PhraseSwapper
Works with Microsoft® Excel® based files
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What's Wrong with Find and Replace?

It has limits. The Find/Replace that ships from Microsoft® Office® products will be more than adequate assuming you know what you are searching for and it is only 1 or 2 changes. This is true for most files.

However for more complex files, this simple operation has been responsible for a significant loss of productivity, time, and data.

A brief list of Find / Replace Shortcomings

  • You must know what you are searching for.
  • “Replace All” does not offer enough control in order to avoid a known problem. You must use one-at-a-time replacement.
  • Changes are made one at a time; even more difficult when crossing language boundaries.
  • Changing the column heading in a data list that is used by a pivot table will require the pivot table to have to be reconstructed.
  • Find / replace doesn’t distinguish between constants and function names. If you Replace ‘Average’ with ‘Mean’ and click 'Replace All', it destroys all calls to the function ‘Average’ because the word ‘Average’ is replaced with the word ‘Mean’. In Microsoft® Excel®, there isn’t a function called ‘Mean’. The alternatives? Make sure you have ‘Match cell contents’ or Case Sensitivity checked, even then, you’ll want to Click on the ‘Replace’ button for each occurrence.
  • Sheet Names are ignored.
  • Headers and footers are ignored. These are discovered when the file is first printed.
  • Conditional Formats are ignored. These may never be discovered until after deployment.
  • Data Validation lists are ignored.
  • Embedded Chart titles and Axis labels are ignored.
  • Text inside of shapes like boxes, circles and the like are ignored.

What does this mean?

It means that once a spreadsheet is created, it is never reused for another purpose and probably not translated into a different language or culture. Pity the worker who must make sense of the same information being delivered in 3 different formats from 3 different cultures. Sure, there are other things to handle when crossing the culture / language lines, but the first step, getting it into a different language, is so daunting that the easier issues, such as currency, number and date formats aren’t even thought of. These are already nicely handled by the operating system and the Microsoft Office platform, if you know how to set up your solution. That’s a topic for a different paper.

The Bottom Line

The shortcomings of Find / Replace result in significant productivity loss for international organizations when Microsoft Excel is used to convey information about processes, performance and standards. It is but one factor in a myriad of factors that limit agility, productivity and acceptance of ideas.

That is why PhraseSwapper was created.

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