excel 2007 for Dummies is no exception to the good quality introductions that are the hallmark of the Dummies series. (And can you really resist whizzing through Dummies books looking for those super-funny Rich Tennant cartoons?) This book has two aims: introduce you to use the spreadsheet for your work and also familiarize you with the Ribbon interface, that was introduced in Office 2007. Since I had a certain idea of what I wanted to learn, the book took only a few hours of my time. By the end, I was familiar with the kind of problems I could quickly throw at Excel 2007 and get them solved and the what-if analysis I could do. I also realized that the unfamiliar Ribbon interface was a true innovation over the hierarchical-menu driven UI. Excel 2007 is also full of multiple keyboard or keyboard-mouse shortcuts for almost every task. You can pick what is most intuitive to you and use it accelerate your most common operations. (For example, press Alt in any Office 2007 program to visually see all the Alt-based keyboard shortcuts possible at any time.)
Excel 2007 for Dummies is a good easy-to-read introduction to the spreadsheet program. It only deals with the basics and if you feel the need for more (like I do), you will have to pick up a more advanced book after this. Whether commerical or free, today everyone has access to a full-fledged spreadsheet program, and you will be surprised at the myriad kinds of data you could enter, track and analyze with it. The basics learnt with Excel 2007 translate easily to LibreOffice Calc, Google Docs or any other spreadsheet program you might want to use. Dive in and spend just a few hours with Excel 2007 for Dummies and you will not be disappointed! 🙂