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Planning Retirement Online

You can do IT in later life - 23

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. Getting the most from your computer.jpg (5543 bytes)

Jackie has also written the two books shown here - you can find more details about these by clicking on the cover images above. 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, why not email her

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

This month, I have selected various questions related to spreadsheets. As the most common package is Excel, my examples are taken from this application.


Q:  I run a club and use my computer to prepare financial spreadsheets. I often need to show subtotals for different groups. Is there a facility in spreadsheet packages that can do this for me?

 A:  Although a package such as Excel is not a dedicated database application, it has many useful functions when working with data, including working out subtotals. To do this, select all the data and then open the Data – Subtotals menu command. There is no need to group the records first.

As an example, if your data was organised under the following headings:


Date Of Joining        

Number in Family    


you will need to answer 3 questions:

  1. How do you want each subtotal calculated? For example, if you were totalling each category’s details, you would pick “each change of CATEGORY”. If you were looking at joining dates, you would select “each change of DATE OF JOINING”.

  2. What type of subtotal do you want? Are you looking for an Average, Maximum, Count or Sum etc?

  3. In which column do you want the subtotals to appear? For example, is it the Sum of each SUBSCRIPTION, or the Count of each  NUMBER IN FAMILY?

Having made these decisions, click OK and you will find subtotals and a grand total added to your data. 

You can view all the details, or click a level of display from small boxes showing under the Cell Name box on the far left of the spreadsheet: level 2 shows subtotals and grand total only, and level 3 only the grand total. 

To return to the original spreadsheet, select Remove All from the Subtotals menu option. 

Q:  I use Excel for creating questionnaires. How can I put the symbol of a tick in a cell? 

A:  Most applications have the option to add symbols via the Insert - Symbol menu, but Excel doesn’t offer this. So adding ticks, or degree or other symbols is rather long-winded. However, it can be done using the AutoCorrect option. 

  1. Firstly, open your word processing package and insert the missing symbol e.g. v onto a page in the normal way, making sure you select it from a normal text font (rather than Windings or Symbol etc.)

  2. Select the tick and cut or copy it into the clipboard. Then close or minimise the document and open Excel.

  3. Go to Tools – AutoCorrect and type a short codeword into the Replace: box that will represent the symbol but will not be commonly used in your work e.g. addatick

  4. Paste the symbol into the With:  box. Then make sure you click Add and OK.

  5. Next time you want the tick to appear, type addatick into a cell and press Enter.

Q:  I need reminders to carry out particular tasks, and wonder if I can set up Excel to do this for me. 

A:  Some time ago, I supported distance learners and had to phone them every 3 weeks to check on their progress. Within the database of names and phone numbers, I set up a column where the word “PHONE” would appear in red whenever it was time to phone anyone. I did this using the IF function.The function is based on the following logic:

 if statement X is true, display message A, otherwise display message B. 

A simple example is to check entries that are above or below 50 (statement X).  If the entry in B1 is above 50, the display in C1 will read OVER 50 (message A), but if it is below, C1 it will display UNDER 50 (message B). 

You would need to type into C1:  =IF(B1>50, “OVER 50”, “UNDER 50”)   

(If you want messages A or B to display numbers and not text, the quotation marks would not be required.) 

Once the formula is entered in the first cell, you can copy it down a column as the statement would now relate to B2, then B3 etc. and the same rule would be applied. 

[For my phone reminder, I had to compare the date I phoned last with today’s date, and once the gap was more than 21 days, the reminder appeared. So that the dates updated, today’s date was entered as =TODAY()]



View previous editions of YoucandoIT for more useful Questions and Answers

Click on a book or magazine image above or below to see full details.




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

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