You don’t need to learn programming to provide help messages for your users. Excel’s Data Validation feature makes it easy to add a help message to any cell in your worksheet.

For example, suppose you create an application that calculates the amount of money your company must invest in order to attain a certain value at the end of a set period. To create the application with appropriate help messages, follow these steps:

1. In D1, enter Interest Rate.

2. In D2, enter Number of Periods.

3. In D3, enter Future Value.

4. In D4, enter What you need to invest.

5. Click E1.

6. Go to Data | Validation, and then click the Input Message tab.

7. In the Title box, enter Interest Rate.

8. In the Input Message box, type Enter the interest rate per period. For example, enter =10%/4 for a quarterly interest rate of 10%.

9. Click OK.

10. Click E2.

11. Go to Data | Validation, and then click the Input Message tab.

12. In the Title box, enter Number of Periods.

13. In the Input Message box, type Enter the total number of periods in an investment. For example, for a 10-year investment that pays quarterly, you would enter 40.)

14. Click OK.

15. Click E3.

16. Go to Data | Validation, and then click the Input Message tab.

17. In the Title Box, enter Future Value.

18. In the Input Message box, type Enter what you would like to earn from this investment.

19. Click OK.

20. Click E4.

21. Enter =PV(E1,E2,,E3).

Let’s say you will need \$100,000 to replace the new equipment that will depreciate in 10 years. With a 10% quarterly interest rate, you would enter =10%/4 in E1, 40 in E2, and 100000 in E3. When you click each input cell, a message will pop up, letting you know how to enter each value. As shown in E4, you will need to invest \$37,243.06 to reach \$100,000 in 10 years.

## Miss a tip?

Check out the Microsoft Excel archive, and catch up on our most recent Excel tips.

Help users increase productivity by automatically signing up for TechRepublic’s free Microsoft Office Suite newsletter, featuring Word, Excel, and Access tips, delivered each Wednesday.