On November 21, 2023, Excel guru Bill Jelen celebrated a jaw-dropping milestone, and Sheetcast was thrilled to play a co-starring role in the occasion (more on that at the end of this article).
Exactly 25 years ago, in 1998, Jelen published his first in a series of weekly Excel help articles at his brand-new website MrExcel.com (hardcore fans can still read that debut article thanks to the Wayback Machine). Soon afterward, he launched the MrExcel Message Board, an online community for Excel enthusiasts like himself. It quickly blossomed into a thriving forum for online collaboration, a place where people could ask questions, contribute answers, and share each other’s Excel tips and tricks. The board remains active today, with over a million threads and five million posts.
Jelen’s online profile took another huge leap in 2006, when he launched the MrExcel channel on YouTube. His friendly, relatable personal style clearly translated to video. At the time of writing, the channel boasts a staggering 2,468 Excel tutorial videos, 148K subscribers, and well over 20 million views. Exploring Jelen’s channel may just be the best way to learn Excel without spending a dime, never mind the 67 books he has written and published about Excel.
To give you a sense of the vast expanse of Jelen’s online career, he was working in Excel 97 on a Windows NT machine when he launched his weekly blog in 1998. Let’s look back at a few memorable Excel developments that have occurred since he began as an online Excel advisor—and, where possible, travel back in time for his take.
Microsoft Office 2000 made its retail debut June 9, 1999. Today, this version is remembered as the death knell of “Clippy,” the much-maligned office assistant known for popping up in annoyingly inopportune ways. (Clippy technically survived until Office 2007, but at least it was now turned off by default). Jelen’s own thoughts on Clippy don’t appear to be preserved online but, as an Excel 97 power user, you can be sure he would have an opinion.
On January 30, 2007, the public got its first taste of Excel 2007. The release represented a major overhaul of the Excel interface with the introduction of the ribbon menu system. Although most people nowadays could barely imagine Excel without a ribbon, at the time the change caused an uproar among experienced users—many of them even penning lengthy rants about how they would never buy the new release.
For his part, Jelen hailed Excel 2007 as a massive upgrade overall. But even he had his reservations about the ribbon—in particular the huge amount of real estate it occupied at the top of the screen. So, he released a MrExcel video explaining how his viewers could minimize the ribbon to free up more space for their beloved spreadsheets.
In the summer of 2009, Jelen got his hands on a technical preview of the upcoming Excel 2010. He quickly pulled together a video centered around Sparklines, the one new feature that had him, quote, “giddy with excitement.”
With this new feature, Excel users could instantly add tiny charts to cells in their data, providing vivid indicators of trends in the numbers. “If you’ve ever looked at a table of data and struggled to see the overall trend,” wrote Jelen, “then you’ll understand why Sparklines are such a game-changer.”
Although Jelen is fluently adept at building formulas to coax Excel to do what he wants, he also celebrates new Excel functions that enable lesser beings like us to generate our own magic.
In episode 1589, Jelen walked his viewers through Flash Fill—a feature that has since saved Excel users countless hours of drudgery. “Oh my gosh,” gushed Jelen as he began to enter data into a couple of cells only to have Excel intuitively suggest entries for the entire remainder of the column. “I just press ENTER and the whole thing is done. Is that amazing, or what?”
Power Query, Excel’s, ahem, powerful tool for importing, cleaning and combining data into Excel, was first introduced as an optional download for Excel 2010 and 2013. With the arrival of Excel 2016, however, the feature was built into Excel under the “Get and Transform” tab.
Although Jelen had produced a few videos on Power Query by then, he used 2016’s Episode 2037 to introduce the Excel function to an audience who might be encountering it for the first time. “Just amazing how cool it is,” he enthused.
As the release date of Excel 2019 approached, one new feature was causing a stir in the online Excel community: Dynamic Arrays. Jelen responded by illustrating a quick and straightforward way to leverage their power. Using three Dynamic Array formulas, he replaced an ordinary pivot table with a table that instantly and automatically responds to changes in the underlying data—no refresh needed. “This is super cool and super powerful,” said Jelen.
When LAMBDA functions debuted in Excel 2021, Jelen was, in a word, stoked. “These functions are set to change the game and revolutionize the way we use Excel,” he wrote.
He celebrated LAMBDA’s arrival in Episode 2381, walking viewers through several practical examples of how they can be used. “I’ve never seen so many Excel MVPs write so many articles on the same day about something,” he observed.
Because Bill Jelen has reported on every major Excel development in the past 25 years, the Sheetcast team was thrilled when he chose to highlight the patented new Excel add-in for his 25th anniversary episode.
“Today, I have something truly amazing to show you—how to publish any Excel logic as a web app using Sheetcast while protecting your intellectual property,” he wrote. (Click here for more about the importance of protecting your spreadsheets.)
In the video, Jelen showed a complex spreadsheet he had built to enable him to search his entire catalogue of YouTube videos for specific topics. The Sheetcast team had promised to take his spreadsheet and quickly turn it into a functioning web app. Jelen was initially dubious. “I honestly figured I had used some functions that probably were going to throw them for a loop.”
Sheetcast surprised him. “This is really pretty mind blowing,” he said in the video. “I gave them a fairly complicated worksheet with 18 different functions on Friday, and on Monday I now have a web app that's actually working, that replicates all of the logic that I knew how to build in Excel.”
Jelen shared with his viewers a working URL where they can check out the web app for themselves, and even enter search queries of their own. In doing so, he also inadvertently contributed massively to the writing of this article—by enabling the author to instantly locate all the MrExcel videos cited above.
Given Bill Jelen’s decades as an Excel MVP (and one of the internet’s most beloved Excel advisors), it was a massive honor for Sheetcast to knock his socks off for his milestone anniversary. Head to the home page for more information (and a demo video). Become your own web app developer today.
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