Excel 2013: Laying the Foundation- One Brick at a Time

Female Brick Layer

Sometimes it’s hard to envision the finished product of your labors when you’re in the middle of the construction mess.  And it’s hard not to become frustrated when you can’t instantly learn all the great technical stuff out there.  Well, you’re heard that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your technical studies.  Building a solid technical foundation takes time and a ‘no quit’ attitude.  If there was another way to do it, I would have found it by now!  So let’s continue our journey as we explore Excel, an essential part of a solid foundation.

Excel 2013 Focus with Lynda.Com

I hope you have completed some of the courses we discussed in Lynda.Com In-depth: Part 1; if you have not read the post, click here.  For those of you who have completed the courses suggested in Part 1, you’re now ready for focused courses on Excel 2013.  But why Excel, when we’ve been studying SQL Server?  Because Excel is the preferred ‘go to’ for business analysis by the vast majority of companies.  Managers and owners still like the ‘slice and dice’ of Excel, so you must know Excel as well.  It will also set a solid foundation when you move into Power Pivot!

Building a Solid Foundation

Lynda.Com has a plethora of Excel courses, so we need to limit the scope.  Today’s post focuses on five courses; they teach essential and advanced concepts, so let’s take them in the best order for learning.  The great place to build a strong foundation is at the bottom, so Excel 2013 Essential Training is where you should begin.  Even if you have a good understanding of Excel, this course will serve as a refresher while introducing you to additional features found in the 2013 edition.

Excel 2013 Essential Training is 6 ½ hours long; most of the ‘Essential’ course topics taught on Lynda.Com are lengthy but worth the time.  After completing the Excel 2013 Essentials you will be able to enter and organize data and build workbooks.  You will be introduced to basic functions, formatting, creating simple formulas, sorting data and more; in addition to an introduction to pivot tables.  Now keep in mind, a pivot table is not the same as a Power Pivot table; the business intelligence aspect of Excel 2013 will be discussed in the third part of Lynda.Com.

Next Level Up

Once you’re waded your way through the Essentials course, you can move on to Excel 2013: Tips and Tricks course.  This course is 4 ½ hours and shows you how to increase your productivity with ‘power user’ tips; teaching you how to create formulas quickly, split data into columns, apply formatting, build charts, and create split screens quickly.  There is also a chapter on ‘Top Ten Shortcuts’ and ‘Ten Tiny Tips’, if you don’t have time for the full course.  But before you move on, watch the section on Database Techniques with ‘Flash Fill’ feature.  Now you can move on to Excel 2013: Power Shortcuts. 

Excel 2013 Power Shortcuts is a mere 3 hour long course showing you over 65 tips, tricks, and shortcuts.  Some of the material mirrors the previous course, so compare and contrast to see which one you’d like to watch.  The Power Shortcuts topics cover creating hyperlinks, setting print areas, removing duplicates, analyzing a formula for errors, and summarizing data with charts and tables.

Higher Level

The last two courses deal with more complex subjects: Data Validation and Time/Data; both are considered Intermediate level courses.   Excel 2013: Data Validation in Depth, only one hour in length, shows how to control data input into workbooks by controlling dates, length of text, types of data allowed in a workbook, using an error alert tab, and more.  The focus of this course is to ensure your data is accurate and valid.

Our last course for review is Excel 2013: Working with Data and Time.  This one hour course explains how Excel stores and uses dates and times and how Excel stores dates and time.  You’ll learn useful date/time functions to customize your dates, format dates over a 24 hour period, and calculate differences across dates and times.  A solid understanding of dates and times will greatly enhance your skills when you work inside a Power Pivot model as well.

A Few Final Thoughts

Next time, we’ll conclude the Lynda.Com In-depth with a look at the Power BI courses for Excel, with emphasis on Power Pivot, tables, and charts.  This is where the fun really begins!  You will not want to miss it.

I’m reminded of a saying my sailing captain would often say:  “When you get to the dock, you’ve already arrived at your destination.”  Captain Kevin wanted to convey that the trip was not about getting to a location, but enjoying the journey along the way.  So thank you for taking this technical journey with me as we continue becoming ‘technical’ together.  Until next time!

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI.  See more information under the ‘About Me’ section.  Remember to sign up for new blog notifications:  Go to Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!