INDEX BY: Edition / Title
Microsoft Excel 97: Complete Concepts and Techniques
by Gary Shelly, Thomas Cashman and James Quasney
published in 1997 by Course Technology (International Thomson Publishing in UK)
433pp ISBN 0 7895 1341 2 31

Microsoft Excel 97: Complete Concepts and Techniques

This is a further addition to the Shelly Cashman MS Office 97 series of glossy textbooks in which the authors provide step-by-step instructions to complete a series of related tasks. Some of the steps are very small indeed and may be considered by some readers to be over fussy. However, this is an attractive and accessible text providing a learning experience beyond that of a software manual and set in a detailed context not normally to be found in an 'idiot's guide'.

Readers complete six projects of increasing complexity, along with two additional feature sections that usefully show how to integrate Excel 97 files with other documents. The section and page referencing is rather complicated and detracts from being able to navigate easily within the book. What is the problem with sequential page numbering, appropriately referenced to a detailed index?

It is perfectly possible, perhaps even desirable, to read the text away from the computer as each step is illustrated by a copy of the author's screen. In the first couple of projects there are concerns with the fundamentals of using a computer, for example 'Mouse Usage'. This could be annoying to readers who have prior basic knowledge. Too often such attempts to make the text complete and self-contained interrupt the flow of instructional meaning. On a number of occasions I was tempted to mutter "For heaven's sake get on with it". Of course any text that aims to provide a complete answer does run the risk of becoming turgid.

The reader's eye is caught, on already very busy pages, by margin boxes offering more information and 'other ways' of executing the same manoeuvre. The usefulness of these 'other ways' might have been enhanced by some explanation as to the circumstances in which their adoption would have been preferable. Room might have been found for such explanations by not including quite so many tiresome screen examples.

As with many such textbooks, the context for the examples and the exercises are for a US audience. The lack of a British edition will possibly marginalise interest in the UK and course tutors, seeking a core text for their students, will probably look elsewhere. However, the technically faultless text and illustrations form a handsome resource for independent study and a comprehensive source of reference.

Malcolm Hughes
University of the West of England, Bristol