Preserving a spreadsheet on its own isn’t enough. As with word processed documents, you need to keep metadata about the spreadsheet, capturing information about:
· the department or organisation which created it
· the date it was created
· the business function which the spreadsheet was supposed to carry out
· other spreadsheets or files which the current spreadsheet linked to
· the file format it is in, and the application used to create it
· the preservation log details, such as when it was accepted into the archive, and by whom.

AHDS think it is mandatory to keep information about the purpose and content of the spreadsheet as a whole, each worksheet, each column (plus data type), each row, and ‘coding scheme’ (?what that?).

To be honest it depends on the sort of spreadsheet you want to preserve. About 90% of all Excel spreadsheets are just used by people as a kind of list manager. So if your spreadsheet is a list of all your favourite Bob Dylan songs, then your spreadsheet simply isn’t going to include any functions or charts or macros, and preservation becomes a bit simpler. But if your spreadsheet contains VAT calculation data for your business for the past ten years then you need to adopt a more rigorous approach.

Tips

· Never set a password to open the spreadsheet – the password will be lost.
· Use headers and footers to record metadata too.
· Use standard fonts, not strange ones.
· Be consistent over time and date formats.
· State the currency in the cell name (it may get lost or replaced in migration).
· Do not convey information though formatting, sych as cell or font colour, or font style.
· DPT recommend setting up Excel templates for spreadsheets-identified-for-preservation, to include such things as meaningful human-readable names for rows and columns, fields for consistent metadata entry etc.
· Once you’ve migrated, you need to check it – count the number of rows and columns, check the dates are ok, check that variables look like what they are supposed to and so on.

Questions – does XML and tab-delimited keep the Comments?

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