Why is it so important to become an Excel guru?
Because everybody in the world uses Excel.
You can either be the person asking for help or you can be the person helping.
The best part about being an Excel guru is that you can bring your skills with you wherever you go.
Even if where you’re going isn’t hiring you for your advanced Excel skills, it’s a great icebreaker and you’ll quickly become everybody’s new best friend.
Here’s a mini library of ways you can teach yourself how to become the Excel guru that everybody relies on.
Be sure to you use the guru categories on the right to guide you through the sections.
BECOME AN EXCEL GURU BY…
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Become an Excel Guru by Practicing with Real Data Sets
Teach yourself using Excel data sets, really?
I know that’s what you’re thinking but in the real world and in business you use data sets to answer questions and solve problems. You need to be able to work with boring ol’ data sets and be able to turn them into something exciting.
In this section, I’ll provide you with a few hidden gems and resources that you can use to find test Excel data sets.
These are going to help you achieve that Excel guru status by giving you real information to play with and use to teach yourself those killer Excel skills.
1. Find and Use Open Data to Practice and Teach Yourself Excel
Communities, cities, and countries are all making data publicly available for your consumption. If you live in a metropolitan area, there is a good chance you can go to google and type in your city name + open data and you’ll find it.
Exporting this data and analyzing it in Excel might upset you depending on the data set that you pull but at least you’ll be able to play around and teach yourself some awesome Excel tricks.
It’s important that you get your hands dirty with this type of real data. Here is a short list of my favorite resources:
2. Teach Yourself Excel Using Real Business Models
I stumbled across this website a few years ago and I’ve found it extremely useful for applying and creating real business models and data sets in Excel.
This website is great for understanding what types of data sets might be being used in a specific industry or sector that you’re working in or hoping to work in. Once you find the model you want to work with, you can create a data set in Excel by finding the field names that would be used for a specific table on that model. Add the column headers and use some of the below resources to create your test data sets for practice:
Once you’ve built your dummy data set for your model, you can start practicing your Excel skills by applying some formulas and techniques that you’ll learn in some of the other points in this article.
3. Teach Yourself Excel Using Data Sets You’ve Found Using the Google Filetype Operator
It’s really as simple as the screen shot.
Head over to Google and type in filetype:XLS and then in quotations (this just means look for an exact match) find a certain keyword or type of data set that you’re looking for.
Again once you’ve got your data set, we can proceed to use this data for practical learning and testing in Excel.
4. Teach Yourself Excel Using Practical Business Sample Data
I’ve started to create Excel sample data to help provide my customers and readers with an alternative to having to create and find relevant business data to practice their skills in Excel.
These data sets are great for practicing and building Excel dashboards and should help you with building up your skills to Excel Guru status.
Here is an example of the type of dashboard that you could practice and build using these data sets:
5. Teach Yourself Excel By Importing Historical Stock Prices From Yahoo Into Excel
Samir Khan at Invest Excel did a really good job of putting together a well coded import process directly through Excel to Yahoo Finance. In this article he quickly reviews how you can use his excel template to quickly and efficiently import stock information without even having to leave your spreadsheet.
Samir was generous enough to give away the spreadsheet for free so that you can play around with his model. You can download the Excel spreadsheet on his blog post page:
There are a couple of things you can do to ramp up your Excel learning:
1 – You checkout his VBA code to start learning how you can build and begin to learn how to import data from the web using VBA. To do this, simply type ALT + F11 once you are in the spreadsheet. You can then review the modules as well as the code he has created on sheet1.
2 – Use the data set generated on the data tab to starting building your own investment models. Think about ways you can use formulas like MAX, MIN, AVERAGE, INDEX etc. I already have a ton of different ideas that you can implement to build an automated investment model that changes as you alter the historical data set.
This might be my favorite method for getting to know and understand some of the features that are available in Excel. If you can begin to master and create models using this data, you’re well on your way to becoming an Excel guru.
You’ll need to think outside the box on what’s important when you’re investing. Think about searching some of the major websites like Stock Trader to begin to understand the models and then maybe try and apply those concepts in your spreadsheets.
