In case you missed it, ACL released the next version of their Acerno product, renamed it ACL Excel Add-in, and made it FREE! 2021 UPDATE – it doesn’t look like it’s free any more; requires ACL subscription.
UPDATE – I’m guessing that since this product never caught on, they only give it away to subscribers – go figure.
So I thought I’d update my review.
For my original review of Acerno, see A Review of ACL Acerno. It still seems that I’m the only one who ever took the time to review the product (versus marketing blurbs, which are all over the ‘net), which appears to be a statement regarding its popularity.
Despite the poor popularity, since they updated it AND made it free, I decided to dive in for another look.
Note: This add-in is not just for auditors! Any one who regularly reviews data should consider using this simple, EASY-to-use software.
Please take the new & improved poll at the bottom of this post (also free).
Executive summary: Not much has changed, except it is now free. Now that the price is right, I use it, and you might find it worthwhile too.
The best part is that you don’t even need to be an ACL customer! It is really FREE. For download info, see the Download topic below.
What is ACL’s Excel Add-in?
According to ACL’s website, their Microsoft Excel Add-in “takes Excel to the next level for auditors”. The add-in allows you, in marketing-speak, to:
- Quickly select samples for testing or investigation
- Make information, formulas and cells read only to avoid making errors
- Tick-mark to document results and capture sign-offs
For a nice, quick overview and a screenshot of the add-in, see ACL’s documentation here.
The last time I reviewed this product, I said it wasn’t worth the price. But now I suggest you use it. I sure do.
While it’s no replacement for ACL, it sure comes in handy when you don’t need an ACL plow horse.
What I Liked
- All the things I mentioned in my previous review. I don’t see that they changed any of the items I liked in the previous version.
- Before you can use the add-in, you have to define the file. Previously, you had to indicate the cell range you wanted to define. Now, you click in any cell containing data, click the Define button, and ACL automatically detects the entire cell range in use. You can still indicate a smaller range if you desire.
- When you define a file, all active filters already in place are removed, but ACL warns you first. You might want to check the “Create new worksheet” box when to define a file so that your data filters on your original Excel tab are preserved.
What I Didn’t Like
- None of the items in my previous review have changed, and I still don’t like them.
- When you click the “Generate Report” button to create a new tab with your filtered data, a new column (Row ID*) is inserted as column A. That moves your data that was in column A in the original tab to column B in the new report tab, and all the other columns are shifted likewise. That can cause confusion when, in your work paper, you compare the same data in the original tab and the new report tab. In the original, the column is A, but in the report tab, it’s column B.
* The purpose of the Row ID column is to identify which row in the original tab the data in the new report tab appeared. For example, if your filter displayed rows 3, 5, and 11, the Row ID column in the new tab will contain 3, 5, and 11.
Why I’m Using the Add-in
Mainly, I use the add-in for population validation of files. None of these features are new, but now that the add-in free, they are the reasons I use this software:
- Checking that clients provided data in the proper date range. When you click in a column, the Info Panel automatically shows you the newest and oldest date in the file. No scrolling or filtering required. This is my favorite feature.
- Identifying the number of columns and rows are the file, which the Info Panel provides at the top. This is handy if you need to determine whether all 32 fields (or whatever number you’re expecting) are in the file, and whether it contains all the expected records. It beats scrolling to the right and counting columns or going to the end of the file to check the last row number.
- Checking columns for blanks, zeroes, as well as positive and negative numbers.
I also use the add-in when I’m filtering data for inclusion in a work paper. After you filter the data, click the Generate Report button to automatically create a new tab with just the filtered data (no more copy and pasting!).
After the add-in creates the tab for you, it also documents the following at the bottom of the tab (beneath your data):
- Path of the file (see line 38).
- Date and time the file was defined by ACL (line 40; the Define Data command is noted in line 43)
- User who defined the file (line 41)
- Name of the tab from which the data was defined s(line 42)
- Name of the tab containing the report (line 44)
- Total number of rows in the original tab (line 45)
- Names of the columns in the original tab (line 46)
- Date and time the data was filtered and the report generated (line 49)
- Number of records in the original tab (line 53)
- Filter that was applied (line 54). In this example, the “Name 2” column was filtered to display all values not equal to blank)
- Number of records in the filtered/new tab (line 55).
See the example below (click to enlarge).
This saves time as you no longer have to document how you filtered the data in your work papers or how many records were identified via the filter. Nice!
Download and Use the Add-in FREE (NOT)
The download requires registration. Download here. One person can register and download it and install it multiple times with no issue.
Poll/What do You Think?
After my original review, I took a poll, which is still available in my previous review (the responses were not pretty).
Please take this new and improved poll (which is also free) and leave me a comment to let me and others know what you think about the Excel Add-in.