I Love Spreadsheets!

Real Estate Agent with Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities #1 in Forest Land Mgmt

I Love Spreadsheets!

It is amazing the things that we can do with these often underutilized little tools.

When I interview office personnel they almost always tell me that they are very proficient with spreadsheets, yet a few questions later they reveal that they barely know what a spreadsheet is, much less a small fraction of the amazing things that these tools can do.

I know a lot after playing with these things for nearly thirty years, yet sometimes I feel like I only know how to use a fraction of the components available for me here.

Way back when…

When I started college they did not have spreadsheets as we know them, of course we did not have PC’s either.  But when we did get PC’s or as they were referred to then IBM’s or IBM clones, I was the first person in my circle of friends who went out and emptied his savings on one.

The first program to master was DOS, and after a couple of late nights during Christmas break, I was mastering WordStar as well, and a little basic programing for the things that I did not have software for.

Then one of my professors introduced me to Lotus 123, a very expensive program that did amazing things, of course I could not afford this top of the line pioneer of spreadsheets, but my professor was kind enough to make a copy of the many floppy disks needed to operate the program.  (Shortly after graduation I did go out and purhase my own spreadsheet)

This was in my 5th or 6th year of college when I had already completed my Forestry degree and was working on my Communications/PR degree when college was more about writing and less about the serious calculations involved in a scientific degree like Forestry.

While learning the capabilities of this spreadsheet, it became clear that I had discovered this a few years too late, it could have saved me hundreds of hours and several calculator keypads during some of my forestry classes. 

We had one particular class where the answer to one question involved nearly 10 hours of punching numbers into a calculator, hoping not to make any mistakes.  Generally these were best done with a friend, comparing the final result, if they were the same then a celebration was in order, but if they differed then one or both of us made a mistake somewhere and we both had to start over until the results came out the same.

These assignments in this class could have been done in a small fraction of the time with a spreadsheet, just think about how much time could have been saved.  Unfortunately spreadsheets were new at this time and I doubt that this professor even knew about them or their magical powers.

Over the years in running a Forestry Consulting business, I cannot begin to count the number of ways that a good knowledge of spreadsheets has saved me. 

It is also impressive when I get together with other foresters at meetings and we discuss as much or more about our computers than we do about trees. 

Databases, spreadsheets, and Geographical Information Systems are some of the hot topics.  Sometimes sharing what we have discovered, sometimes asking for advice from others who have discovered how to get past a difficult problem. 

Clearly these woodsy people have a good dose of computer geek buried in their DNA.

It is also not uncommon for me or one of my competitors to pick up the phone and ask or share advice on how to improve on our skills and calculations on one of these fine tools.

The big spreadsheet issues this week at Woodland Management Service involve forest inventory data tabulation and manipulation by Nick and the other Foresters.

The office people and I are doing some tweaking of the DNR’s MFL database so that we can print postcards and manipulation of USFS Forest Inventory data for a series of blogs that I am writing about the forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

And of course dozens of other little tasks in between the big projects.

So tell me, how are spreadsheets making your life easier?




pic credits

  • http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:New_Zealand_ObservedElectricityConsumptionSector.png
  • http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wikimedia_browser_share_pie_chart.jpg
  • http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Crystal_spreadsheet.png
  • http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Estimating_Spreadsheet.png

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Stacey Williams
Alpharetta, GA
Experienced Metro Atlanta Real Estate Agent

Bob - I wish I loved spreadsheets. I do use them and I know they do really great things it is just that learning curve is pretty steep. You took me WAY back with the DOS, WordStar and Lotus 123. Believe it or not I used to be a Lotus Notes programmer before becoming a real estate agent.

Mar 19, 2014 04:53 AM #1
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Bob- oh dear... I'm going to date myself.  I can remember in college, my business major boyfriend, walking around with a box of keypunch cards.  I never took a business coursebut years ago my husband's secretary introduced me to Excel.  I have used it every day of my life for all sorts of purposes. 

Mar 19, 2014 05:21 AM #2
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

Thanks for going down memory lane with me a bit today Stacy and Kathy, it is amazing the progression that these technical tools have taken in our lifetimes.

I did play with Lotus notes for a few hours, but declined purchasing it because it was too pricy for me at the time.

Before our university upgraded to the PC's, I did use the keypunch system for an urban street tree inventory on Fortran once.  It was a lot of fun, and it took a backpack full of cards for the program, one deck of cards for the main code, then another daily expanding deck for all of my data, then another deck with more processing code.  And if one card was off, the whole system failed to work.

Mar 19, 2014 06:40 AM #3
Suzanne De Vita
Online Associate Editor

Hey Bob - I'm (proudly!) known as the spreadsheet queen... have to agree that they're way underutilized... I probably don't even know everything they're capable of doing, either!

Mar 19, 2014 06:44 AM #4
Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com - Mason, OH
RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton)

Bob, I'm an engineer for my day job and I know I don't even begin to scrape the surface of Excel's full capability!  Those functions have a lot of power, and I love a good pivot table to quickly digest a lot of data.  Bill

Mar 19, 2014 07:03 AM #5
Debbie Reynolds
Platinum Properties - Clarksville, TN
Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent

Bob, My husband does too. He thinks better knowing everything has its own little column.

Mar 19, 2014 11:03 AM #6
Kristin Hamilton CA Realtor
Sun Lakes Realty - Banning, CA
(909) 557-6966- Specialize 55+ Communties Banning

Hi Bob,

This is a fascinating post about spread sheets. It is a good way to make the information seen in a organized format plus the average person can understand. Thanks for sharing and Happy Spring.

Mar 21, 2014 06:34 AM #7
Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807
Good Company Real Estate www.ChandlerRealEstate.weebly.com - Chandler, AZ
Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor

Bob, I, like you, have been using spreadsheets for a very long time. I find them very useful, and they can be somewhat complex when it comes right down to it. I like to use a spreadsheet for data, and then create graphs off of that data.

Mar 26, 2014 01:37 PM #8
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Bob Crane

Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671
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