Bonus: Use the MarketXLS Excel Add-In to Learn How to Analyze Stock Data in Excel (Premium Product) [affiliate]
Being able to get a live up to the minute data feed as well as historical data for stock quotes into Excel at the drop of the hat is pretty remarkable. MarketXLS has done an amazing job at allowing you to pull in data, transform and analyze stock quotes and do things like the following:
- Import Top 100 gainers / Top 100 Losers for the day (see left data set in screenshot above).
- Import up to the minute stock quote data and dump it directly into Excel.
- Dump historical data and perform analysis using every technical tool you could imagine.
- Use and create visualization tools like candlestick charts and line charts.
This tool of course allows you to do much more as well but the biggest and most exciting part about this is the ability for those who are looking to learn Excel to pull in real data into Excel and perform and learn how to analyze and perform research analysis directly in Excel.
If you aren’t performing or needing to do a lot of research analysis for the stock market, this tool might not be the tool for you but if your looking to get into investment banking (or already are), this might be a great product for you to teach yourself Excel stock analysis.
P.S. – I was able to work with MarketXLS to get 20% off all products that they provide – click any of the links in this post to get the discount.
Become an Excel Guru By Learning to use Excel’s Built-In Help Features
Yes. Excel does have it’s own built in features to help you learn Excel just that much quicker.
Excel has thankfully built features into the application that help you in learning Excel formulas and other features at the click of a button. Let’s dive into some of these learning techniques.
6. Learn About Excel Anomalies and Features Using the F1 Help Option
Surprisingly, built right into Excel is a help screen that provides you with a lot of useful information on how to handle common situations, issues, formulas and features in Excel.
These are often some of the most common questions users will have about using the application when they are first starting out but it also does contain some additional advanced help. To access the screen, once you are located anywhere within your workbook, simply hit the F1 key and the help program will launch automatically.
Fun Tip: You can use F1 when you’re in the middle of inputting code and depending on where you are, the method or property information will be brought up automatically for you so that you can understand how it works.
7. Learn How to Use Excel Functions Using the Insert Functions Option (SHIFT + F3)
Learning Excel formulas should definitely be at the top of your priority list if you want to become an Excel guru. A great way to do this is running through the list of available formulas and then using the help on this function link as shown above.
To access and use the insert function window, select a cell and then type SHIFT + F3. You can then search for a function, select a category and/or run through the list in the scroll box. Once you’ve selected the function you’d like to learn, click on help on this function.
This page will give you the syntax and then also explain and give you an example that you can use for your learning process.
8. Learn Excel Formulas by using SHIFT + F3 during Formula Entry to Enter Function Arguments
If you know exactly what function / formula you want to use to solve a problem, you can type in the equals symbol with the formula name and then hit SHIFT + F3.
This will provide you with a description of the formula and also allow you to enter your function arguments individually with a description of what that argument is asking for. This is great if you’re just starting to use a certain formula and you’re forgetting how it should be used.
9. Learn Excel Formulas by using Evaluate Formula to Understand why your Formulas aren’t Working
When it comes to complex data models and spreadsheets, the evaluate formula can come in handy especially when it comes to nested Excel formulas.
Evaluate formula allows you to step into each step of the formula process to help you understand how the formula has either failed or to just give you an idea how the formula actually works. This is great when starting to learn Excel for dissecting Excel business models and dashboards.
To access the evaluate formula window, select the cell that contains the formula, head over to the formula tab on the quick access ribbon and under formula auditing, select evaluate formula.
Once the window appears, you simply need to click evaluate and it will walk you through the formula steps. You can then step into each section of a nested formula to get a true understanding of how the formula works.
10. Learn Excel formulas and Data Models by Showing all Formulas (SHIFT + `)
Being able to understand what formulas are being used in an Excel dashboard or model to build calculations is another step forward in becoming an Excel guru.
Using the show formulas option by either clicking show formulas under the formulas tab on the quick access ribbon or typing CTRL + ` will allow you to see how formulas are interacting with your data sets. This will help you learn how to use formulas when building models.
