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Macros – or how to avoid spending your life repeating the same task!

Sisyphus was condemned by the Greek gods to an eternity of pushing a heavy rock up a steep hill. Whenever he managed to reach the top of the mountain, the rock would roll back down and he would have to start all over again.

If I say the word ‘macro’ to you and you think I’m referring to the latest Real Madrid signing, a type of pasta or a small island in the Mediterranean, then you probably haven’t seen or used a macro before.

A macro is defined as ‘a programming language statement that, when processed, generates a sequence of more detailed language statements.’ So, now you know. But if you’re still confused, and who wouldn’t be, let’s look at an example of a macro in Microsoft Excel.

Imagine the scenario – every week your manager gives you an Excel spreadsheet containing all the company’s training information. The data include employee name, department they work for, subject of the training, date training completed, and their results.

Your manager wants a report in a format that shows what percentage of trainees have passed, what percentage have failed and what percentage never even started their training. She also wants the cells colour-coded, the text formatted and the data sorted on department.

Oh and while you’re at it, could you possibly represent the data as a pie graph!

It can be time-consuming, not to mention boring and repetitive to go through all the steps every time you need to create that report – particularly if you don’t use Excel regularly enough to instinctively know where to find the right menus and buttons.

What if you only had to press a couple of keys that would automatically run the whole sequence for you!

Think of all the time you could save. Time that allows you to do more pressing work. Or if there’s no more pressing work, you can make more tea and coffee and watch more YouTube videos of cats doing funny things.

You have a choice – you can either throw your computer (or your manager) out of the window or create a macro.

Macros that automate routine tasks are very good and helpful.

However, not all macros are quite so innocent and not all of them can be trusted! Historically macros have been used as vehicles for malware which if allowed to run, can damage your system.

Modern software may contain features that protect you against macros so if your organisation has an IT department that controls your computers settings and they’ve disabled macros, you may have to ask them for assistance.

If you are a Training Tracker user and need to produce a report on a regular basis, please get in touch and let us know. We’ll do our best to help.

16 January, 2020

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