Fastest/Best Way to Get Up to Speed with Excel
March 24, 2016 7:35 PM   Subscribe

TL;DR: Computer comfortable/literate, but only an excel lightweight. How do I become a guru (or at least enough to fake it till I make) and start changing my life?

So, I've kinda spent the last decade or so of my life slumming around various dead end jobs, not really wanting/caring to think about the future very much.

After a year and a half stint volunteering at my local Hospice, and then winning a small time local elected official seat, for the first time in my life, I actually want to live/plan for tomorrow. Start filling up a 401k, date, get my own place, all the things everyone around me has been doing forever.

The rub is that a career path of retail and data entry hasn't really prepped me for the farm leagues, much less the big leagues. A friend of mine has informed me that she might have a job opening in the near future (1-2sih months), in a field I like (law), at, what for me was such a pay jump I actually laughed out loud on the phone with her.

The one major catch is, I need to be way more deeply fluent in Excel then I currently am. I currently do data entry, and have figured out the basics on my own, but I need to know stuff like vlookups and pivot tables, and I can only imagine more, and I've never needed to do that at work.

Can you suggest websites, books, anything really, that can get me up to speed enough that I don't totally fubur an interview if I manage to land one? I am so so ready to finally live a life that doesn't require a studied indifference to nice things or deep interpersonal relationships
posted by VillainProtagonist to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
Youtube, honestly. I mean, eventually you're going to want to invent some projects for yourself and maybe rabbithole down Mr Excel or similar then, but youtube will get you to a surprising level of competency.

I was also recently startled to be looking for a vlookup tutorial and found the actual Office Support courses to be actually useful. That didn't used to be a thing.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:15 PM on March 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

The tutorials on are great (and they were free through my local library's online portal).
posted by mannermode at 9:03 PM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also GCF LearnFree has some really good stuff. They don't get super-advanced, but they definitely cover stuff like tables, vlookup, pivot tables, etc. Make sure you poke around - some of the best stuff is in the "Excel Tips" course, not in the basics "Excel 2010/2013/etc" courses.
posted by clerestory at 11:50 PM on March 24, 2016

Seconding mannermode - absolutely check your local library for (mine has it, and I point patrons there all the time), or a subscription might be worth it for just a month.

But another free resource I love for Excel is Contextures - the woman who runs the site basically has an Excel consulting business, so she has all sorts of great and really advanced stuff on her site (usually with example workbooks) as well as some more basic stuff.
posted by clerestory at 11:54 PM on March 24, 2016

I am an Excel trainer although IANYET & I heartily recommend the Excel Is Fun channel on YouTube to anyone who can't manage an in-person course. Its so good I can't believe its free. If you choose his series for whatever version of Excel you have & do the downloadable homework exercises, you will have a good general level of Excel. And he has advanced courses in PowerPivot etc. there as well if you want to go further.
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 3:59 AM on March 25, 2016 [13 favorites]

You Tube. Basically someone comes to me and asks me if a thing is possible. I figure it is, and then I head over to You Tube. I also use google for formulas. That's a godsend!

But my recommendation is to learn VLOOKUP and Pivot Tables if you want to look REALLY skilled in a hot hurry. Those two things are like hammers. May not always be the right tool, but you can use them to get something where you want it.

I also just learned about the power of Countifs.

Power Pivot changed my life.

I learned them all on You Tube.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:52 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I second the above's, "Power Pivot changed my life". It's like having a super power.
I can really really recommend this book. Got it and then bought it again in ebook format when the new version came out just to say thanks to the author.

I gotta say, all the youtube/forums/stack exchange resources out there are awesome and that's how i started but eventually it's nice to to have someone take a step back and give you the big picture and explain some basic concepts.

Oh, and this video from Joel Spolsky
posted by Spumante at 7:58 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

In addition to the above excellent suggestions, I also keep a copy of Excel 2013 for dummies on my desk at work. Grab a copy of whatever version you're wanting to become more proficient in, and read that first. I love the "for dummies" guides for providing a good foundation regarding the ins and outs of just all Excel can do.

Once you've wrapped your head around the basics, then go ahead and peruse YouTube and the internet for the nitty-gritty. Now that I've become an Excel guru, I find myself quickly googling formulas that I haven't memorized. It's faster, and I already know what I want to do, I just need a refresher.

I was hired into my last job with less Excel knowledge than I really should have had for the position. But I was a quick study, unafraid to look something up if I didn't know what I needed to do, and that really helped me quickly become the go-to for Excel, Word, Access (sigh), etc. issues.
posted by PearlRose at 10:50 AM on March 25, 2016

I taught myself Excel from scratch and became the go-to person.

I agree with clerestory that Contextures is great. I also like material, but access through my workplace is a pain. Next time I'll try the public library.

For videos, I really like Danny Rocks. For web sites, check out Chandoo, Allen Wyatt's ExcelTips, and Get Digital Help.

I also Google a fair bit when I need to fix something, but when it comes to doing something I've never tried, it can take ages unless I already know what Excel calls the thing I want to do.
posted by Frenchy67 at 7:15 AM on March 26, 2016

You might as well learn Excel from a guy who managed it's creation. It's only an hour long, and highly biased in favor of Actual Excel, but informative about how Excel works under the hood, and how to create readable spreadsheets. Of course, he also rails against VLOOKUP, in favor of MATCH/INDEX.

If you want a slightly less acerbic presentation, the video in a recent MeFi thread is relatively similar: match/index, use named ranges, etc. With a pitch of her academic research to boot.
posted by pwnguin at 1:01 AM on March 29, 2016

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