11. Refer Back to Great Excel Resources using a Resource Tracker in Excel
This may seem slightly trivial but you’ll realize very quickly that as you learn new Excel techniques, if you don’t reuse them, you’ll lose them.
By building a spreadsheet as you come across cool Excel concepts on the web, you’ll have access to links to all of your favorite articles. The key here is to add a tag column as well as an Excel category so that you can easily filter and manipulate the spreadsheet to find certain articles or concepts as you need them.
Note that you could also create a shortcut spreadsheet for your reference.
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Become an Excel Guru Using these Excel Resources
I know Excel resources seems like a pretty broad category but I’m going to focus my attention only on a few different ones in this section.
There are so many different platforms out there today that can help you learn Excel that either come with an investment or might even be free. In this section, I’ll review several different ways that you can use some of these amazing resources to speed up your path to Excel Guruness.
12. Learn Anything and Everything about Excel using Courses on Udemy
Alright so here’s the deal, Udemy truly is an amazing platform and it does offer courses for a wide range of prices starting from free all the way up to serious amounts of money.
That being said with the review of their current pricing structure, Udemy is currently in the process of changing their pricing structure so that all courses are priced between $20 – $50 a piece with a maximum discount rate of %50. The reason they are doing this is because it seems that around 90% of their sales are realized in that price range.
The planned implementation date of the launch will be in and around early April 2016.
With that in mind, you’ll want to signup to Udemy (if you haven’t already) and what you can do is start searching specific subjects in Excel that you are looking to learn.
From there, you can select whether or not you’d like to receive their newsletters with promotions and other information via email. You’ll want to select yes so that you get the best deals on the courses you’re interested in.
Here’s a great way of adding and finding courses that suit your needs:
1 – In the search box type in “Excel” and hit enter.
2 – This will bring up by default a list of Excel courses that are available. You can then filter the courses using the filters on the left hand side as shown in the screen shot above.
3 – Next you can also then sort based on reviews, language, high / low pricing, or newest.
4 – Once you’ve got that organized, you can select the course you feel fits your Excel needs by clicking on it.
5 – You can then add that course to your wishlist (or buy it of course).
The reason why I’ve said to add it to your wishlist is because Udemy is notorious for having sales on their courses and you might want to wait for one of their promotions to pickup the course you want to take at a discounted price. This is why I mentioned making sure to receive their newsletters.
13. Become an Excel Guru using Free YouTube Videos
Content is being created by the minute on YouTube and there definitely is no exception when it comes to Excel.
The beautiful thing about YouTube – the content is free (for the most part).
My Top 5 Active Excel YouTube Channels
This is the staple Excel channel. I mean common, Mike Girvin has over 280,000 subscribers and 2,717 videos at the time of writing this article
#2: Contextures Inc.
Debra Dagleish has been an recognized as an Excel expert for a long time and her material speaks for itself. She has some really great playlists like 30 Excel Functions, Excel Data Validation and Excel programming.
#3: Bill Jelen
Also known as Mr. Excel, has built up a massive database of Excel videos (1,717 videos) and really is just one of the best in the industry when it comes to teaching and training Excel. He has built some great Excel series/playlists on his YouTube channel like “Don’t Fear the Spreadsheet”.
#4: Excel TV
Rick Grantham, Oz Du Soleil and Jordan Goldmeier video chat and discuss Excel topics with some of the best experts in the industry including themselves. Each of them bring something unique to the table. Their videos can be extremely informative and they also help you in getting to know some of the Excel experts that are out there in the industry. This channel is all about giving back to the Excel community.
There is one person in the Excel game that is hard to leave out and that’s Chandoo (Purna Duggirala). He’s done an amazing job at building up one of the most successful blogs on the internet and to be frank also just knows how to run a business all the while driving and bringing value to is followers and customers.
You can check my YouTube channel- bradedgardotcom out where I try to keep up to date on the regular. My focus is typically on using practical Excel examples which helps with applying Excel techniques to real life or practical business situations.
