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## Excel Tip – Top 5 Ways to Avoid Problems With Your Excel Spreadsheet

When developing a spreadsheet solution in Excel, you make decisions and change features and formulas that make perfect sense and logical flow at the time. Once you go back to revise or correct or troubleshoot your spreadsheet, what made sense during development may not be so clear at a later date.

So here are my top 5 things to avoid when developing a spreadsheet solution to enable you to troubleshoot any issues and make your spreadsheet as efficient as possible.

**1. Merged cells. **

They may look good, but they can harm your spreadsheet’s functionality, including losing the ability to sort data correctly or run VBA because it doesn’t handle merged cells properly. You also lose the functionality of normal data tables in Excel; That goes on to list great functions like pivot tables, SUMIF, COUNTIF etc.! If you want to use autofill – don’t stand a chance with merged cells and don’t expect to be able to copy and paste.

**2. Hidden rows and columns.**

Unless you really need to hide any rows or columns, just don’t. Why, well because they are hidden! They can confuse users trying to follow the logic of the spreadsheet, users can’t see them but Excel will still use those cells in calculations that may appear to users as having incorrect data. They can also cause problems with importing new data into your workbook and with VBA code.

**3. Ignore empty cells, rows and columns.**

You may not always have a value for every single cell in your workbook, but leaving cells completely blank has a big impact on some functions in Excel. For example – using AUTOSUM or filtering with empty cells will affect Excel’s calculations. If you have spaces, always consider using zero or an appropriate descriptive value such as NA.

**4. Avoid very volatile functions.**

A volatile function is one that recalculates every time the worksheet changes. It includes NOW(), TODAY(), OFFSET functions. If you use too many or large amounts of these in a workbook it will eventually start to slow it down.

**5. Avoid unnecessarily complicated formulas.**

One thing I’ve learned from developing spreadsheet solutions for users is that they (eventually) want to see all the functions from a formula. For example of a specific sales formula

=(Price*Sales Quantity)-(Price*Sales Quantity)*Discount+(Price*Sales Quantity)*Tax

Users want to display separate columns for Sales Price Total, Discount Total and Sales Tax Price. This is where we can split the formula components into their own columns or smaller formulas that we call ‘helper columns’. If you can increase the transparency of the calculations it will make the logic of the spreadsheet easier for users to follow resulting in fewer questions.

These are my top 5 considerations when building a spreadsheet.

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