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?