Random Number Generator for Excel, Revisited

Another, simpler way to do it.

Nearly five years ago, I wrote a short article about creating a simple spreadsheet to generate random numbers in Excel. Lately, it’s been the most popular post on this site.

Trouble is, it’s a bit outdated. There’s actually an easier way to do the same thing: with the RANDBETWEEN function.

The RANDBETWEEN(bottom,top) function “calculates” a random number between the bottom number and the top number. Just provide those two numbers and Excel does the rest.

The benefit of this function is that you don’t need to go through a complex calculation to tell Excel you want a whole number within a range. RANDBETWEEN returns whole numbers automatically. It can also output the top and bottom values in the range. And it might actually be more random than my original solution because you’re not dependent on rounding rules to get the final number.

ScreenshotSo which would you prefer? The old way, with a formula like this:

=ROUND(RAND()*B6-B5)+B5,0)

or the new way, with a formula like this:

=RANDBETWEEN(B5,B6)

I know which one I prefer.

Download the revised sample worksheet here.

“iBooks Author: Publishing Your First Ebook” Now Available

An illustrated guide to creating and publishing multi-touch books with iBooks Author.

iBooks Author Cover

iBooks Author: Publishing Your First Ebook helps you learn how to take advantage of iBooks Author’s amazing feature set to create your own ebooks without a lot of trial and error experimentation. Using an illustrated, step-by-step approach, it guides you through the creation of a sample ebook with features you’re sure to want in your own ebook publications.

Download a Sample Chapter
Buy Kindle Edition
Buy iBooks Edition
Buy NOOK Edition
Buy iBooks Multi-Touch Edition (coming soon)
Buy Print Edition (coming soon)

When iBooks Author was announced and released last month, I knew it was a software package I’d really like. I was right. Just a few days spent with the app and I had all kinds of great ideas for publishing my books. But I also realized that with the surprising depth of this first generation application, new users might need help using it. Since how-to books are my specialty, I didn’t wast any time writing a new Maria’s Guides book about it.

About the Book

I wrote the book as a hands-on guide to creating a sample ebook with iBooks author. Filled with step-by-step instructions and 274 screenshots (!), the book walks you through the process of creating, composing, laying out, and publishing an ebook using iBooks Author. I cover every important feature in the software, from adding and formatting text and images to creating interactive elements with iBooks Author’s Widget feature. I finish up with instructions on how to export and publish your book as a PDF or iBook on the iBookstore.

Inside, you’ll find the following chapters:

Table of Contents
Before We Begin: Introduction
Chapter 1: Getting Started
Chapter 2: Starting Your Book
Chapter 3: Adding & Formatting Text
Chapter 4: Adding & Formatting Images
Chapter 5: Working with Objects
Chapter 6: Adding Shapes, Tables, & Charts
Chapter 7: Including Interactive Elements
Chapter 8: Publishing Your Book
Final Word: That’s All for Now

The printed version of the book runs 242 pages, including front matter, table of contents, and index.

The instructions throughout the book step you through the process of creating a sample ebook with iBooks Author. All the files you need are available for download from the book’s support Web page on this site. When you’re finished, you’ll have a pretty sharp looking ebook to show off you skills.

Buy the Book

The book is available now on Amazon.com and the Apple iBookstore in Kindle and Epub formats respectively. A multi-touch iBooks version should be available in about a week. The print edition will be available in about 2 weeks as a direct purchase from Flying M Productions or from booksellers such as Amazon.com and BN.com.

Additional Material, Feedback, and Support

You can find additional material about using iBooks Author and creating ebooks on this site. Just follow the publishing topic link.

You can also post questions and read questions and answers on the book’s support page. That’s also where you can find the sample files used throughout the book.

Tip for Writers on Mac OS: A Stickies Style Guide

Maintain consistency in your writing with an easy-access style guide.

As I continue work on my 81st book (!), I thought I’d share a tip with other writers working on Macs. This one has to do with creating and maintaining a style guide for your work in progress.

Stickies IconToday, on my blog, An Eclectic Mind, I wrote quite a bit about what a style guide is and why it’s important. I also revealed my personal technique for maintaining a style guide for work in progress — I use Stickies — and explain why it’s a good solution for me.

In this piece I want to briefly discuss how to set up and use Stickies as a style guide. Keep in mind throughout this piece, however, that you can use Stickies to give you easy access to just about any information you might need to be reminded about as you work.

  1. In the Applications folder in in Launchpad (Mac OS X Lion and later only), open the Stickies icon.
  2. StickiesIf you’ve never opened stickies before, you’ll see some default notes with information on using Stickies. You can read these for more information. Then close them and do not save changes. You want to minimize the number of open windows on your Desktop, don’t you?
  3. Choose File > New Note to create a new sticky note window.
  4. My Style GuideResize it so it’s long and narrow, just wide enough to fit the words you’ll add to it.
  5. Reposition it so it’s on the far right (or left, if you prefer) side of your screen.
  6. As you work on your project, add difficult-to-remember words and phrases to it. Be sure to spell/capitalize the words/phrases exactly as you should be writing them. It’s also a good idea to list them in alphabetical order.
  7. If there’s a word or phrase you should never use, add it to the list but use the Fonts panel to format it with strikethrough formatting.
  8. When you are done writing for the day, quit Stickies. Do not close the note before quitting.
  9. When you start work the next day, open Stickies again. The note should reappear just as you left it, all ready to be consulted and updated as needed.

If you’re using Mac OS X Lion and you don’t quit Stickies, it’ll automatically reopen when you restart your computer. If you’re using an earlier version of Mac OS, you can set up Stickies as a Login item so it automatically opens when you start or log into your computer.

Again, you can use this tip for any kind of information you need to consult as you work at your computer. The one thing I wouldn’t put in Stickies is any kind of information that needs to be kept private. I recommend an application such as 1Password for that kind of data so it can be secured.

How do you use Stickies? Share your tips in the comments for this post.

Learn More!

Lion Book CoverWant to know more about Mac OS X Lion and Stickies? Check out my Mac OS X Lion: Visual QuickStart Guide. This 648-page, fully illustrated guide to Lion is available for a great price in print and Kindle versions from Amazon.com.

Maria’s Guide Title for iBooks Author Now in Production

Look for it within the next week or so.

iBooks Author IconNo sooner had we put the finishing touches on Sorting Excel Data than Apple delivered a brand new topic for the Maria’s Guides book series: iBooks Author.

iBooks Author is a Mac OS application that enables you to develop media-rich ebooks for iBooks on iPad. Although it has a limited audience, it makes up for those limitations with sheer publishing power. This free application makes it possible to create books that not only include fixed page layouts, but images, galleries, movies, review tests, and interactive graphics. Best of all, it features a relatively easy-to-use, intuitive interface.

We’re excited about iBooks Author, mostly because of all the great new ways we’ll be able to enhance Maria’s Guide books for iBooks readers. We’re also excited about producing a book about a brand new topic: iBooks Author: Publishing Your First Book should be available before the end of the month. We hope you’ll look for it here—and on the iBookstore, of course.