Sunday, January 31, 2016

5 Lessons Learned from Super Bowl Squares 2016 to Improve Your Excel Skills

Last week I released the latest and greatest version of my Super Bowl squares game template with more ways to play than before. Even if you don’t care for football or sports, numerous lessons can be learned by dissecting this spreadsheet, including:
  • How to assign a macro to a command button
  • How to clear cells with a macro
  • How to generate random numbers in Excel with a macro
  • How to use a macro to create a list based on cell values
  • How to create a dynamic drop down list
I thought I would offer a few more details and insights into how each of these features work.

1. How to assign a macro to a command button

To insert a command button into your Excel spreadsheet you’ll want the Developer tab to be available. Go to File > Options> Customize Ribbon and under Main Tabs check Developer. Now at the top of Excel you should see the Developer tab. Click on the Insert button drop drown, then under form controls click Command Button. Place the button wherever you want along with the desired size. To have a macro run on the click of the button, right click the command button and select Assign macro. Pick your macro and you’re good to go!

2. How to Clear a Range with an Excel Macro

To clear a range with an Excel macro, use the code below. When you click the “Clear Numbers” button, it is linked to this macro and will clear the range.

Sub Clear_Random_Numbers()
'clear the random numbers
Dim DelRange As Range
Set DelRange = Range("B5:B14")
End Sub

Unlike a formula, if you insert a row or column and your target range moves, the macro will not update automatically like a formula will. Keep this in mind when making changes to a spreadsheet containing a macro. It’s a good idea to have the layout and format fixed as much as possible before writing your macro code.

3. How to generate random numbers in Excel with a macro

To generate random numbers in a range with a macro, modify the code below. This code generates random numbers between 0 and 9. To start from 1, take out the “-1”. To get more random numbers, change 10 to 100 or whatever value you need.

Sub Generate_Random_Numbers()
'define range of cells for NFC random numbers
Dim NFCRange As Range
Set NFCRange = Range("B5:B14")
For Each c In NFCRange
c.Value = (Int((10 * Rnd + 1))) - 1
Loop Until WorksheetFunction.CountIf(NFCRange, c.Value) < 2

4. Macro to Create a List Based on Cell Values

The next macro for the Super Bowl squares sheet is for the Assign Names Randomly sheet. This style of play allows users to enter their name then input how many squares they want. So we need to generate the complete list of names. The key to this program is getting the row numbers to add correctly.

Nick 3
Sarah 2
Henry 1

List would look like this:


How do we get the result? Use loops to repeat the code that adds the name to the list.

Sub Assign_Random_Number_For_Names()
'stop screen updating so macro runs faster
Application.ScreenUpdating = False
'clear the range
Dim DelRange As Range
Set DelRange = Range("AA2:AA101")

'generate a list of all the names in order to populate the field
Dim row As Integer
Dim NumberSquares As Integer
Dim Squares As Integer
Dim RowNum As Integer
Dim PlayerName As String

RowNum = 2

For row = 2 To 101

NumberSquares = Excel.Cells(row, 24)

For Squares = 1 To NumberSquares
PlayerName = Excel.Cells(row, 23)

Excel.Cells(RowNum, 27) = PlayerName

RowNum = RowNum + 1



5. How to create a dynamic drop down list

In this spreadsheet you may have also noticed I used a dynamic list – a drop down list where the values change based on other cell’s value. There are only one hundred squares in Super Bowl squares, so when each player picks how many squares they want, the total value can only add to one hundred. When making your selection it should only show how many squares remain, basically it needs to subtract from 100 the total value of squares already entered. This is done in column P using an IF and ROW formula. If the total value of squares taken is less than one hundred, then show the row number, if not, show nothing.

