Everyone who has used a computer for analytical purposes has at one time heard the expression “Garbage In – Garbage Out”. It might have been stated, “The analysis is only as accurate as the data.” In either case it emphasizes that the calculations in Excel are only as reliable as the data that was entered in the first place. The data entry process is vulnerable to errors caused by tedium, repetition and perhaps similarity of entries.
When it is necessary to enter large amounts of data, it is good practice to have the data checked for accuracy. This can be done immediately by the person entering the data, or entries can be verified by a different person. Wouldn’t it be convenient to have a tool that could provide immediate feedback of the data entered?
Excel provides just such a tool that enables a quick and easy double-check of entries before you continue working with the data. It is the Text to Speech feature. Through this tool, Excel can read back to you what you have typed while you check that audio against your original data.
In Excel 2007, you can add a Text to Speech button to the Quick Access Toolbar. (This is a feature that was new in Excel 2002, so it is available in versions back to that point.)
To the right of the Quick Access Tool Bar click the drop down arrow to see the commands that can be added to that bar. The Text to Speech command isn’t available in this list so you have to choose More Commands… from the menu.
The Excel Options window opens to the Customize category of options. By default the Popular group of commands is showing, but since Text to Speech isn’t in that group, you have to search a bit further. Click the drop down arrow next to Popular Commands and choose All Commands.
The lower window changes to show a very long list of commands available in Excel. Scroll down the list looking for the word Speak and you will find several commands associated with spoken content. You could add any or all of these icons to the Quick Access Toolbar.
Here is a summary of what each command does:
- Speak Cells: Starts reading cell content with the selected cell and continues through all contiguous cells with content
- Speak Cells – Stop Speaking Cells: Allows you to stop the reader to correct an error. Clicking speak cells icon continues from cell where reading was stopped
- Speak Cells by Columns: Chooses the direction of the reading to be from top to bottom of a column and then on to the next column etc.
- Speak Cells by Rows: Chooses the direction of the reading to be across a row from left to right and then down to the far left side of the next row
- Speak Cells on Enter: Reads the cell content back to you as you press Enter
To add any of these commands to the Quick Access Toolbar, select the command and click the Add button in the middle of the window to move the command over to the Customize Quick Access Toolbar window.
If you select a range of cells before clicking the Speak Cells button, the tool will read the contents of the selected range. Otherwise, the tool will start in the active cell, read all of the contiguous cells with content, and stop when it reaches an empty cell.
If you are looking for a way to have your spreadsheet “come alive” and provide you with an easy way to verify your data entry, the Text To Speech tool may be the tool for you!