Microsoft's $500 Excel error goes viral

Apple Insider

In the world of spreadsheet errors, a $500 miscalculation on a $9,000 budget shouldn’t cause much of a fuss. Unless you slap it on a 60-foot billboard near San Francisco’s high tech SoMa district.

Apple Insider this week had a lot of fun at Microsoft’s expense after spotting the flaw in Microsoft’s maths in an advert for its latest Surface tablets.

The advert included the budget for a holiday to Haiwaii that was out by $500...

Continued...

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Comments

$500 Excel 'error'

Oxfoto | | Permalink

Easy to repeat... Note in the video how the cell fills from the right hand side? This happens when you set the cell to be 'right justified'. So you simply delete the contents, then type in $500 but don't press enter - just leave the cursor blinking away within the cell (see how it does in the video?). The formula won't add up the column until you press enter or click outside the cell!

other possible causes

Dai Monz | | Permalink

I'm no expert but I've made my share of errors like this! If the operator keyed the dollar sign before keying the numerical value, (easy to do, especially if it's an after thought inserted into an existing data set) then the cell would be treated by Excel as "text". If the Column had previously been formatted to 'right-align', as previously stated, then the error may not be noticed. Alternatively, it is easy for a fingernail to catch the apostrophe key (') when meaning to press the shift key. This also formats the cell to "text". A possible scenario would be where the operator held down the shift key ready to type the dollar sign (shift 4), checked themselves and only keyed "500", not realising that the apostrophe had been tapped first. In either of the scenarios above, any cell being read as "text" will be omitted from any sum. I also note that on the Appleinsider web page they show how their software would do the same job without the error - but without correctly aligning the numbers either. Can you imagine running a measured eye down a huge column of figures looking for the 'wrong' entry to jump out at you, when none of the numbers are aligned by the decimal point? This may have been a mistake but Excel is still class-leading and desktop computers are still the best tool for a desktop environment. [On another note - does anyone know why I can't put a 'return' into my posting? The above would be easier to read if it were split into paragraphs but the 'return' key does nothing.]

How is this an excel error?

Cantona1 | | Permalink

How is this an excel error? If you mix-up text and numbers, will you expect the figures to add up?Excel simple ignores if the cell has a text. You can actually spot a text by looking at the top left of side of the rectangle.

keithas's picture

My guess    1 thanks

keithas | | Permalink

Everyone's picking on the $500 in the middle. Unlikely, I think.

But the last two numbers total $500, so my guess would be that the list originally ended at "Dive Rentals", then someone suggested that the list would look better if it was a couple of items longer. Insert two more numbers, forget to update the Sum formula and Bob's your uncle.

Most of us reading this will

jonbryce | | Permalink

Most of us reading this will find that Excel interprets "$500" as a text entry.  However, if we type in "£500", it will interpret it as a currency entry.  That is because we have the currency symbol set to "£" in control panel.  I notice that even with the currency symbol set to "£", typing "€500" is interpreted as a currency entry rather than

If you go to the Region and Language settings in Control panel and change the currency setting to "$", then it will interpret "$500" as a currency entry.

You can't always rely on the green triangle to appear when you have numbers entered as text.  You will get it if you type '500 into a cell, but not if you enter $500 and your control panel currency settings are set to something other than $.