Re: Structure of User-Authored Content vs Traditional Online Help

Subject: Re: Structure of User-Authored Content vs Traditional Online Help
From: Tony Chung <tonyc -at- tonychung -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 2010 11:33:23 -0700

On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 7:46 AM, <Brian -dot- Henderson -at- mitchell1 -dot- com> wrote:
> I am definitely a person who would prefer to pick the brains of another
> human before searching documentation. It usually saves time...

Yes, as well as increases communication and builds rapport: additional
essentials in working effectively with teams.

> A perfect example of mine also involves Excel.

I can see where this is going. Let's jump to...

> (BTW, I dare any non-expert to find a solution to the sorting problem in
> Excel's Help.)

Ack. I defy anyone to find ANYTHING useful in M$ HELL-p. First, it
doesn't realize that when you open help from within Word, you don't
want any suggestions that involve Access. Second, it doesn't realize
that you were asking about help for Excel. Third, VBA functions like
"replace()" aren't documented ANYWHERE. At least, they weren't when I
blogged http://tonychung.ca/2009/04/ms-word-has-a-replace-vba-function/

> I needed to sort a column of mixed-formatted years; some cells contained
> "XXXX", and others contained "XXXX-XX". Apparently, the introduction of
> a dash changes the nature of the cells, and they will not sort together
> with non-dashed numbers.

The easy answer is that Excel sorts numbers and text cells
differently, so before you sort cells with mixed values, ensure they
were converted to text first. This can be solved easily by creating an
additional column that contains one function:

=CONCATENATE( A1, "" )

where A1 contains the actual sort value. Copying the function down the
rows updates this cell reference to the one for that row. The
CONCATENATE function stores a computed text value, so when that column
is used as the sort field, it treats the value as text. Remember that
sorting as text introduces other issues (1 is followed by 10 and 11
instead of 2, for instance), but if a consistent number of characters
is used then it should be okay.

One would think that selecting the initial sort column and formatting
the cells to "Text" would solve the problem, right? Wrong. Excel does
not convert the value within the cells when formatting changes. You
need to open each cell and press enter to store the value again as its
new type. Hence the CONCATENATE trick.

Not surprisingly, tips like this won't or can't appear in software
help. Only frustrated UGC can give you this type of value!

-Tony
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References:
Structure of User-Authored Content vs Traditional Online Help: From: Tara Charter
RE: Structure of User-Authored Content vs Traditional Online Help: From: Brian.Henderson

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