7 incredible uses of Excel
Most people don't think of Excel as a creative outlet, but there is a lot more to the world's most popular spreadsheet program than columns, calculations and accountants. These talented people thought outside the box and found some incredible - and unexpected - uses of Excel, creating masterful artwork, games and animations.
Traditional spreadsheet art
Image source: Tatsuo Horiuchi
'Excel spreadsheet artist' may not be a title you hear often, but 76 year old Tatsuo Horiuchi has made it his own. Horiuchi started painting traditional Japanese landscapes using Excel's inbuilt Autoshape feature in 2000, near retirement from his day job. He had never used Excel before, choosing it because it was pre-installed on his computer. He had also never painted before, discovering and developing his talent through trial and error learning how Excel works. By 2006 he won the grand prize at an Excel Autoshape art contest, gaining public recognition for his artwork. You can view more of Horiuchi's work here, and even download one of his spreadsheets here.
Yoda speed paint
Video source: Shukeiart
Artist Felipe Velásquez demonstrates freehand drawing and shading skills worthy of a Jedi Master to create a life-like picture of Yoda in Excel. This short video shows a sped up version of the drawing process from blank workbook to work of art.
Neon rollercoaster ride
Video source: EngineeringFun
This short video shows a colorful 3D rollercoaster simulation, complete with German techno soundtrack. Created on a scatter chart with minimal VBA code used as 'glue', you can download the Excel file from George Lungu at Excel Unusual, and go for a dizzying ride.
Magnificent macros RPG
Image source: Cary Walkin
Chartered accountant Cary Walkin used his extensive Excel experience to create an original role playing game, Arena.Xlsm, fully playable within your spreadsheet. Harnessing the power of macros, the game features four alternate endings, over 2000 random enemies and 300 spells. You can download the game to try your luck here.
Virtual 3D maze
Image source: Cary Walkin
Data scientist Jordan Goldmeier turned an Excel spreadsheet into a virtual 3d maze, which a player can navigate using the arrows and map. Goldmeier even provides a tutorial via Cary Walkin's blog showing how you can create your very own 3d maze or download the completed version.
Video source: Amy Thornley
Animated frame by frame in Excel, this piece by Amy Thornley won the Smile for London competition 2011, a campaign to broadcast amusing content to lift the spirits of commuters on the Underground. The 20 second video shows figures in an Excel spreadsheet being demolished by space invaders, sure to bring a smile to the faces of many professional number-crunchers.
Create your own Excel art
Think Maths has given us all a simple solution to join in the fun without painstakingly coloring pixels. Simply upload your photo to their tool and download the pixel spreadsheet version, created like magic with conditional formatting! The image of Marilyn Monroe above is a screenshot of the final result when zoomed out. When zoomed in to your image, you can see the 'rows of the spreadsheet alternate between red, green and blue exactly as they would in a digital photo'.
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