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How to Use Excel to Manage March Madness

Selection Sunday is approaching, so why not use your favorite spreadsheet to get in on the action? Any Excel user is just 5 mouse clicks away from an NCAA bracket/ betting pool spreadsheet. It’s offered free by Microsoft. I’ll even share a keyboard shortcut with you that you can use to hide your brilliant bracket from shoulder surfers.

To avoid downloading a side of malware along with your bracket spreadsheet, work inside Excel instead. In any version of Excel click the File menu (or that quaint round Office button in Excel 2007), choose New, and type NCAA in the field that says Search for Templates, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Download a free NCAA Final Four bracket from within Excel

Depending upon your Excel version, you might see one or two different versions of the template—the only discernible differences are cosmetic. Personally the first one on the list is easier on my eyes. Double-click on the template of your choice, and then get busy plotting domination of your office pool. The spreadsheet does expose a rookie mistake of locking input cells—you won’t be able to type in the dates for each round until you unprotect the worksheet:

  • Excel 2007 and later: Click Unprotect Spreadsheet on the Review tab.
  • Excel 2003 and earlier: You do realize that support for this product ends in about a month, right? Alrighty then, choose Tools, Protection, and then Unprotect sheet.

Figure 2: You must unlock the worksheet before you can type dates in the bracket spreadsheet

Those nifty [Dates] headings shown in Figure 2 will no longer be trapped under glass. The second tab of the template includes a tracker from which you can manage a betting pool of up to 5 players. Well, not that you would bet on college sports because you are an honest and ethical professional. Now, hypothetically speaking, if one were to track a betting pool, it’s entirely conceivable that such a pool might include more than 5 players. If such a scenario arises, simply unprotect the Tracker worksheet, and then copy and paste additional pick/result columns as needed.

Figure 3: Microsoft’s free NCAA template makes it easy to track your action.

Now, about those shoulder surfers. Long-term Excel users and chronic screwer-arounders know about pressing Ctrl-Tab to toggle between open workbooks. However, that can still leave your bracketology at risk of accidental exposure. A better approach is to hide the spreadsheet in plain sight:

  • Excel 2007 and later: Choose View, and then Hide.
  • Excel 2003 and earlier: Choose Window, and then Hide

Of course this means you have to be quick on the mouse, so a keyboard shortcut is a better approach. There are two ways to accomplish this:

  • Create a macro: Turn on Excel’s Macro Recorder, carry out the Hide steps for your version of Excel, and then stop recording. During the process you’ll see a spot where you can assign a keyboard shortcut.
  • Use the Quick Access Toolbar: In Excel 2007 and later, right-click on the Hide command on the View tab, and then choose Add to Quick Access Toolbar. Not only does this give you an icon you can click, it also creates a keyboard shortcut that will be revealed when you press the Alt key.

To unhide your pièce de résistance, choose View (or Window in Excel 2003), Unhide, and then double-click on the file name, such as Final Fourgasm.xlsx. YOU ARE WELCOME.

David H. Ringstrom, CPA@excelwriter on Twitter — heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm.