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Planning Retirement Online

You can do IT in later life

March 2007

You can do IT is a regular feature of aimed at trying to help laterlife visitors make the most of Information Technology on or off the web. 

Jackie Sherman who runs the You can do IT Question & Answer section is an IT trainer and author. Jackie has spent her career in education and specialises in teaching IT to adults. Her courses for adults include such topics as MS Office, the Internet, e-mail and basic web page authoring.  

Jackie has also written several books - you can find more details about these by clicking here. Jackie has also been running a course specifically for over 50s.

Via Jackie aims to particularly help those new to IT and the web to build up knowledge and confidence, so no question is too basic. At the same time she will cover Q&As for the more experienced user. 

So if you would like to ask a question of Jackie, or if you have discovered something which may be of interest to others in making the most of the web, then she would love to hear about that too. Why not email her


 March 2007


This month I am revising some database and spreadsheet activities that may have been forgotten.

Searching a database

If you ever look for items on a website or in a database, there are certain mathematical or logical expressions that will be recognised by the computer. In case you have had trouble with this in the past, here is a summary of some of the most common. Note that you do not include any units of measure, letters or symbols:


  • Less than, under or earlier in time: <
    E.g. Under ?500 or before 2007, enter <500 or <1/1/07

  • More than, over or later in time: >
    E.g. Over 750p or after April 2007, enter >750 or >30/4/07

  • Equal to or less than: <=
    E.g. on 1st Jan 2007 or earlier, or ?75 or less, enter <=1/1/07 or <=75

  • Equal to or more than: >=
    E.g. 12ft or longer, or 50% or over, enter >=12 or >=50%

  • Not: <>
    E.g. Not in Birmingham or not equal to 200, enter <>Birmingham or <>200

  • Equal to: the item on its own
    E.g. 250 or Rome, enter 250 or Rome

  • Between one number and another or both one item and another: AND
    E.g. between 50 and 100 or must be 25 and blonde, enter >50 AND <100 (or Between 50 and 100) or 25 AND blonde

  • One item or another: OR
    E.g. London or Paris, enter London OR Paris

Using expressions in a query or filter

When searching a database, you enter the right expression for that particular field or category of data. Having done this, you will find that:
Text has "" quote marks and Like added e.g. Like "London"
Dates have # symbols added e.g. >#25/9/07#
Numbers have nothing added.
These changes show that the program has accepted your expressions.


Spreadsheet programs perform calculations in the same way that mathematicians do. If you are not a mathematician, you may not realise but there is an order in which items are added, multiplied etc. referred to as BODMAS.
1st - anything in Brackets
E.g. (25+14)/7 = 39/7
2nd – anything to the power of (Order)
E.g. 3?*5 = 27*5
3rd – Division and Multiplication, working from left to right
E.g. 2 + 5*6 – 4/2 - 7 = 2 + 30 – 2 - 7
4th – Addition and Subtraction, working from left to right

This means that, if you want an addition or subtraction carried out first, put those figures in brackets.

Percentages in spreadsheets

You can format a cell entry to percentage but this is meant for decimals. So 0.25 will become 25%.

You cannot use this with whole numbers, or 25 will become 2500%. For whole numbers, type in the % symbol manually.

IF Function

If you use a spreadsheet program, you will probably have come across SUM, AVERAGE, MAX etc functions that take the slog out of performing calculations on ranges of figures.

Less common, but very useful, is the IF function.

This compares the entry in every cell in the range, checking whether it meets a particular criterion. For example, is it over 25, is it Blue etc.? If it is, you will see one entry appear in the cell, if it is not, you will see another entry.
To see text entries, add quote marks, but don't if you want to see figures.

The function is written:
=IF(1st cell >25,1,0)
=IF(1st cell = Blue, "Yes", "No")

You can then copy this formula down the column and each cell entry will be compared to the criterion of >25 or Blue.



View previous editions of YoucandoIT for more useful Questions and Answers

For a wealth of books on the web and IT generally, visit Amazon and under the books section select Computers and Internet.

Don't forget to visit the general laterlife features section called laterlife interest


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