‘An Unconventional Way to Comment Your Excel Formulas’

Jeff Davis offers two options for commenting Excel formulas. The first way is the obvious comment feature, but this has downsides. The most notable downside is the red arrow that is present in the corner of the cell — something that would lead most people to worry that there is a calculation error on that cell.

It’s a decent way around the problem, but since the comment exists only as a comment function, and not as part of the formula, it is easily missed when editing the formula.

The second option that Davis mentions is by using the N Function — something I had never heard of before. Basically this is a hack that allows you to type a string into a formula which will always return 0. So adding +N("My comment") will only add a +0 to the formula. This is a really clever solution and exactly what I was talking about.

But, it does have one huge downside: it isn’t supported in Numbers.

For many this won’t matter, but Numbers removes the formula all together and simply shows the solution value. At my office we use Numbers for a few reports (rarely switching between Excel and Numbers) and it is a bit worrisome that your spreadsheet could stop being dynamic if a Numbers user opened it.

For our complex, internal, spreadsheets the N function looks like a great, albeit hack, solution.

Originally posted for members on: February 21, 2013
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