Lab 1: Excel Programming

We will do the same analysis of a data set with three programs:

  1. Excel.  While not free, Excel in on almost every computer you will use (and there is a free clone in OpenOffice).  Thus it is likely to be of use to you in both your professional and personal life (I use Excel to track my budget and estimate taxes.  As long as the data set is not too large or complex (our last lab in the course will look at CTD data, which will fail both these criteria), you can do a lot of data analysis in Excel.  In addition, by contrasting the steps needed in Excel and Matlab, we will get a better appreciation conceptually for what we must do.
  2. Matlab.  This is a programming language, with some specialization for matrices, but it works very much like other languages like C/C++, Fortran, Basic, JavaScript, or Python.  Matlab is a favorite for science and engineering, but if you understand what you are trying to do, as opposed to just memorizing the code, you could easily translate into another language.
  3. A GIS program, which is specialized to deal with this particular kind of data.  The program is written in a language similar to Matlab (conceptually Matlab can create compiled programs, but actually taking that step is complicated and beyond what we will do in this course), and allows the use of a GUI to open data sets and manipulate them.


  • Graphs should always have labeled axes
  • Graphs should only have a legend when there are more than two things on the graph. Otherwise the figure caption suffices.
  • Graphs for technical writing should not have a title.  The figure caption suffices for technical writing.
  • Insure the text on legends and axes is readable.  It almost always needs to be make bigger.
  • The caption goes below.


  • You will almost always have to set the number of decimals.  By default Excel will put in way too many (which makes it hard to understand the data, and makes a mockery of significant figures), and the decimal points will not line up at they should.
  • You need units for each column.
  • Need "reader friendly" titles on the columns, not computer geek-speak
  • The caption goes above.

Excel Graph into Word


If you copy a graph from Excel onto the clipboard, and paste it into Word, you will have four choices.  You want the one on the far right, to paste it as a picture.  Choosing the others gives you an object, which has several disadvantages:

  1. The file size can become unreasonably large.
  2. Response in Word can become painfully slow.
  3. The appearance of the figure could change, and not reflect what you want.
If you copy the graph into Paint, and then copy it to Word, you have only one choice, which might look like text but will be a bitmap.  While you are in Paint you can make any quick graphical edits (for example combining several graphics into a single one, and putting A, B, C for the figure caption.

last revision 1/11/2017