INDEX BY: Edition / Title
A Student's Guide to Excel 7 for Windows 95 on the PC
by Adrian Black, Mark Maynard, Richard Rodger
published in 1999 by Software Made Simple (01227 361 263)
42pp ISBN 1 874093 15 6 5.95 + p&p (see below)

Pricing note:
see www.s-m-s.co.uk for more details. Price shown is for single copy. All of SMS publications are available on CDROM in Acrobat format for an annual licence of 180. Internet based versions are also available and included on the CD.

A Student's Guide to Excel 7 for Windows 95 on the PC

A Student's Guide to Excel 7 for Windows 95 on the PC is a useful guide to a powerful piece of software, which is rarely used to its fullest potential. The guide opens with a detailed contents page, broken down into logical sections, including the use of Excel as a flat file database and appendices which cover error messages and functions. Appendix A provides a clear explanation of the most common error messages, a very useful guide for the non-ICT specialist, whilst Appendix B outlines functions - although it could be argued to the usefulness of this list of functions in teaching basic Excel!

The introduction very briefly outlines the intentions of the guide, and moves quickly on to Section Two - Starting Excel. Throughout the text 'screen shots' (or 'screen dumps', whichever you prefer!) guide the user through what they should expect to see on the screen. It also explains key terms in simple, straightforward language, avoiding 'jargon' wherever possible. The guide is generally very well laid out and the screen shots extremely supportive to the user, however the small print makes it more difficult to read.

Although the authors avoid jargon, the level of language used may not make this guide suitable for general classroom use. The authors have also used features such as bold text and featuring notes and tips in boxes, to highlight and reinforce specific points within the guide which is helpful, as are the screen shots of individual buttons to help identify specific icons. Examples of functions are used throughout the guide, however no 'exercises' are given for the user to try out the features and functions being explained.

As mentioned, the guide is broken down into sections which are clearly titled, i.e. Starting Excel, Calculating, Printing, etc., and each section is divided into sub-sections which are numbered 2.1, 3.1, etc. This approach allows the user to either work through the guide, or to easily find a specific piece of information without having to read through the whole guide.

This guide outlines the main features that would be used if applying Excel within a classroom, from creating a simple worksheet through to using charts, graphs, graphics and using Excel as a flat file database. However the lack of exercises and the language used do not facilitate using this guide within secondary classes, I feel it would be more suited for teacher use, Post-16 or as a staff training resource. It is an excellent guide for supporting staff and older students.

Section 11, Excel as a Database, was found to be particularly interesting. Through teaching the basics of Excel and then moving on to teach Excel as a database can be an effective approach for anyone teaching this particular topic. The concepts of a database can sometimes be difficult for students to grasp initially, and this approach may simplify the exercise, especially if Excel has already be used and students are familiar with it. The guide outlines how to create the initial data sheet, moving on to sorting and manipulating data, creating data forms, adding, deleting and amending records, simple searches, filtering data and creating complex searches. Finally, Appendix C gives additional information on importing and exporting data to support Section 12.

Whilst the use of the Microsoft Office suite facilitates the use of Access for database work, some students may initially find Access difficult and confusing. Therefore approaching the topic of databases through using Excel gives students a much better grasp of the concepts, introducing them to key terms in a more familiar environment, before introducing Access.

Reviewed by:
Margaret Conroy, Susan Marsh, Lisa Perry and Emma Whetham
Student Teachers (IT) at Liverpool JMU