This is definitely a condensed list of YouTube channels but with the help of Excel TV, you’ll find some of the greatest Excel experts out there. There are many more that I would have liked to include but we need to continue on your quest to helping you become an Excel guru.
14. Organize Your Excel Kindle Book Notes and Highlights into Evernote
First of all, for those of you who aren’t using Evernote, you need to get on it now.
I purchase Excel books through Amazon’s kindle option all of the time for the simple fact that I can highlight and clip my notes and then easily revisit those notes.
The beauty about creating these highlights and then exporting them into Evernote is they become ridiculously easy to search for and find when you need them. I’m not going to go into too much detail on Evernote because that’s not what this article is about. But you do need to consider it if you’re reading Excel books often.
Checkout this blog post to get yourself started:
15. Find and Pay Money for the Excel Courses That Best Suit your Needs
Paying money to find courses often might be a last resort for many because there is just so much information out there on the internet that you can get without having to pay any money.
The problem is you’re never getting the full story and you’re working hard on your own trying to piecemeal what you’re learning to get the overall picture. If you strategize and pick the Excel course for you, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that you can learn and become an Excel guru quickly on that specific subject.
Here are some of my favorite courses from some of the best teachers and trainers in the Excel industry (note that some are affiliates and I will be sure to place in brackets for full disclosure).
#1 – Power Query for Excel – By Mynda Tracey [Affiliate]
This course is for those who spend a lot of time manipulating and cleaning data. With this course you’ll learn how to automate and import your data into Power Query in Excel (you’ll have to have Excel 2010 or later) so that you will no longer need to spend your time cleaning up data just so that you can perform your analysis.
#2 – Excel School + Dashboards + VBA – Chandoo [Affiliate]
Learning, and understanding dashboards and VBA in the real world can act as a serious competitive advantage over your colleagues. In this course, Chandoo and his team dissect and show you everything from how to apply and use loops and conditions, using variables, working with cells and ranges, databases , pivot tables and user forms and finally they also take a deep look into integration with other office applications. The super package is what will get you pretty much everything you need to learn.
Chandoo also has a whole host of other Excel learning products that are seriously beneficial.
#3 – The VBA Pro Course – Jon Acampora at Excel Campus [Affiliate]
Alright so Jon has over 25,000 active subscribers on his website and creates some seriously amazing training programs in Excel. His VBA pro course is bar none one of the best VBA courses out there. That being said, as of right now, Jon’s course is closed and opens up only on occasion so you can click the link above and scroll down to the bottom where you can be notified when course enrollment open ups again.
#4 – Excel Mini Course – How to Use Excel Slicers to Sort Top 5 / Bottom 5 – Brad Edgar – (Get 25% Off with Coupon Code: learnexcel)
This is just a small course I put together that shows you how you can use the rank formula with Excel slicers to build a top 5 / bottom 5 Excel dashboard. This is a really slick way to show your top 5 or bottom 5 records using a slicer technique in your final Excel dashboards.
Like I said, there are so many different Excel courses out there and you’ll be able to pick up and find some of the best trainers in the world using some of the other resources that I’ve provided in this article.
If you have any Excel questions either way, you can always ask me in the comments.
Become an Excel Guru by Reverse Engineering Excel Templates and Dashboards
This section reviews some of the cool ways to find templates and dashboards so that you can reverse engineer a spreadsheet on your own.
You can apply and use some of the techniques like show all formulas (SHIFT + `) that I showed you in the Learn in Excel section. This method of learning is definitely one of the best and I have to say it’s one of the ways I learned to apply and create dashboards in Excel.
16. Dissect and Learn Excel through Downloading Free Templates in Excel
If you’re really not in the mood to find and pay for dashboard templates in Excel, this is one of the best ways to begin to learn some of the techniques that are utilized to build these templates.
All you’ll need to do is the following:
#1 – Go to the file area of your current spreadsheet in Excel.
#2 – Search for a template keyword of your choice (see # 1 in the screenshot).
#3 – Double click on the template of your choice. This will open up for you in Excel and then you can start reverse engineering.
