The Advantages of Using Spreadsheets

By Aurelio Locsin

Numbers attack every part of our lives. They explode in numerous charges on our credit card bills, march over the pages of corporate budgets, and terrorize homework pages from school. Fighting these assaults with pen, paper and calculator provokes boredom and error. Because of their many advantages, spreadsheets rise up as the most potent weapon against this numerical invasion.


You need only enter values, variables and formulas into a spreadsheet once to calculate results. If you notice a mistake in one number, or if a situation differs later, you only have to update the specific entry. All related values change automatically. This lets you concentrate on entering new values or planning what-if scenarios, rather than tediously re-entering editing numbers and formulas.


The appearance of every part of the spreadsheet lies under your total control. You can specify the font style and size used for numbers and text, define the border width and cell size of tables, add images, and color everything with a brilliant palette. You can also export your creation in a variety of file formats so it can be used in everything from printed documents, group presentations and websites.


Have you ever written an extra numeral into a phone number? Or, inadvertently moved a decimal point to the wrong position? A spreadsheet prevents these typos by enforcing data integrity. On the simplest level, you can specify a cell format so all entries are displayed consistently. For more complex assurances, you can use a macro. Its built-in programming language can present wizards, forms and options to ease data entry. A macro can automatically reject or correct wrong entries, as well as sort them into the correct categories.


Charts make numerical information understandable by presenting them as a graphic. Creating them used to require drawing tools that could only approximate values. With a spreadsheet, you simply select the numbers you want to include and choose a chart type. The program automatically creates the image using precise values. You can easily change options, such as type and color, transforming charting from a tiresome manipulation of numbers to a pleasurable exercise in customizing art.


A spreadsheet can secure sensitive data from prying eyes by revealing a file only with a correct user code and password. It can hide individual cells, like those showing wholesale cost, depending on users, like customers. It can also lock numbers and formulas so they are not accidentally erased during data entry.