More Topics
Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


6 ways to streamline your workflow with Microsoft Excel

Several lesser-known Excel functions can save you time and prevent expensive mistakes, and they are not difficult to learn or use.
Written by StackCommerce, Partner

The following content is brought to you by ZDNet partners. If you buy a product featured here, we may earn an affiliate commission or other compensation.

Microsoft Excel is such a powerful program that it can practically power an entire business. It's long been relied upon for accounting, inventory, and more. But it has lesser-known features, large and small, that can help to streamline your workflow.

Here are six ways Excel can send your productivity skyrocketing, from eliminating minor frustrations to reducing costly errors. Familiarizing yourself with just one of them could lead to an income boost.

1. Converting to and from PDFs

Sometimes, the only way you can get the info you need is to grab it from a PDF. But if you think converting PDFs to Word documents is a pain, converting them to spreadsheets is an absolute nightmare. There's no perfect solution, but the best option is almost certainly using the PDF to Excel tool on Adobe.com.

You may not come across this scenario, which is fortunate because you can only use this tool for free twice a month. You're far more likely to want to convert your spreadsheets to PDFs, but that's easy. Click File, Save As, and choose PDF as the file format on the dropdown list.

2. Dropdown lists

One feature that can often save a lot of time is the ability to create Excel dropdown lists and menus. If you find yourself repeatedly referring to the same information or process, such as lists of names, cities, products, or anything else, quickly grabbing them from a list allows you to complete data input much faster.

3. Automation

There is no better way to make your workday fly by than to automate everything you can. Excel's ability to automate repetitive tasks is one of its most valuable features, yet many users don't even know it exists, much less how to use it. No, we're not talking about macros, which come with a bit of risk and can be hard to scale. We're referring to VBA.

Microsoft developed Visual Basic for Applications to use with its Office suite because businesses can save time while increasing accuracy by automating tasks, which increases profits and productivity. And don't be put off by the fact that it's a programming language. Training such as the 2022 Ultimate Excel VBA Certification Bundle can quickly get you up to speed.

Excel automation almost always requires specialists familiar with VBA to set up. But since the benefits a business gains from automating tasks far outweigh the costs of doing so, they're usually willing to go for it, making VBA skills highly marketable.

4. Dashboards

The most effective decisions a business can make are based on reliable data. So data visualization using tables, charts, and graphs is an essential practice a company can use to determine how it's performing. However, the information is not quite as effective when there's a lag as you wait for the data to be formatted. That's why creating Excel dashboards to see your business performance data in real time is such a game-changer.

Your data is already in the spreadsheets, so dynamic dashboards can show you exactly what's happening as the information arrives. Not only do the easy-to-read graphs and charts deliver essential statistics at a glance, but they are shareable, so every stakeholder has what they need to make decisions.

5. Creating and tracking invoices

Computers don't make mistakes, but the humans responsible for entering data might. Every time a process involves human input, opportunities for problems increase. And, of course, those issues take time to solve, which can incur a variety of extra costs. Order processing errors, for example, can cause anything from losing a sale to bankruptcy. So creating or updating invoice and order tracking spreadsheets is crucial.

You can set up forms in spreadsheets to make sure new orders are entered correctly, including all of the required information. Save time and reduce errors during repetitive tasks by automating them or scanning all incoming jobs. Create reports that can be integrated into dashboards or other sheets. You can even tie an invoice tracking sheet to your inventory and sales reports to consolidate vital business information.

6. Sync with QuickBooks

Two-way syncing between Excel and Quickbooks has just become possible within the last few months, and the new Spreadsheet Sync reduced manual data entry errors as well as CSV import/export complications in one fell swoop. You can add and edit bulk data in Excel, then sync it directly to QuickBooks Online Advanced without having the learning curve of an entirely new tool. There are pre-made templates and consolidated reports that can be used for multiple companies. Plus, you can access refreshed data with a single click.

Each one of these features can save you time and reduce the chance of expensive mistakes. While QuickBooks Spreadsheet Sync will turbocharge your bookkeeping and the skills you can develop with the $39 2022 Ultimate Excel VBA Certification Bundle could actually advance your career. Since you're using Excel anyway, you may as well take advantage of the program's functions that can make your workdays easier and less stressful.

Editorial standards