One of the things you’ll want to do is use some of the techniques that I showed you in the Learn in Excel section. You can apply things like show all formulas, evaluate formulas, and simply investigate the formula itself using the insert function option.
17. Learn Excel by Reverse Engineering a 5 Dollar Dashboard from your Industry
The beauty about learning and downloading a dashboard from my website is that there is a good chance (hopefully) that you’ll find something pertinent to your industry or what you’re doing.
You’ll see things like how I use shapes in Excel to build nice visual displays without taking away from the reason for the dashboard in the first place.
I have also created entire blog posts dedicated to explaining some of my secret techniques using video training as well as the written blog post itself. These are great resources especially if you’re not willing to drop your coffee for the week on a dashboard.
Here are some free resources that you can use to learn some of the techniques used in my Excel dashboards:
Become an Excel Guru by Acquiring Relevant Excel Skills
The problem today with just going out there and trying to learn the first thing that you find about Excel is that a lot of it is useless.
You want to be focusing your efforts on Excel formulas and concepts that are going to move you forward in your career. Not only that, on the way it’s important to pick up and find shortcuts that will help you improve and also make you more efficient in Excel.
18. Learn the 20% of Excel Formulas that will get you to that 80 % Excel Guru Status
I’m sure most of you have heard of the 80/20 principle. The title basically explains it.
Sohail Anwar has put together a phenomenal FREE resource / Ebook that shows you and goes over what he calls the “Money Formulas”. Essentially he has created an Ebook around the concept that there is only a finite set of formulas that you truly need in order to be successful in your career.
Sohail has also put together a really awesome and inspirational read titled How Excel got me a 6 Figure Salary in Less Than 3 Years. This is well worth the read if you’re looking for a kick starter.
19. Learn an Excel Shortcut a Day Using this Shortcut Listing from Excel Jet
Dave Bruns from Excel Jet has done a fantastic job putting together some of the most useful (if not all) Excel shortcuts that you should be learning on the daily.
This is a list that I refer back too often as he’s provided search capabilities as well as a free PDF download. If you’re serious about becoming efficient in Excel this is another great place to start:
20. Learn Excel By Exporting a List of Commonly Asked Excel Questions Using Keywords via WebpageFx
Here is the thing I hunted the internet high and low for this type of tool until one day I came across this gem of a tool through the blog QuickSprout.
This tool literally reviews and searches a specific set of websites based on the category selected and returns a result set of links and information for the keyword you’ve used. You can then export that set of links into Excel to review.
Here’s how it plays out. The first thing you’ll want to do is go to the WebpageFx – FaqFox webpage.
#1 – Type in your keyword. In our case, we’ll put in Excel Tips.
#2 – Now select category, generic. This will bring up a list of websites that the tool will scrape.
#3 – Hit the start searching button.
#4 – Download the spreadsheet with the results.
Voila. This is what you’ll get out of this. A nice table of Excel Tips questions that you can use learn what people are truly asking about on the web:
Become an Excel Guru by Being Active in Excel Communities
If you want to achieve the true Excel Guru status that I keep referring to over and over, you need to get involved in different Excel communities like Reddit.
These places not only offer up and provide you with the opportunity to help your fellow Excelers, but it’ll also give you the chance to ask some of the best Excel experts out there on concepts you just don’t know how to do yet.
21. Go to /r/Excel on Reddit and Start Helping Other People with their Excel Problems
Using Reddit’s Excel community to boost your Excel skills is probably one of the best ways to really get amazing at Excel. The majority of the questions and problems that are asked in the community apply to real world problems that users are trying to figure out.
This is great because you get to practice with true scenarios and you really get an idea of all of the different uses of Excel.
Get out there and start helping, learning and asking your own questions.
It’s a great place for your to ask for help as well.
22. Go to /r/Excel on Reddit and use the TOP, HOT & Other Hidden Gems to Learn Excel
Alright so you really need to take advantage of the header in the r/Excel community. Here you’ll find cool things like TOP, HOT and then a host of other cool links like Add-in, Templates, and Pro Tips.
