Monday, August 3, 2015

When to use macros in Excel?

Automating tasks and process in Excel with macros can be a great way to save time and improve efficiency. But not every task requires a lengthy macro code to be written, tested, debugged, and rolled out to the entire team. There is a good time and a bad time to use macros in your everyday job. You don’t want to waste time writing a program if it is never going to be used, or if there is a simple non-macro solution. Sometimes using macros can be a little overkill, you know, like fishing with dynamite.

How do you know when you should write a macro to solve a problem and when you shouldn’t? Listed below are the cases when it is a GOOD time to implement an Excel macro solution.

  • The most obvious situation to use Excel macros is to replace manual, repetitive tasks. If you find yourself doing something over and over, like copy-paste-copy-paste, you should definitely be automating that task. 
  • If you ever think to yourself “there has to be a better way to do this” then that is a good clue that VBA macros may be the way to go. 
  • Along the same line of thought is reducing the time to manage large numbers of spreadsheets. You can do batch processing with Excel macros, like converting hundreds of Excel files into PDFs, exporting data to Word or PPT, taking screenshots, or combining Excel files.
  •  Macros are useful when there are large numbers of workbook users who need to reuse variants of the same spreadsheets repetitively. Instead of using a template, sometimes it makes more sense to have a macro that builds the foundations of a new workbook on the fly. 
  •  A macro is a good solution if there are tasks that would be practically impossible to do manually. 
  • You should use a macro if there are some tasks which you want to be very sure the user will not miss, such as a series of steps that must be executed in a certain order. Macros can be a form of quality control and are a great way to eliminate human errors. 
  • Automated solutions can enhance the productivity of non-skilled Excel users. If the projects are just taking too long, maybe due to lack of proper training, you can eliminate some of that headache by using macros. 

As you can see, there are countless tasks and processes than can be made more efficient by using macros within your Excel spreadsheets. You can find some of the macros I've written on the spreadsheet downloads page.

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