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Where can I get help with Microsoft Excel?
It's easy to get stuck or run up against a problem with your Excel spreadsheet. What makes MS Excel great - the many features and richness of the product, can also be a weakness, in that there can be a lot you need to know.
So you've hit a problem - where to you go for help?
We've compiled a list of your options, along with the strengths and weaknesses of each. If you think of any others, please consider adding them to the comments below.
Help Button in MS Excel
Your first choice is to try Microsoft's built-in help library. You can find it under "File->Help" in the Excel menu or by pressing the F1 key. Both offline and online results are available. The online results are maintained and added to by Microsoft. This is a rich resource that's come a long ways from the early days of Excel.
Additionally, you can access Microsoft's support website for additional support, training & tips.
The disadvantage of help directly from Microsoft is that the results can sometimes come sometimes be a bit generic and be more suited to the situation where you want to learn a broad range of capabilities in Excel - rather than solving a specific issue you're having.
When it comes to solving a specific question you're having - a discussion forum like Excel Forum, and Mr. Excel would be a good place to look. There are many such forums where you can ask questions and contribute solutions to the Excel community. You may even find that you're specific problem has already been solved before with the answer ready and waiting for you.
The disadvantage is that you may have to wait a while for someone to respond to your question - if at all. It's sometimes made worse if you're a new member seen only as looking for help without first contributing. The best way to get help in discussion forums is to first contribute answers to others, then look for help with your own issues.
If you have a problem that you need to solve immediately or you're not interested in joining a community of Excel users then it may be better to keep looking.
Until now we've discussed free options to get help with your Excel question. The next step, especially for more complex problems or if you're looking for an entire 'do it for you' type solution is to hire an Excel consultant. What you could expect to pay varies widely. Your options range from your neighbour's son who you also get to mow the lawn all the way to a top notch $150/hr+ pro. Who you use will be decided based on a combination of budget, who you can find and their availability.
Professional consultants shine when you're looking to source someone to help you with a larger project. In this case they'll walk you through their process and what you can expect by working with them. You'll discuss budgets and timeframes. This is a great option when you're looking for something big.
The disadvantage is that it can take time to find someone who you feel is the right fit and is available. They may also shy away from simple problems that 'aren't worth their time'.
Small & Medium Sized Task Service
So, if a consultant is a good option for larger projects - where do you turn to for small and medium sized excel tasks? What do you do when you have a quick question, but don't want to take the time to hunt through the Microsoft Help system or wait in a discussion forum.
This is where Excel Rescue really shines. Although it's not free, it's affordable. And, unlike a discussion forum, you don't have to wait or take the time to build up a rapport within the community - problems get solved and questions get answered fast!