Scroll through the lists of threads under these sections and you’ll be guaranteed to find some useful Excel juice and content.
Make sure you use the filter option that Reddit has made available for your convenience. You can find links only from the past hour all the way up to all time.
23. Use the Professionals on Quora to Help you Become an Excel Guru
Learn the ins and outs of Quora and in no time at all you’ll be able to navigate and find some of the best Excel advice and information on the internet.
Quora allows you to select a topic like Microsoft Excel and then pin it to your read page where you can get a continuous flow and feed of Excel questions and answers.
You can of course chime in to help answer questions coming from others in the community or you can sit back and let some of the best professionals in the world answer these questions.
Be sure to browse through their Topic FAQ section for Microsoft Excel because from here you’ll find the most commonly asked questions about Excel.
Become an Excel Guru Using Content Aggregation Tools
Many of you are probably already aware and use at least one of these content aggregation tools but for those of you who don’t, they are pretty freakin’ awesome.
It’s an RSS feed on steroids. The beauty about these aggregation tools is that each tool offers a slightly different method of organizing and handling your content.
In this section, I’ll review just how you can use two of my favorite tools to help you step up your Excel game.
24. Use Feedly to Create an Excel Content Collection
Feedly is an incredible content aggregation tool that lets you make what are called collections. This is great for creating direct feeds to all of your favorite Excel websites and resources (see the screenshot above for how to create a collection).
As new content gets added to your favorite sites, the feed updates to show you all of your unread content (when you select the top level collection on the left). Again this is great for keeping up to date with the most recent Excel news as well as tricks and tips from the best in the industry.
Signup to my Excel newsletter to get this week’s content upgrade to get a full listing of the Excel websites I have on my feed.
25. Use Flipboard to Create Your Own Excel Magazines
So here’s the thing. I stopped using Flipboard quite some time ago (as you can see by how old my post additions are above) but honestly I just realized and remembered how amazing it really is (and I’m starting back up).
Here are some of reasons why I love Flipboard for helping you become an Excel guru.
#1 – You can literally create a magazine with articles from anywhere on the web. My favorite tool is the Flipboard chrome extension. Just follow the steps below and you can create and add content to your magazines while browsing the internet.
#2 – You can create highly targeted and organized Excel magazines by creating new ones for each valuable topic in Excel.
#3 – Once your magazines are created, you can organize the order of the content so that it reads like a book/magazine. This is great for building yourself full blown Excel courses and tutorials.
#4 – If you’re worried about sharing your content, you can also make your magazine private (or you can leave it public of course).
Become an Excel Guru by Using Excel Content Search Techniques
Being able to apply and use advanced search techniques to find the content that you need is becoming the way of the world.
I have created an entire blog post around this subject but I wanted to add a couple of them here because of how important it really is in your quest to becoming an Excel guru.
26. Use the Twitter Search Page to Find the Best Excel Content
Twitter has an entire host of advanced search techniques that you can use in your favor for finding some of the best Excel content on the web in real time.
Head over to the Twitter Search page where you can use their advanced search tool as well as find a list of their advanced operators that will help you find the exact Excel information you’re looking for.
Finding the Excel content that you need to bring you to the next level is the next natural step to becoming an Excel guru.
27. Use Google Advanced Search to Help you Become Awesome in Excel
Hopefully you’ll be as excited as I was about finding this advanced search feature through Google.
From here you’ll be able to learn all of the operators and special filters that can be used to help you find the exact Excel concept that you’re trying to master at any given time.
Play around with all of the available search features and filters until you master it. Once you’ve done that, you can head back over to your regular Google search and apply the custom operators to fetch you the best Excel content on the web.
Closing Thoughts on Becoming an Excel Guru
Sadly, after all of those points I am sure there are many more great methods and ways to become an Excel guru.
That being said, ultimately you need to use the method that works best for you.
As your Excel skills improve, you’ll quickly realize how often people will be calling upon your expertise and sooner than later, they will not only be calling you for your help but they will be calling you because they need you.
It looks like you’ve made it!