How To Excel With Excel Spreadsheets

One of the dilemmas law offices face in eDiscovery is when dealing with Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet files.

Excel spreadsheets are typically used to organize data and perform financial analysis.  It is used for various business functions and often contains crucial data of evidentiary value.  The problem is that Excel spreadsheets can become fairly cumbersome and span information than can be held in the normal 8 1/2 x 11 page (portrait or landscape).  If you have ever printed an Excel Spreadsheet, you are familiar with what I am talking about.  Just one worksheet could take several pages to print.  

When making a decision in putting this data in some sort of review platform, the choices are to either image them or only provide them in their native format.

So what does that mean?

When you attempt to image an Excel spreadsheet, the software is going to attempt to do the same thing as. you would if you printed it.  The decision to provide it natively only means you aren't going to image the file but provide the Excel spreadsheet in its original format so that the user would have to open it in Microsoft Excel in order to do the review.   We sometimes put a placeholder in a review database to tell the user that the file is available in native format.

In most instances, the best way to handle Excel spreadsheets is to include the text in the review database but insert a placeholder for the native file.  This way you can still search on the text of the file but if you need to see the text in its original view, you would need to open the native file.  Excel has its only search functions which can also assist you in conducting reviews and searches.

Working with the native file is also something to think about.  To preserve the integrity of the Excel spreadsheet, you need to secure it as a read-only document to ensure it does not get altered either intentionally or unintentionally. To ensure that your Microsoft Excel is secured, go to Microsoft's instructions on how to "Protect an Excel file".

Another thing people like to do is to convert Excel files to Adobe Acrobat PDF files.  This really isn't much better than printing them out either.  You are going to get some large PDF files in the process.  I am not an advocate of imaging Excel Spreadsheets and I caution you about this because it is important to think about this.  If you have a client or user who does not have Microsoft Excel software, there is a way to view the files.  Although Microsoft retired their Excel Viewer, you can still install an app from the Microsoft Store, Google Play or iTunes Store.

Data in Excel spreadsheets can be overwhelming but you can make a good decision on how to work with the software.  Please don't print them out.  Just take my word on that.

If you are unsure on how to work with Excel spreadsheets, please consult a litigation support specialist for further advice.

For more help with Excel spreadsheets, check out Excel-ing at Discovery:  Spreadsheets in Document Review.


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