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August 2008

Windmill Software Ltd
Data Acquisition Intelligence

The Newsletter for PC-Based Data Acquisition and Control
Issue 121        August 2008
--------------------ISSN 1472-0221----------------------

In this issue - how to change the appearance of numbers 
with "custom number formats" in Excel. 
For example, you can align decimal points in a column, 
or display only the 3 most significant figures.

* Excel Corner: Choosing how to display numbers - 
  defining a custom number format
* Data Acquisition and Control Exhibitions
* DAQ News Roundup

Excel Corner: Choosing how to display 
Numbers by defining a Custom Number Format

A useful feature in Excel is changing the appearance of 
numbers with "custom number formats".   Excel offers 
many built-in number formats, but these don't always 
fit your application.

To change the way data is displayed you can create 
your own format.  For example, you can align a column 
so all numbers line up on the decimal point or set all 
readings over 10 to be shown in yellow.

To define a custom number format, from the Format menu 
choose the Cells command. In the Number tab choose Custom. 
You will see a list of custom numbers which have been 
defined for you. Enter your own into the Type box. Your 
new number will be shown at the bottom of the list.  
Custom numbers often feature bemusing combinations of 
#, ? and ; symbols, which we explain below 

Significant Figures
The # symbol specifies rounding to a significant digit. 
For example, the custom format .## would cause 12.3456 
to be shown as 12.35.  (Note that the rounding does not 
change the underlying data. Any calculations will be 
made on 12.3456 not on 12.35.)

The 0 symbol has a similar function to the # symbol, 
but forces a zero if necessary. For example, the custom
#.##### would cause 0.3456 to be shown as .3456
0.##### would cause 0.3456 to be shown as 0.3456
0.####0 would cause 0.3456 to be shown as 0.34560

The ? lets you align numbers decimally. It actually adds 
spaces on either side of a number as necessary - so you 
may need to use a fixed-width font like courier for the 
alignment to work properly. To digitally align numbers 
with rounding to three significant digits you would use 

Comma Separator
To add a comma as a thousands separator use #,###.##.

If you wish you can set a number format to include units. 
For example, to set readings to be shown with 2 significant 
digits after the decimal point and the units as mm, use 
.##" mm" 

To set the colour for a section of the format, type the 
name of one of the following eight colours in square 
brackets: Black, Cyan, Magenta, White, Blue, Green, 
Red or Yellow. For example

You can set different colours for positive and 
negative numbers, 0 and text. These are specificed by 
four sections, separated by semicolons. For example

Where you have several instructions in a section, 
the colour code must be the first item.

Conditional Number Formats
To set number formats that will be applied only if a 
number meets a condition, enclose the condition in 
square brackets. The condition consists of a comparison 
operator and a value. For example, the following 
custom format displays numbers less than or equal to 
10 in red and numbers greater than 10 in blue .

Notice the semi-colon separating the two conditions. 	

You could also use a conditional number format to 
display words alongside the readings, similar to the 
units topic above.  For example, to show "low" if a 
reading is under 10, "high" if it is over 20 and 
"normal" if it is between 10 and 20 use
[<10] "low" .#.;[>20] "high" .#.;"normal" .#.;
(.# sets the data to be displayed to one decimal place.)

For more tips on using Excel for data acquisition and 
control see

Data Acquisition and Control Exhibitions

Every four months we list the forthcoming exhibitions 
around the world related to data acquisition and control.

NEPCON South China
26-29 August
Shenzhen, China
Exhibition featuring electronics manufacturing service, 
test and measurement.

Instrumentation Scotland and Offshore Systems
3-4 September
Aberdeen, Scotland
This biennial exhibition brings together companies who 
supply products and services specific to the offshore 
industry plus others who represent processing, power 
generation, paper, distilling, water and waste, and 
marine engineering.

Automotive Testing Expo China
17-19 September
Shanghai, China
Covers mechanical testing, data acquisition, on-board 
diagnostics, fatigue testing, laboratory testing, 
acoustic testing, etc.

IFAT China
23-25 September
Shanghai, China
Practical solutions for air pollution control, 
environmental technology and natural energy sources.

Automation Austria
7-10 October
Vienna, Austria
International trade fair for industrial automation, 
drive and motion control.

7-10 October
Vienna, Austria
Trade fair for measuring, test equipment 
and quality assurance

Automotive Testing Expo North America
22-24 October
Novi, MI, USA
Includes test simulation, engine and emissions analysis, 
vibration testing, environmental testing, data acquisition, 
quality testing, sensors and transducers.

29 October - 1 November
Suzhou, China
International component manufacturing and design show.


DAQ News Roundup

Welcome to our roundup of the data acquisition and 
control news.  If you would like to receive more 
timely DAQ news updates then grab our RSS newsfeed 
at  Read for notes
on how to display the news on your own web site, 
read it via e-mail, mobile phone or a newsfeed viewer.

Seals help unlock ocean secrets
   Small data logging transmitters have been attached 
   to the heads of elephant seals to collect otherwise 
   inaccessible information about the climate.  Scientists 
   usually collect ocean data to using satellite sensing, 
   buoyant floats, and ship expeditions, but winter sea 
   ice renders the Southern Ocean virtually impermeable to 
   all three. Southern elephant seals are wide-ranging 
   predators that roam all over the Southern Ocean, even 
   under the sea ice in the wintertime - a time when 
   conventional ocean observation methods are unable to 
   gather data. The new devices measure temperature, 
   pressure, and salinity and transmit data as well as 
   seal positions to satellites when the seals surface. 
   From this, researchers are able to amass data for a
   vast range of hitherto inaccessible ocean, including 
   areas deep within the sea-ice in winter while also 
   learning about the animals themselves.
   Source: SCUBA News

Rubbery conductor promises robots a sensor-packed skin
   Giving robots soft and sensitive skin is difficult 
   when it must be built using tough, inflexible 
   electronics. But Japanese researchers have created 
   super-stretchy circuits from a new elastic conductor 
   material that could be the solution.  The "e-skin" 
   aims to be an affordable layer of pressure and 
   temperature sensors flexible enough to completely 
   cover a robot without limiting its movement.
   Source: New Scientist

Intelligent scales
   German researchers have developed scales for 
   supermarkets that can determine what type of produce 
   is placed on them.  The researchers created the 
   intelligent scales by building in a camera and an 
   image processing system.  The intelligent scales are 
   being tested in about 300 supermarkets across Europe.
   Source: The Engineer

HMI software market to grow
   The worldwide Human Machine Interface (HMI) software 
   and services market will outperform the industrial 
   automation market and grow at over 9.1% over the next 
   five years, according to a new ARC Advisory Group study. 
   Source: ARC Advisory Group

To improve robots, researcher eyes jellyfish
   Biology professor Joseph Ayers is studying tactile 
   sensory perception in jellyfish and lobsters to 
   improve underwater robots. "There are hardly any 
   autonomous robots out there that can operate in 
   unpredictable environments," Ayers said. "What we 
   bring is a really good understanding of how the 
   nervous system controls behavior in animal models. 
   If we can build a truly biomimetic robot, it will 
   embody the results of four million years of evolution."


* Copyright Windmill Software Ltd
* Reprinting permitted with this notice included
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Windmill Software Ltd, PO Box 58, North District Office,
Manchester, M8 8QR, UK
Telephone: +44 (0)161 833 2782
Facsimile: +44 (0)161 833 2190
E-mail: [email protected]


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