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## Excel and Scientific Formulas

Microsoft Excel is a wonderful tool for scientific data analysis. Microsoft Word is an excellent tool for writing scientific research. So surely Microsoft Office is the only software you’ll ever need beyond that combined with professional scientific tools?

Unfortunately, this was not the case and many university researchers can identify one major problem with the Office suite and that is why it is always difficult to display formulas in Word and Excel. Even if you type a simple fraction like 3/5, it is given on one line. As for Greek symbols like pi…well, that would mean many hours spent trawling through Excel’s Insert Symbols menu.

This may sound a little unfair. In fact, a typical Microsoft installation will include something called the Equation Editor. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t published in promotional videos. Software like Matlab was considered very advanced and had the added advantage of being able to analyze equations. Anyway, the good news is that Microsoft has taken a big step forward with Office 2010 and is now able to accurately display formulas in a pretty painless way.

In Excel 2010, you must select the Insert ribbon, and click Equation. This creates a text box and brings up a new ribbon with options for entering equations. As well as providing easy access to key Greek symbols, Microsoft has provided quick access to a number of simple functions, such as fractions and exponentials.

When you write your formula, you will see if any x symbols appear in the formula text. That means no additional form is needed between typing the formula and publishing the finished work. This is convenient if you ever want to label a chart with its own mathematical formula.

The only caveat to add to all of the above is that your newly written equation will appear in the text box. Text boxes are different from the main spreadsheet because they don’t have cell addresses. This means they can be dragged across the page to where you want them. Obviously you don’t want to move the formula every time you insert or delete rows in a basic spreadsheet. Fortunately, the default settings for such objects ensure that they maintain their local location at all times.

Experienced Excel users will appreciate that text boxes by default have a border and a white background. This is because they are often used to add comments or guidance to the user and therefore need to stand out. Otherwise the user would be foolish not to type words directly into the cells of the spreadsheet. As equations can only be created in text boxes, the default settings are somewhat different; no limit and no fill.

Following the steps above, it should be easy to incorporate mathematical equations into any spreadsheet development you do. This means you can present your research effectively without generating your own formulas e.g. Matlab and screen capture them before entering them into your final report.

It is worth mentioning that equations can be entered into Word 2010 directly using the same technique. Alternatively you can embed your Excel spreadsheets in Word because Office allows you to merge your Word documents with your spreadsheets.

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