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Microsoft Excel

Brief description

Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet program. Originally designed as a calculation tool, it is now often used to store, edit and analyse research data that have a well-defined structure. It can be used for data that can be stored in a flat database, consisting of one table. It is especially useful for data preparation (using functions like Left() and Right() and features like Text to columns, with which data in one column can be split up into more columns) and for the analysis of data with pivot tables (Dutch: draaitabellen) and pivot graphs, which help you to summarize, analyze, explore, and present your data.

Tutorials and handbook

The online tutorial Excel Easy offers a practical introduction to using Excel, particularly for data analysis. Practice files can be donwloaded from the website.

Via the UB VU the following publication is available as e-book:
Katz, A. (2011). Excel 2010 made simple. Berkeley, Ca: Apress. [Permalink UB VU]


Microsoft Excel 2010 is part of Microsoft Office and can be accessed on all VU PCs.

Further remarks

One of the pitfalls of working with Excel is that data can be entered in a sloppy way, which will hinder data analysis. So, although working with Excel seems very simple at first sight, you should always create a sound data model before you start data entry. During that process, you might also come to the conclusion that Excel will be less suitable as data entry tool for your data set.

If your research data are more complex in nature, working with a database program such as Microsoft Access is to be preferred over Excel, because it offers better facilites for storing, querying and analysing relational data. However, it is often possible to export data from an Access database to one Excel table; because this table will contain much redundancy (duplicated data), this is not desirable for entering and storing the data, but it does allow analysing the data with Excel. Therefore, it is sometimes advisable to use a database for data entry and storage and Excel for the analysis of the dataset.

The Dutch and the English versions of Excel use different terminology, which can be confusing if you use both versions or if you use the Dutch version but have an English manual. This web page   lists the Dutch terms with the corresponding English terms.
N.B. If you open a spreadsheet that you have created in the English version of Excel in the Dutch version, names of functions will automatically be translated. However, it is not possible to enter English function names in the Dutch version.

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