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Escape from Spreadsheet Hell

The website for the workshop! TL;DR we’ll teach you how to create spreadsheets optimized for reuse by you and others. Your future self will thank you.

Data entry and storage in spreadsheets

The Basics

Computers are picky. The list of what they don't like (i.e. what will cause data to be unreadable, unusable, or trigger errors) is long compared to list of things they do like. The good news is that the end result is a list of pretty simple rules to follow when setting up spreadsheets.

Computers like:

  • Consistency.
  • Numbers.
  • Commands and formulas.
  • One value per cell.

Computers don't like:

  • Spaces and periods in column and file names.
  • Special characters (/ \ : * ? < > | etc.) anywhere.
  • Characters used in unexpected ways (i.e. "3" cannot be substituted for "E").
  • Natural language (i.e. human language).
  • Decorative formatting.
  • Combined or multiple values in a cell.
  • Merged cells.

Escape Coordinators

Megan O'Donnell
mno@iastate.edu
Data Services Librarian
ENT, EEOB, NREM, and Environment.

Kris Stacy-Bates
kksb@iastate.edu
Science and Technology Librarian
ABE, CCEE, Math, and Stats