Microsoft Excel is a crucial tool for anyone operating in modern business.
But there are risks.
For one thing, it can be intimidating for beginners.
Furthermore, Excel errors can have devastating consequences, such as the one that undermined one of the most famous economics papers of all time.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
There are a few basic skills and shortcuts that can really save you a bunch of time.
It takes years to become an Excel expert, but if you’re trying to justify putting it on your resume you should at least know these 12 shortcuts.
Ctrl + Shift + $ makes the number format into currency, with commas at the thousands and two decimal places
VLOOKUP is one of the more powerful functions in excel. It's the kind of function that you'll never hear of until you desperately need it, at which point it will save you hours.
Right now we're looking to find out what John McCain's education was from a list of 100 Senators. So, we type in 'John McCain' into the first term.
VLOOKUP searches for the first term in the first column of that array. The '2' in the third term says to return the answer in the second column of the selected array once VLOOKUP finds 'John McCain' in the first.
Then, 'FALSE' tells VLOOKUP that it doesn't need to be an exact match. This is necessary if the list is unsorted.
So, VLOOKUP finds 'John McCain' in column 1, then returns the value on the same row in column 2 of the array.
Let's say we fill out a row of formulas, and want to fill it in all the way down. We can just double click on the square in the bottom right corner of the highlighted section...
Finally, the LINEST() function is also very useful. Here, we're going to run a linear regression to see if there's a relationship between the Fed's monetary base (in billions) and the price of gold.
The output of this function is an array. So, select a two by five section. Type in =LINEST. First select your x-values.
Then select your y-values. then, type in 'TRUE' and 'TRUE,' indicating you want a y=mx+b output and the error bars listed. Now, since this is an array function, hit either Command-Enter (on Mac) or CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER (on PC)
This tells Excel that you want it treated as an array function. Here's what the output of the 2 by 5 array looks like. The reasonably high r-Squared shows that there is a potential correlation between the two. The slope tells us that generally, for every $1 the price of gold grows, there's $1.7 billion in growth in the monetary base.
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