Whether the world of Excel is shiny and new to you, or you are a grizzled veteran of many a spreadsheet campaign, prone to long and rambling stories about the good old Multiplan days, chances are that at some stage you will get stuck on something. Given that most IT departments know more about string theory than they do about Excel, this is where the world of online Excel forums comes to your rescue.
There are far too many for me to list all of them, so this is just a list, in no particular order, of the ones I spend most time in:
- StackOverflow (Excel-VBA)
- The Code Cage (it’s not just about coding, it covers all MS Office apps and more)
- Experts Exchange
- VBA Express
- Excel Guru
- Eileen’s Lounge (named in memory of Eileen Wharmby)
- Windows Secrets Lounge
- The Macro Man (coming soon)
There are also many others, such as MS Answers.
All of these sites have their own feel, quirks and idiosyncrasies, so I suggest you find the one (or more) where you feel most comfortable.
One thing they have in common is that they all have rules. It is wise to read and follow these before you begin, even if you are in a rush! Some sites are pretty lenient in their enforcement of the rules, while others will shoot you at dawn for poor question titles.
The key things to remember generally are:
- The rules exist for a reason. Read them! (and read the FAQ section if there is one) Even if the moderators seem tolerant, many regular posters frequent more than one forum and may simply ignore your questions if you do not behave properly – using meaningless titles like “Excel help!!!” will not help your cause.
- Be polite. Chances are that anyone helping you is volunteering their time (nobody on the sites I mentioned is getting paid for helping). If you don’t play nicely, they will take their answers and go home!
- The clearer your question, the better the answer you will get. Try to state clearly what you need as well as what you’ve tried that did not work. (people often like to know that you have at least made some effort yourself).
- If you have a problem with code, be specific. Did you get an error? If so, what was it, and on which line? Or did the wrong thing happen? Again, if so, what? Hopefully you get the idea.
- Be patient. Unless you want to pay to hire a consultant (and you can at some forums), you may have to wait for the right person to see your question. Although many forums allow you to bump your question, this can actually harm your chances of getting a response. Many regulars start their days online with a search for questions with no replies.
Your mantra for the day: Be polite, be specific, and be patient. And breathe.
Note: Not all of these sites allow you to post file attachments, and in some cases you may not want to anyway, for whatever reason. For such situations, there are add-ins available that will allow you to post copies of your ranges as tables, using either HTML or BB Code (depending on the forum).
To that end I have amalgamated a couple of these tools (the MrExcel HTML Maker by Richard Schollar and a BB Code add-in created by several members of the MrExcel and ExcelForum boards – primarily Marcelo Branco.) into one add-in (Forum Tools) that you can download here. The code is unprotected so feel free to modify it to suit your needs.
The Forum Tools add-in is also now Mac compatible. It will create a new custom toolbar with five buttons on it (the built-in toolbars and Ribbon in Mac versions not currently being editable, sadly).