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Getting over the Excel hump

Spreadsheets are good aren’t they, they are familiar, you know what to do with them, everyone uses them, why change?

Programming on the other hand, that’s not for you. You’re not trying to build Facebook, you just want to manipulate some data and for that you're happy with your good old spreadsheet. Now if you believe what I have just written then I’ve got news for you, it's wrong. Well the bit about Facebook was technically true, however the bit about programming not being for spreadsheet users certainly isn’t. Languages such as Python and R offer spreadsheet users a gateway to be able to analyse their data programmatically. You may ask why you would look to take the leap into programming as your spreadsheet is working just fine for you. There are loads of reasons as to why you should so I'll enlighten you with a few:

  1. How much data can your spreadsheet handle? You can store a lot in a spreadsheet, but you can easily process much bigger datasets if you use a computing language.
  2. Can you repeat what you have done? With a computing language you can easily and quickly repeat the calculations that you have already done so you could get your calculations checked by a fellow coder.
  3. Can you redo the work you’ve done quickly? Now saving time is a huge plus and that analysis and manipulation of data that took hours can be done again on a new dataset at the click of a button.
  4. Do you want to do complex modelling with your data? From linear regression to neural networks computer languages such as Python and R offer libraries to access a variety of complex modelling tools.
  5. Do you need some cool graphs? Both R and Python have excellent plotting ability that allow you to create highly customizable and professional looking graphs that move beyond what you can do in a spreadsheet.

Whilst programming can seem daunting, even complete novices can pick up the skills needed to analyse data within a couple of days by taking one of the courses offered by ICAEW. From there you’ll have the building blocks to allow you to explore what can be done via programming and really get over the Excel hump!

Rob Mastrodomenico


The views expressed are the author’s and not ICAEW’s.