Names Should Be Seen






















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Doing some work on an Excel spreadsheet this morning reminded me that there are some great products that have been developed that enormously enhance the ease of use, flexibility, and general usefulness  of Excel. Whilst this blog is not really about promoting Excel products, there is one product that I believe stands head and shoulders above any other out there. I am not a great fan of installing Excel addins, they usually have 200 functions of which I only want 1 or 2, but I have installed this addin and I don’t believe there is ever a day that I do not use it. Because of this, and because the price is spot on (it is free), I am going to shout the praises of Jan Karel Pieterse’s NameManager addin.

This tool has been around for a number of years, and has been indispensable if you use Excel names extensively (which I do). There is a debate to be had about whether we should use names, some swear by them, some swear at them, but that is for another day.

Using the names dialog in pre 2007 versions of Excel was painful. I am of course referring to the Insert>Name>Define… dialog which threw up this incredibly helpful beast














































































































































There were a few other concessions to usability, Debra Dalgleish is highlighting the Create Names From Excel Labels facility on her blog today, but generally it was hard work. That is, until JKPs addin came along. Suddenly, it was possible to see all of your names in a sensibly structured dialog, there were filtering options, you could evaluate names, see if they were being used, and much more. Compare this dialog
















to that previous dialog, look at the richness of facilities, the options, but most of all the sensible presentation. When managing names, it is imperative in my view to see as much information as possible, limited by my choice, not the limitations of the tool.

Of course, MS have revamped Excel, and in Excel 2007, they introduced their own version of Name Manager. With the experience of running the old dialog for many years; the example of better version to draw upon (JKPs addin); and the fact that they can tap into the heart of Excel, MS were bound to produce the definitive Name Manager. Right? Well, not quite. This is an example of the dialog
















It is undoubtedly better than MS’ previous attempt. Seeing the names in a resizable dialog, with the Refersto Value and the scope is good, but it still falls far short of JKPs NameManager. It is cleaner than JKPs NameManager, but that is because it lacks so much. There is no option to evaluate a name, not all names resolve to a single value, which is incredibly useful; no option to highlight where names are used; no capability to redefine the scope of a name (if you try in the Edit dialog, it tells you that the scope cannot be changed – why?); changing a name’s name does not interact with VBA as NameManager does; but worst of all, it seems totally oblivious to hidden names. (BTW, you can add comments to names in Excel 2007. I cannot see where they appear, so fail to see their usefulness. Does anyone think this is a good addition that they will use?).


All in all, the 2007 Name Manger is a big disappointment to me, and JKP’s NameManger cannot be retired just yet. If you use names a lot, do yourself a favour, rush out and buy a copy of JKPs NameManger today. You CAN afford it, it is available here.


Perhaps JKP should rename it to ‘The Real NameManager’.


 

5 thoughts on “Names Should Be Seen”

  1. Bob…You must give MS at least 3 versions to get it right…

    There are other examples…

    Ms Spark Lines Ver 1.0 v/s The Real Sparklines from Fabrice(http://sparklines-excel.blogspot.com/)

    Ribbon Customizer Ver 1.0 v/s The Real Ribbon Customizer from Andy Pope…

    MS Charts Ver ??? (no real improvement in 10 years) v/s The Real Chart Utilities from Jon Peltier

    Nothing equivalent to the Pivot Play Plus addin from Ron Coderre to handle deal with SQL for Queries and Pivot Tables…

  2. @Debra, you could I guess, or just use the Real NameManager, it comes packaged

    @Sam, good points. I am afraid I have no faith that MS will invest any effort in improving this tool functionally. Re the ribbon, Patrick Schmid has an awesome Ribbon Customiser utility (although it is not free), as does Gunther Avenius. Andy’s is a great tool and at a good price. My RibbonX Code Generator will be good too<g>. And there are other good commercialSparkline utilities. And thanks for the heads upon Ron’s tool, I wasn’t aware of that so I must check it out.

  3. Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the huge compliments. But not all credit should go to me!!!

    Whereas I was the one who created the first version back in 2002 (!), Charles Williams (www.decisionmodels.com) has joined me shortly after that and we’ve been developing the tool together ever since.

    So kudo’s to Charles as well!!

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