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Importing made easy


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Importing made easy

Excel users should never do data entry when an electronic copy of the data is available because the Import Wizard is so easy to use. You only need to know and understand one thing about your data: Is it delimited? If so, what is the delimiter? When data is provided as "delimited text," it means that there's a special character in each row of the data that identifies the different columns.

For instance, in comma-delimited text, a family address might look like this: Joe,Smith,123 Main,City,State,40012.

Commas, vertical bars, tabs, pound signs, or almost any other character can delimit data--and Excel's Import Wizard knows exactly what to do with them. In many cases, the delimiter is a tab or a comma.

If data isn't delimited, it's in fixed-width format. In that case, you must ask the person supplying the data for the data layout. That information should look like this:

Columns 1-20: First name.

Columns 21-30: Last name.

Columns 31-50: Address.

Without delimiters to show you the column breaks, you have to count the characters in fixed-length data. Excel's Import Wizard makes that easy.

Your raw data file will probably be .txt, .csv, or .prn. Just go to File | Open, navigate to that file, and Excel will launch the Import Wizard, which has only three steps. First, tell the wizard whether you have delimited or fixed-length data, and click Next.

If you chose delimited, the next step is to specify the delimiter. If you chose fixed-length, the next step is to use the mouse to draw the lines between columns. When you click Next, you'll have a chance to see the proposed column breaks and to choose formats for those columns before you click Finish.

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