Monday, April 7, 2014

Unique Excel Uses: Writing a Book

If you haven’t been able to tell by now I’m a huge fan of amusement parks and roller coasters. Huge fan is probably an understatement. I’ve noticed top ten type lists are hugely popular right now (which is why I created the top 11 Excel YouTube channels and top Excel shortcuts) so I decided to write a short ebook about the top 50 most terrifying roller coasters ever built. My idea was to list each coaster with some stats then share my reasoning for why it’s so terrifying. Since I wanted the same format for all fifty coasters I knew I would be doing a lot of copy and pasting. That’s when I decided to put my Excel spreadsheet and programmings skills to use.

Where many authors begin writing in Microsoft Word or some other Word processor I started in Microsoft Excel. Pictured below is the table I created with all the relevant stats:

After data is entered for all fifty coaster I run a macro that export the information to Microsoft Word in the format I wrote into the code. An example of one of the coaster is shown below:

Known for: Nurse in the station
Park: Crystal Beach
Location: Canada
Type: Wood
Opened: 1926
Closed: 1946
Designer/Manufacturer: Harry G. Traver
Height (ft.): 96
Drop (ft.): 90
Speed (mph): 60
The Crystal Beach Cyclone is considered to be the most extreme roller coaster ever built. The mother of all roller coasters spawned in 1927 at Crystal Beach Amusement Park in Ontario, Canada. For over twenty years this demonic creation terrorized over five million victims, dragging them through its demented dives, twisted turns, and wickedly warped trackage. While its ninety-six foot tall lift hill may be relatively small by today’s standards the Cyclone made up for lack of height with rapid fire transitions and perverted elements, such as eighty-degree banked turns, a high speed figure-eight, jazz-track (trick track), and tiny one foot bunny hops. Although this terrifying trip lasted only around forty seconds after cresting the lift there was almost no straight track to be found and the unrelenting pace made the ride so severe it was probably more than enough for most riders.

The macro outputs all fifty coasters. Now, all I have to do is add the front matter (title, index, copyright information, dedication, etc.), resources, about the author, and insert my pictures and it’s done. From concept to publication took a total of four weeks, working all in my spare time (so to those of you who think you don't have time or the skill to write an ebook, I think you can do it too)! Check out the completed book on Amazon (borrow for free if you're a Prime member).
This same technique can be applied towards websites, blogs, papers, and a great number of other tasks. What unique projects have you done in Excel?