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Excel 2003: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald

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Fine-Tuning Templates

By now, you probably realize that templates aren't just a way to eliminate repetitive work when you need to create similar spreadsheets. They're also a way to let ordinary people—those, like you, who aren't familiar with Excel's dark arts—to record information, fill out forms, and analyze data. These people need a little guidance, and templates are there to help them.

Unfortunately, Excel isn't always particularly forgiving. Even if you craft the perfect template, an Excel novice can accidentally delete or overwrite a formula just by pressing the wrong key. And it's almost as easy to put the wrong information in a cell (for example, by entering a date incorrectly so that it's interpreted as text). Furthermore, a template is no help at all when the person using it doesn't know where to start typing or what the different headings really mean. All these problems can occur (and regularly do occur) even if you think your template is a small miracle of straightforward design and organization.

The solution to all of these problems is to take your template to the next level, making it bulletproof, in effect. Excel provides a slew of useful features that can help, including data validation and worksheet protection.

Data Validation

Data validation is a remarkably easy way to prevent people from entering the wrong data in a cell (or at least warn them when they do). Data validation also helps make Excel a little kinder and gentler for a novice by letting you create custom ...

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