Creating help files in Excel?

Subject: Creating help files in Excel?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Gary Robinson <RobinsonG2 -at- michigan -dot- gov>
Date: Sat, 09 Sep 2006 10:49:54 -0400

Gary Robinson wondered: <<I have several hundred fields in a new software application that need to be documented. Both the project manager and the software architect have said these files have to be in Excel so they can be batch loaded into the software for compilation. Typically, my field-level help will be a title and a 2 to 4 sentence paragraph with the title and occasional key term bolded...>>

If I've got the meaning right, it sounds like the application itself is an Excel spreadsheet... right? Given that this is the case, it's worth trying to encourage the developers to embed the help directly in the worksheets containing the calculations. This can work much better than forcing users to leave their task to consult a separate help file. One nice thing about Excel is that you can place all the help text in another page of the spreadsheet, and import it by reference into the pages that contain the actual calculations.

<<So far, I can find no way to create or import formatted text or line breaks in Excel. Has anyone found a way to produce formatted text and line breaks within a single spreadsheet cell?>>

How to do this will undoubtedly depend on the version of Excel you're using. Older versions did not support named styles like the paragraph styles in Word, but you can certainly select a batch of cells simultaneously and apply formatting to them: font, font size, color, emphasis, etc. In terms of line breaks, you can press Alt-Enter on the PC and Option-Enter on the Mac to force a line break. You can also set cells to expand to the size of the contents... not sure how, but you should be able to find this by searching the Help for "cell size".

Also check your version's online help to see whether it supports the import of RTF (rich text format) files; if so, these should preserve some or all of the text formatting.
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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca

(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)

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Creating help files in Excel: From: Gary Robinson

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