Best Excel Add-Ins: What you Don’t Know About Excel That Will Improve Your Productivity

exceladdinsWere you aware that you can actually install additional features to your Excel program for free? Sure, Excel already comes with a wide range of tools to make compiling, sorting and analyzing data easy. But, it can get easier. With Excel add-ins you will be able to increase your productivity and decrease the amount of time you spend doing it. If you’re lucky enough to have Excel 2013, you probably want to know how to use it. Well, there’s a course for that and it’s cleverly called Excel 2013 Made Easy.

There are three different types of add-ins that you can consider installing.

  • Excel add-ins. These include the add-ins that are already installed when you open Excel like, DLL add in (.xll) file, Excel 97-2003 add-in (.xla), or Excel add-in (.xlam). You should also have access to Solver and the Analysis ToolPak. All you have to do is activate them.

  • Downloadable add-ins. These are, well, downloadable add-ins. You can search the Microsoft Office store online and download your choice of add-ins. Some of these are free, and some will cost you.

  • Custom Add-Ins. Developers can create component object model (COM) add-ins, VBA add-ins, and XLL add-ins for you the Excel community to download and install.

Alright, here are the add-ins.

Get Started. If you’re new to Excel and need a run-down of how to use it you can download the get started tab add-in which will give you access to live demos, tutorials and how-to’s. If you’re using Excel 2010 here’s a good course to help you understand the tools already available to you and how to use them.

Bubbles. This add-in takes selected data in your spreadsheet and showcases it in a chart as bubbles. Sounds weird, but the size and color of each of these bubbles is based on the number of times a certain value appears. Take two sets of data and “bubble” them (compare them) in a neat new visual way.

Excel Utilities. This free add-in gives you over 30 features that will help make your Excel experience run smoothly. The good thing about this add-in is it comes with some cool shortcuts and selection tools, too. You’ll be able to locate specific number formats, name box sizing and use functions like conditional formatting and data validation.

Select Special Cells. You can locate cells in your worksheets based on value or date range and pick the minimum and maximum value in a range. You can empty all cells, cells with errors or cells that have comments, formulas, etc.

Gauge. This fun little tool can spice up your presentation by adding a pressure gauge image that can represent values as “too high” or “too low”.

Name Manager. This is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a way to manage all named ranges and constants. With the name manager you can hide named ranges from others, delete dead, old or redundant names, create a map on worksheets of your named ranges, and create consecutive named ranges – to name a few things.

ASAP Utilities. With ASAP tools you get a wide range of added functionality. You’ll be able to select cells based on content, advanced sorting, deselect cells in your selection, apply formulas to selected cells, sort the sheet tabs by name or color, export worksheets as separate files, auto-name sheets, and vision control. You can even choose the language you want to install ASAP utilities in.

Kutools. Kutools is another add-in package that contains over 80 different tools to help you increase efficiency while working in Excel. Some of the key features are: a navigation pane (lists all workbooks, worksheets and columns in an easy to use pane), text tools (manipulate the text, character spacing, positioning etc.), delete tools (delete pictures, lines, auto shapes, charts etc.), and toggle settings (to show or hide built-in menus, grid lines, scroll bars etc.)

Geographic Heat Map. This “heat” map is actually just a function you can add to your spreadsheet that will visually represent your data by location. It’s neat and can be a great promotion or marketing tool – but it’s only set up for the U.S. right now, sorry guys.

Mini-Calendar and Date Picker. That’s it. It’s a simple and small tool to help you select accurate dates within your spreadsheet.

MTools. This is a package of timesaving tools that will enhance the capabilities of excel. There are over 130 tools that come in the MTools package including: password recovery, encryption, link manager, defined name manager, compare spreadsheets, warnings and alerts, data analysis, VBE tools, and changing cell references. You can try MTools for free but it will run you around $50 to keep and use forever. Are you pretty advanced user of Excel but want to know everything there is to know about its capabilities? Learn it all in this advanced excel training.

Extools. Yet another package of essential tools for the Excel user. These tools are VBA created and have their own tab on your Excel toolbar. Extools is the only free add-in software that has a complete unit converter for spreadsheets. You can pick and choose the tools you wish to use even after you upload Extools. This way you only have the tools you need and won’t have to navigate around excess options.

Random Sorter. The random sorter is a great tool for getting a different perspective on your data. You can shuffle cells in rows and columns and get a random selection of data. To do this, you’ll specify the exact number of entries from the selected range. For example, you want to pick 15% of the rows, or 7 columns or 7% of cells from your highlighted range.

Not sure if you need add-ins, or not? Get on the fast track to mastering Excel and then you can make an educated decision.