I hope by examining this template you’ve learned a thing or two about Excel.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Super Bowl Squares 2016 Excel Template for Office Pools

Match-ups for the 50th Super Bowl are set which means it's time to download your Super Bowl Squares 2016 Excel template for office pools. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will play the Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, February 7th at 6:30pm. To make the big game even more fun start a football office pool using our printable Super Bowl spreadsheet. Fill in the squares, watch the game, laugh at the commercials, and see who wins and maybe make a little money at the same time, or help. If you’re a fan of a team that like mine (the Factory of Sadness) that will never make it to the championship (or playoffs for that matter), then playing Super Bowl Squares will make watching the game more exciting and gives you something to actually root for. Others may be torn between cheering for their favorite team and cheering for their squares.

This year’s Super Bowl Squares spreadsheet includes three different versions and you can choose the way you want to play:

1. Printable version - This print ready version contains a blank grid, simply print it off and write all the player’s names down on the piece of paper. It’s quick and easy!

2. Pick your own squares - Manage the office Super Bowl pool directly in Excel. In this version, each player gets to pick what squares they want. Once all are taken, press the randomize button to generate the random score numbers.  No modifications are necessary, though you can if you so desire.

3. Assign squares randomly - In this new version, type each player's name in the manager sheet and use the drop down menu to assign how many squares to give each player. Then click the Assign Names Randomly button and it will automatically populate the grid with all of the names.

super bowl spreadsheet

Super Bowl Squares Rules & How to Play

Listed below are the basic instructions on how to play Super Bowl Squares (which are also included within the spreadsheet for the three different versions, along with an example):

1. Participants “purchase” individuals squares by writing their name in their desired squares, until all one hundred are filled.
2. After all squares are taken, the numbers 0 through 9 are written in the empty horizontal and vertical rows in random order (draw the numbers out of a hat).
3. After the end of each quarter of the game, match the last digit of each team's score to the corresponding square to find the winner.

Tip: 0, 3, and 7 are the best numbers to get. 8, not so much.

Below is a short video tutorial I put together of how to use my Super Bowl Squares template in Excel

Download the Super Bowl spreadsheet for free, simply click the link below then click on the “Download” link in the upper right hand corner.That’s it!

Super Bowl Squares 2016 Excel Template for Office Pools.xlsm download

Or download here to subscribe and receive instant notification whenever the file is updated.

Please let me know in the comments or by email which version you'll use to play - printable, pick your squares, or randomly assign names.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

How to change the default arrow size in Excel

As an engineer at my day job, I’m constantly making diagrams in Excel. I have to point at and label different components using lines and arrows in Excel, but it’s rather annoying when I have to change the line weight and arrow color every single time. But this is Excel we’re talking about here, where there is an option for almost everything. So yes, you can actually change the formatting defaults of a shape, text box, or other object and then make your changes the new defaults for anything you add later. For example, if I want all of my arrows in Excel to be colored red, I can change the default to red so I don’t have to change it every single time – a great time saving tip!

To change the default arrow size and color in Excel (or any other shape) follow these steps:

1. Add the arrow (or other shape) that you want to change the formatting defaults for (insert>shapes>arrow)
2. Select the arrow
3. Change the arrow’s color and weight or any other changes that you want
4. Right-click the arrow, and then click Set as Default Line.

Now you can create new arrows with the same formatting and not have to create it or copy and paste it over and over again.

The new default only applies to the open workbook. I have not yet discovered a way to permanently change the arrow size, from session to session or workbook to workbook, other than possibly saving it as a template. Do you have any other suggestions how to do so?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Printable 2016 NFL Playoff Bracket

The 2015-2016 NFL Playoffs are set to begin on Saturday, January 9th a week after the end of the crazy 2015 regular season. Two wildcard games will be played Saturday, January 9 and two games will be played Sunday, January 10. Second round games will be played Saturday and Sunday, January 16 and 17. Third round games will be played Sunday, January 24. The NFL SuperBowl, number 50!, will be played Sunday, February 7th. 

2016 nfl playoff bracket

I've once again created a printable 2016 NFL playoff bracket with team helmets that you can download for free to use in your office pools. The spreadsheet also includes the complete 2015 NFL playoff schedule including game times, dates, and TV stations. Download the file by clicking the link below (file is hosted on

As a Browns fan, it's hard to once again see two other teams in our division make it to the playoffs while we miss out! And we still don't have the answer at quarterback. Sigh... So who are you cheering for?

