The Worst Uses of Excel

Over on ReadWriteWeb, we ask a daily question and cull the answers from our readers. Yesterday’s question was to find out the worst uses of an Excel (or any) spreadsheet, and the responses were funny to the point of being poignant and somewhat sobering. Clearly, people need to learn at least one other software package to do many of the things they stick Excel with.

There is something about the rows and columns of a spreadsheet that I guess just invite a lot of abuse. I always knew that Excel was the go-to database program for those who were confounded by SQL or Access or even Filemaker, but still some of the posts from our readers were extraordinary. One group of three took nine days to code up an inventory tracking app. That is just insane.

But it was when folks mentioned, several times, that they had seen word processing done on Excel that I had to just say, stop me before I hurt myself. Printing out labels? Or other documents? Drawing a map? Company brochures? Resumes? Don’t people know of Word or its equivalent? Haven’t they been taught anything about some other software tool? Apparently not. “They didn’t know that Word existed,” said one of our readers.

Others use Excel for presentations, putting each slide on a separate worksheet. Yes, I guess you can do that. But if you are going to go through the motions of cut and pasting a graphic, why not use something that already is made to do that, like, uh, Powerpoint?

Excel of course isn’t the only spreadsheet game in town, and now there are any number of online services that can be abused and twisted into odd applications. The online database company TrackVia recently came up with their own quirky apps that their customers have built in their service, including tracking the schedule of “exotic dancers”, free taco nights at the local ball park, and a museum in France that has an antique wine database. You can read that one here.

How about you? What is the worst Excel app you’ve seen in your career? Feel free to email me or share your comments below.

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