Chapter 17   The Cell Master.  Daniel Maher  from Montreal, Quebec, Canada

interview date:4.Dec.2003
Please introduce your self. You may be as thorough as you wish. Feel free to include or omit any detail about yourself.
I am Daniel Maher and I live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I hold a master degree in Management of Information Systems (MIS) at HEC-Montreal.

I started programming in C. I also did a bit of programming in assembly language (80x86) in the mid-1980s. I'm doing less and less programming these days. VBA is probably my main programming language right now.

My main hobby is cyclotourism. As soon as I can get 2-3 vacation weeks, I'm traveling to a new part of the world to visit it (on my bicycle). My favorite countries to visit are France and Switzerland.

When do you remember using Excel for the very first time? Can you remember any specific details from that first time?
In 1988, I was using Excel on a Mac SE. I found the interface very 'intuitive' except for the macro language (not found of that part) and I appreciated the fact you could have many sheets per workbook.

When do you remember writing your first formula or VBA code for Excel?
The first formula was probably a SUM().
But I had already done something similar in Lotus 123 before.

On average, how many hours per day do you spend working with Excel formulas and/or VBA code?
I spend about 1-2 hours per day where I answer questions in the Excel newsgroups mainly on but also a little bit on the english and spanish newsgroups.

Which do you find most rewarding to work with: Formulas or VBA in Excel? Please tell us why?
I would say I'm mostly pleased when I find a complex and quick formula to resolve a problem. As for VBA, I like to optimize code, to find quick ways to achieve a faster implementation.

If you were going to give a novice, just starting out with Excel, some advice, what would it be?
  • Excel's help is far from perfect but it's certainly one way to quickly understand a specific feature.

  • Invest in a couple of Excel books: one for Excel (speadsheet structure and formulas), one for VBA. And do the exercices!

  • Then, read the newsgroups. You'll learn a lot there.

Please provide a sample of your first work (either as a formula or vba code) in Excel and tell us about it.
First work: too long ago! But I can tell you about one formula:

Finding a check digit for a 13 character EAN code from the leading 12 characters in A1:


Finding how much time is spend during business hours [LowerBnd=9:00 UpperBound=17:00] for a working shift [CheckIn CheckOut]. CheckIn and CheckOut are expressed as time and CheckIn > CheckOut is possible (working during the night) and the work time is obviously smaller than 1 day (or else we would need the dates as well as the times).

= IF(CheckOut>CheckIn,MAX(0,MIN(CheckOut,UpperBound)-MAX(CheckIn,LowBound)), MAX(0,UpperBound-MAX(CheckIn,LowBound))+MAX(0,MIN(CheckOut,UpperBound)-LowBound))

I have published a french mini-calendar showing a year dates on half a page. It can be customized for any country provided you identify the specific holidays. Available here:

File: (or a newer version!)

What is your mental attitude when you are preparing to write formulae or VBA code? And what is your working environment?
Formulas are frequently the result of 'known patterns'. When you see a problem, you KNOW a formula solution is available even before it's actualy completed : for me, building a formula is a matter of putting the proper known patterns together.

Finally, please give us something to think about - a reminder of your words here; a phrase that has helped you; a link to your own website. Anything that you think is important for the readers to remember.
"L'app?tit de savoir na?E#8216; du doute. Cesse de croire et instruis-toi. L'on ne cherche jamais d'imposer qu'?Ed?faut de preuves. Ne t'en laisse pas accroire. Ne te laisse pas imposer."

-- Andr?EGide, "Les nourritures terrestres", p. 247

Thank you very much for answering the questions.

This Black belt is yours...

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