If you enjoy this spreadsheet, please use the share buttons to send to your family, friends, and coworkers. Also, be sure to check back after the playoffs are over and I’ll be posting my Superbowl squares spreadsheet.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top 5 Excel Help Posts From 2015

2015 is coming to a close so it’s that time of year to sit back and reflect about what transpired this past year and what is to come. Listed below are the top five most popular Excel tips or how-to guides I posted in 2015.

On December 6th, Excel Spreadsheets Help turned six years old! Sometime in the first quarter of 2016 I expect this little blog to surpass the 1.5 million page view mark, no small accomplishment. Sadly, I posted fewer articles in 2015 than any other year, so my goal for 2016 is to at least double the number of tips I wrote this past year.

What did you accomplish in 2015? What are your Excel spreadsheet goals for 2016? How can I help you achieve your goals? What would you like to see more of in 2016? Anything specific?

Have a great holiday season, thanks for your continued support. See you in 2016!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

2015 NCAA Bowl Prediction Pool with Playoff Bracket

The 2015 NCAA college football bowl season is here again which means it’s time to make your picks and predictions about who you think will win each game. One of the best times of the holiday season (other than giving and receiving gifts) is gathering around the TV and rooting for your Alma mater or hometown football team. This year has the added bonus of not just single bowl games but the second year of a four team playoff to determine the national champion.

2015 college football bowl pool manager and schedule excel

Features and upgrades for the bowl prediction pool over the previous college football bowl pool manager spreadsheets include the following:
  • Easy method to make each bowl game worth a different point value, so the national championship game and semi-finals can be worth more points
  • Updated leaderboard tab with new stats
  • Separate entry sheet to pass out to participants/co-workers
  • Complete NCAA college football bowl schedule with game times and TV stations
  • New stat sheet to track each conference's record during bowl season
  • The bowl prediction sheets include the football helmet designs for every team (taken from the 2015 college football helmet schedule spreadsheet), their win-loss record, and the logo for all bowl games. I added the helmets so those players who aren't big college football fans can pick a winner based on their favorite helmet design!

Fun Facts: Last year, Fresno State was the only team with a losing record (6-7) while Florida State had the best record at 13-0. This year, there are three teams with identical losing records of 5-7: Minnesota, Nebraska, and San Jose State.

The beauty of this football bowl manager is you will not have to change or modify any formulas yourself (unless you want to of course). Instructions are included within the Excel file and shows you exactly how to add more players (either manually or by using the button that is linked to a macro).

There are now three ways to add participant’s data:
  1. Manual entry using the drop down lists
  2. Copy and paste from the selection sheet to the bowl manager
  3. Use the import macro to automatically import a player’s data into the pool manager by way of a macro (not yet ready to use, check back soon)
I will explain how it works in a later post. But if you were wondering about the nuts and bolts, my spreadsheet uses the rank without ties formula: =RANK(num, ref) + COUNTIF(range,num)-1. in column A, for bowl games with really long names (I’m looking at you San Diego County Credit union Poinsettia Bowl) I use the excel shortcut alt+enter to add text to the next line.

To download the college bowl pool spreadsheets simply click the link below which will take you to the, where the file is hosted. Next, click on the “Download” link in the upper right hand corner. That’s it!

2015 College Football Bowl Pool Manager.xlsm download
2015 College Football Bowl Prediction Entry Form.xls download

Here's a quick screen capture video to show you quickly how the spreadsheet works and how to insert new player columns:

Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, find any bugs, or have any suggestions for improvement. I love that people are using this Bowl Prediction Game to help raise money for charity, that's so awesome to hear! What team are you rooting for?

