Why should you use Microsoft Excel to catalog your data?

Both Filecats Standard and Filecats Professional use Microsoft Excel to present their analysis of your files and folders. But why should you prefer Excel to using a custom program, one contained within a cataloguing interface? Let’s have a look at a few of the reasons:

Familiar interface

Because Excel is a program that you probably use every day, there is no learning curve for accessing the data. You can immediately get your hands on the information that you need. With someone else’s program, you have to learn how you can do things – which buttons to press, what to highlight beforehand – and because it is a bespoke interface, if you don’t use it frequently, you have to constantly relearn how to accomplish what you need to do. And if you don’t know Excel that well, then now is your chance to learn. With columns, filters and grouping already set up, you have a greater ability to experiment with what Excel can do; and the more you know, either you more you can do or the more you can what can be accomplished in Excel generally.

Built-in capability

With its array of formulas and the ability to create charts and other analysis straight out of the box, Excel brings a lot to the table. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, when the power of Excel is there at your fingertips.


Because Excel gives you so many tools at your disposal, you can customise your analysis with ease.

  • Add extra columns to annotate and provide comments on your files and folders.
  • Filter a particular date range or type of file (there will be an upcoming article for more details on how to do this).
  • Create Pivot Tables and Charts to more easily and graphically view the range of information available or create an analysis. (See the article “create a Pivot Table based on file types – easily” for more details.)
  • Collapse the folder structure and expand particular folders you are interested in.
  • Copy and paste information into emails or other documents?

Don’t like Excel? Or don’t want it in Excel? – maybe you want it in a Word table or in a text file. Then save the spreadsheet and open it in whatever application you do like. Or copy and paste it into there. The choice is yours. In a custom program, you are stuck with what features the creator has decided to implement. This is called a “closed-box” system (as opposed to Filecats Standard and Filecats Professional, which are “open-box” system). If you want to do something that it was not designed to do, then tough! Some programs do allow you to export the information into a text file so that you can analyse it there.But if you are going to do that anyway, then why not have it in that format to begin with, and not have to wait for the program to save the data, and then you have to open your application and load it in – get there in the first place.


Do you want someone else to have a copy of what you have catalogued? Maybe a friend, co-worker, client, contractor or boss? If you have a custom program, then that might be difficult. Whilst most of them save your information, they save it in their own unique format which no other program (or person) can open, so you can’t give it that way. Some programs can export, but then you will have to wait for that to happen, then open it up and format it so that it looks nice. With Filecats Standard and Filecats Professional, it is instantly portable. Just save the spreadsheet and email it or save it onto a network drive. The recipient can then investigate your data and give you their analysis, or annotate the data, request certain files, or whatever they want to it. And if the source data is on a shared drive then, if you have set up the spreadsheet hyperlink base correctly, they can even use the hyperlinks in the spreadsheet to get immediately access to the underlying data.


Before 2007, Excel could only manage 65,536 rows and 256 columns (from A to IV). This was enough for most people, and one could catalog a sufficient amount of files and folders for most needs in those days. If you had a folder with more than that amount, you could divide the folder into two or more and run several catalogs at once, and combine several spreadsheets into one workbook. Now with the advent of Excel 2007 and onwards, you could catalog over a million files and folders at once, and have hundreds of columns of metadata. Excel’s capacity expanded overnight to make it a worthy vessel for cataloguing.


By not having to learn a new interface, the amount of time taken for you to get to grips with the data is reduced – and time is money. By not having to build a custom program, the cost of Filecats Standard and Filecats Professional to you is reduced. No troubleshooting of this additional element is required; no customisation is needed; no additional functions need be added. But what if you don’t have Excel – surely there’s some cost there? Well, yes, but it’s never been cheaper to have Excel on your computer. You can get Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for less than half the price that it would cost a few years ago in the “Microsoft Office, Home & Student 2013” edition. If you want even cheaper, then the Microsoft Office 365 Home edition can be yours for use on up to 5 PCs, Macs and tablets for a lower price for a year – and you will always have the latest edition. You might even be able to have a free trial to see if it right for you.


In summary, because having your files and folders Microsoft Excel gives you so many advantages to custom programs, in terms of portability, flexibility and a familiar interface, that is why the cataloguer Filecats Standard and the cataloguer and metadata extractor Filecats Professional use this program which is probably already on your computer to begin with – or if not, should be. Do you have a comment about this article? Please let me know below. And please like it by clicking on the links to the left or the right of this page. If you already have Microsoft Excel, then why not give Filecats Standard and Filecats Professional a download? There is a 7-day free trial, so see what they can do. More articles about the many features of these programmes, and about metadata.

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