Today I had occasion to want to split the text within a cell, and left-justify part of it, and right-justify the rest.
Excel can’t do this.
And, while it’s obscure, I found quite a few people on the internet who’ve wanted to do the same thing, but can’t (see here, here and here).
There is a pretty obvious workaround: break the text into 2 adjacent cells, and left-justify the one and right-justify the other. (For a number of reasons I think this would create new problems, so I didn’t want to take this route).
I was running Excel 2010 on a Windows 7 machine (vintage about 18 months ago). I’m not sure how much RAM I have (does anyone keep track of that any more?).
In my spreadsheet, I had an array that was 16,931 rows long. A lot of trial and error showed that it wouldn’t work to copy 110 or more columns that size.
But, gladly, some trial and error also showed that I could go up to 52 columns with no problem (some blue circling from Windows, but the whole copy was done in well under a minute.
One sign that you’re pushing the limits is that the animated dashed line that surrounds a selected range in Excel stops moving. But, this doesn’t mean your stuck yet. You may also get the blue circle to appear and reappear a few times. Again, this is not a signal that you’ve killed Excel.
Unfortunately, I observed no symptoms when I crossed the threshold from possible to not possible. All I know is that the time to complete a big copy goes up steadily until that threshold is reached. After that, the time goes up very rapidly. In short, lack of responsiveness for more than 5 minutes means you should probably close Excel in Windows Task Manager, and start over.
* Why was I copying so much? I have a big data set in a single worksheet, and I had to create a large number of variations on the data series using various Excel functions. But, what a stats program really wants is just the numbers, and not the functions. So I was copying the finished array full of functions, and doing a paste special to values in a clean workbook. The paste special itself didn’t seem to bother Excel at all. If it can get the chunk that needs copying into memory, it can paste it.
What do all these have in common that has been neglected?
NONE OF THEM ARE PEER-REVIEWED!
I am not making this up.
While the American Economic Review is the flagship journal of our profession, the annual papers and proceedings issue, is made up of very short pieces that do not undergo peer review. Rogoff has this piece listed on his webpage simply as AER, which is very un-needed bit of resume padding.
Similarly, the Journal of Economic Perspectives, is a publication designed to provide popular presentations of research questions. On its webpage it states, “Articles appearing in the journal are normally solicited by the editors and associate editors.”
Everyone inside the economics profession knows this. Either R&R did not seek to publish their results in a peer reviewed journal, or no peer reviewed journal would accept them.
I think there’s one poorly written sentence here: “Everyone inside the economics profession knows this.” When I read that, I think Kevin is referring to everyone know Rogoff and Reinhart pulled a fast one. I think what he means is that everyone knows those 3 outlets are not peer-reviewed. But, for my part, I never put it together that they went 3 for 3.
Meanwhile, out here in the hinterlands, I don’t count anything I do as serious unless it’s peer-reviewed.
Here’s a little hotkey quirkiness. If you access the options menu (ALT+F+T), the tabs on the left do not show hotkeys. But, the first letters work. For example, you can do ALT+F+T+F to get to formulas.
Here’s the thing: what about “Advanced” and “Add-Ins”? It turns out that ALT+F+T+A gets you to “Advanced”. But both ALT+F+T+F+A+A and ALT+F+T+A+D will both get you to “Add-Ins”.
Not sure how widely applicable this is, but it’s good enough to go in my bag of tricks.
I’ve always thought this kind of funny: even people who are “bad at math” tend to have a good handle on order of operations. You know: do the exponents first, then multiplication and division, and then addition and subtraction.
It turns out that Excel violates that standard in one way. Like all things with computers though, our lack of clarity about what we’re doing is part of the problem: GIGO.
So, consider the following:
You and I look at this and say: “three minus five equals minus two”. That’s correct, but it misses an important subtlety: the two occurrences of minus in that phrase are homophones — they sound the same but have different meanings!
A better way to state that equation would be “three subtract five equals negative two”. That’s correct because subtraction requires you to know both numbers, while negation only requires you to use one.
So, what does Excel do? In order of operations, most people lump negation together with subtraction. Excel does not: it does negation before even exponents.
This can very easily make a difference in your Excel calculations. Consider this
If you evaluated this by hand, you’d do the exponent before the minus, like so:
-3^2 = -(3^2) = –9
But, not Excel. Excel says that it makes a difference whether that minus is used for subtraction or negation: subtraction would go after exponentiation, but negation would go before exponentiation. So, Excel does it this way:
-3^2 = (-3)^2 = 9
Wow. There’s got to be a world of hurt in the business world from that one.
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