Monday, November 23, 2015

2015 Holiday Gift Guide for Excel Users

The 2015 holiday season is officially upon us here in the United States which means it’s time for my annual gift giving guide. I used to panic every year whenever my spouse, parents, and siblings asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I needed to give them an idea otherwise I’d end up with an ugly sweater or some random gadget I would never use. So to help alleviate some of my stress I started compiling my own holiday gift guide. It’s kind of like the big toy catalog you used to get as a kid, only this is for adults. I’ve made a list of items I think would be very useful or exciting for your fellow Excel users, sorted by different categories. Some of these items I already use on a daily basis and others are things that are on my own personal wish list. Enjoy!


For the first time ever, I am giving a discount on my paperback book, 76 Excel Tips to Improve Your Productivity and Efficiency. For 20% off use discount code: 2F5RYRQC when purchasing directly from CreateSpace here:

Excel 2013 Power Programming with VBA by John Walkenbach. This book covers all the methods and tools you need to know in order to program with Excel.


Another shameless self-plug. For the first time ever, I am giving a discount on my paperback book Coasters 101: An Engineer’s Guide to Roller Coaster Design. Ever wonder how roller coasters are made so you scream your head off but return safely to the station every time? For 25% off, enter discount code: UY8WJQMM when purchasing directly from:

The Martian by Andy Weir. If you only read one (fiction) book this year, The Martian has to be the one. I absolutely love this book (haven’t seen the movie yet). As soon as I finished it the first time, I immediately re-read it – something I’ve never done before.It’s about an astronaut (with a great sense of humor) who gets left behind on a mission to Mars and has to figure out how to survive. If you’re interested in space exploration, problem solving, engineering, chemistry, botany, or disco + 70s TV shows, I highly recommend you read The Martian. Maybe the best book I’ve read in the past five years.

Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Lost Stars by Claudia Gray. If you’re a Star Wars fan like I am you’re probably anxiously awaiting The Force Awakens movie on December 18th. This book will wet your appetite before the movie comes out. The story takes place during the original trilogy but offers a new perspective in which the main characters don’t really know anything about The Force, the Jedi, the Dark Side, etc. which I think is a theme that will carry over into The Force Awakens. The story also ends about a year or two after The Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi and does contain the Battle of Jakku and how at least one of those Star Destroyers ends up smashed on the desert planet. If you’re only going to read one Star Wars related book, this is the one.

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. This book contains hilarious and informative answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask, like: What if everyone on earth aimed a laser pointer at the moon at the same time? What if you could drain all the water from the oceans? What if all the lightning in the world struck the same place? Very fun and interesting read!


Laser Pointer. This laser pointer always comes in handy when it’s time for a meeting or presentation. Plus, it doubles as a toy to keep your cats entertained.

Chromecast – I actually have used Chromecast at my day job before. I’ve created screen capture videos and uploaded them to YouTube, then I use the very portable Chromecast to display the videos directly on a TV (haven’t used the Amazon equivalent, so not sure if it works the same).

Microsoft Surface 2: There are newer, more powerful Surface tablets available but they're pretty expensive, running around $1000. The Surface 2 is now pretty affordable at around $250 and is still one of the best tablets for Excel and other Microsoft Office products. In fact, it comes with fully functional versions of Excel, Word, Outlook, Powerpoint, and Onenote for free. As far as I know, no other tablet has anything comparable. 32 and 64GB versions are available.

Excel Quick Reference Sheet - Laminated quick reference showing step-by-step instructions and shortcuts for how to use Microsoft Office Excel 2013.


Google Cardboard – Google Cardboard is described as Virtual Reality (VR) on a budget. Gives you a taste of the capabilities of the Oculus Rift at a fraction of the cost. Though be warned it may cause motion sickness if the app you’re looking at doesn’t perfectly track your head movement. It’s fun to assemble and play with.

Dash and Dot – programmable robots. If you’re into programming things like Excel macros and you want to teach your kids the joys of programming then I’ve found the perfect gift for you. These cute robots are designed to help introduce children to the wonderful world of programming. Oh, and they’re fun for adults too! Can’t wait to use this with my son in a few years.


Are you putting any of these items on your holiday wish list? If so, let me know which ones in the comments below. Do have anything you’d like to recommend to me?