Another Excel Feature I Missed...

Another Excel Feature I Missed...

  • Comments 3

I've just found a really cool feature in Excel 2003 that I didn't know existed. To be fair, I don't for a moment consider myself an Office expert, so it's probably been around for years, but nevertheless I'm still impressed.

I often find myself browsing a website, coming across a useful piece of (usually tabular) information and wanting to save it somewhere for further analysis or later retrieval. But I had no idea how good Excel was at extracting the data out of some HTML. I was browsing yesterday through the list of most popular baby names, which is published each year by the UK Statistics Office. I wanted to print it out but the bit I wanted kept getting cropped of the edge of the margin. I went into Excel and somehow found the Data / Import External Data / New Web Query menu option. This pops up a mini-browser window and allows you to select the table containing the information you want.

From here, you just click the Import button and it dumps the raw data into a spreadsheet of your choice, where you can then manipulate it to your heart's content. There are a few options you can modify if you need extra customisation too, so you're not just limited to the defaults. Best of all, if the data changes, you can refresh the web query just with a click of a button, allowing you to keep track of stock price information or other dynamically changing data even more easily. If only I'd come across this feature earlier - can anyone tell me if this works on earlier versions too?

Now we've just got to choose a name for our next child - the hard part!

  • Yes it was on previous versions... ;)
  • Hi Tim. As an aside, if you were using Internet Explorer and having problems with the printing, I have a tool that allows you to fit the browser width to the printed page width to make sure things don't get cropped. You can get it at http://www.visiontech.ltd.uk/software/index.html#ieprint. - Adrian.
  • It's also possible to use what seems to be the same technique in a "HTML Viewer" web part on a Windows SharePoint Services site. The web part gets refreshed every time you access the (WSS) page containing it. The problem there (and probably here) is that the solution works only as long as the site provider doesn't change their site so that the section you select isn't where your Excel/WSS web part expects it to be. So far in a couple of months this has happened twice to me on the main IBM site.
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