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Are you using spreadsheets that someone else created? When you create an Excel spreadsheet from scratch, you can control every single aspect. That’s not the case when someone else passes it on to you.
Especially at work, it’s not uncommon to inherit an Excel file from someone else. If you’re not careful, this could cause some major headaches down the line. Fortunately, a little foresight will go a long way toward ensuring that you can get along well with the spreadsheet in question.
Consider these five points, and you should avoid most of the common pitfalls associated with using someone else’s Excel document.
1. Update the Document Information
If you have never checked out your Excel documents’ Info screen before, we don’t blame you, it’s easily missed. The information is well worth updating when you take on someone else’s spreadsheet, however. Why? They might have made changes that you’ll want to know about.
Take the example above. The text added to the Title, Tags, Categories, and Author fields might be a little bit embarrassing if it was sent to a co-worker. In most cases, there won’t be anything incriminating on the Info screen — but why leave it up to chance? It’ll take less than a minute to check it out, and you can be sure that when you come to send the document to someone else, you won’t regret it.
To access the Info screen, click File.
You’ll be transported directly to the Info section, where you can make any necessary adjustments before sending it on to a colleague.
2. Save a Copy Before You Do Anything Else
Once you inherit someone else’s document, it’s tempting to dive in and start treating it as your own. However, tiny changes might end up having a massive impact on the way the spreadsheet works.
To ensure that you don’t make a tweak that breaks any VBA programming code in Excel, or adjusts a figure that turns out to be essential to another sheet, make a copy before you do anything. That way, you’ll always have an untouched version of the spreadsheet to go back to.
If worst comes to worst, know that you can also use Excel 2016’s file history to restore a previous version of the document. Click the circular arrow/clock icon in the top right to expand the Activity pane, then look for previous versions and select Open version.
3. Check for Hidden Sheets
Hidden sheets are a handy way to keep your Excel spreadsheet neat and tidy while the hard work goes on behind the scenes. Having access to these sheets is crucial if you really want to understand how the document operates.
To find out whether there are any hidden sheets in a particular document, head to the Home tab and find Format in the Cells section.
Use the drop-down menu to click Unhide Sheet.
This will take you to a list of all hidden sheets.
Just select the one you want to reveal and click OK. Afterward, you’ll be able to access them as normal.
4. Make Sure to Grab a List of Passwords
If you’re taking ownership of someone else’s spreadsheet, finding out if it’s protected by a password should be a priority. You’ll know whether it is or not as soon as you open the file.
However, Excel documents can utilize multiple layers of protection. It’s entirely possible that a password might be in place to prevent tweaks to a piece of VBA code.
Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to remove this kind of password. Still, it’s a better idea to simply ask the person who created the document to pass on any passwords you might need to know about.
5. Get to Know Who Has Editing Privileges
Modern versions of the Office suite make it very easy to share your files with other users, allowing them to make edits from afar. This is a great way to collaborate, but it’s always worth checking in on who actually has access to a particular document.
For instance, does the author still have permission to view and edit the spreadsheet? Obviously, it’s unlikely that they would do anything untoward. However, they could feasibly change or delete data, or release trade secrets in the event that they’ve gone on to work with a competing company. While these are worst case scenarios, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
To see who can edit the document, click the Share button located in the top-right corner of the user interface.
This should produce a list of user accounts that have access to the document, as well as notes on whether they can edit the file or just view it.
This is information that you really should be aware of for any document that you take ownership over.
Preparation Prevents Problems
If a spreadsheet is being handed off from one person to another, chances are that it’s pretty important — and chances are that it’s important to several people. Any issues with the document are going to cause some trouble. Since you’ve now taken ownership of the file, the job of fixing it will surely fall to you.
Responding to this kind of calamity once after the event is going to be much more difficult if you didn’t prepare properly. Knowing about things like hidden sheets, passwords, and the inner workings of the file are great to have on hand. Just make sure that you get to know them before disaster strikes, rather than scrambling for them after.
Be sure to check out our other tips and tricks, like creating dropdown lists in Excel, understanding how to use IF statements in Excel formulas, and calculating data with Excel’s Goal Seek feature.