Tag Archives: filter

My Favorite ACL Tricks

Here’s a couple of my favorite ACL tricks & treats that I use frequently to get me through the day a little faster and a little less frustrated.

These tricks are the kind that they don’t teach you in class or in tutorials (at least I’ve never learned any of them there; maybe I was in the bathroom during that session); I either figured them out on my own or had someone say, “Let me show you something.”


The Command Line

When I train someone in ACL, the command line is one of the first bonus items to which I draw their attention. The command line allows you to run individual ACL commands without using the ACL menu or scripts.

To open the command line: in the menu bar, click Window, Command Line. This will appear:

You can run most ACL commands from the command line, such as OPEN a table, ASSIGN a variable value, and lots more (the commands can be entered in lower/upper/camel case, but I use uppercase in this post to help them stand out).

My 2 most frequently used command are listed below.

DISPLAY – list the fields in a table, along with their start position, length, and more.

To run this command, 1) open the table you want to run this command against, and 2) enter the command in yellow in the command line, and press Enter.

Note that the last line shows you a computed field and the formula behind it.

DISPLAY VARIABLES – list all currently active variables, their type/format, and their values.

To run the following command, just enter it in the command line, and press Enter.

Note that user-defined variables (v_record and v_table) are shown, along with system variables (OUTPUTFOLDER and WRITE1). If you’re not familiar with ACL system variables, look them up in the ACL help file (it will be worth your time).

Note that 2 of the variables are character (C) type and 2 are numeric (N).

This command is extremely helpful when you are troubleshooting variables.

Bonus: Instead of DISPLAY, you can type DIS; instead of DISPLAY VARIABLES, you can type DIS VAR. Much shorter!

Bonus #2: Another useful use of the command line is to enter variable values. For example, if you have a NOTIFY command at the end of a script that will send an email if v_Run_Notify = “Y”, you can enter v_Run_Notify = “N” in the command line and press Enter to change the variable value and prevent the NOTIFY command from running while you test changes to your script.

Open a Table You Can’t Find

Sometimes I can’t find a table because I don’t remember (or know) which ACL folder it is hiding in (the folder in your project, not a Windows folder on your hard drive).

If you know the name of the table, you can just type OPEN <tablename> and press Enter (where <tablename> is the name of the table you want to open). When I don’t remember the table name or I’m too lazy to type it out, I copy the name from the ACL log or a script that uses it, and copy it to the command line.

When the table opens, you can then see what folder the table was hiding in (the folder is not shown in screenshot below).

Clear the Command Line

When you use the command line a lot, you have to clear it before entering another command. Instead of backspacing and deleting the text, or highlighting and deleting the text, just click the X at the far right.

Likewise, instead of pressing Enter after entering a command, you can click the checkmark.

Table History

When you’re working on a big project that contains many different tables, sometimes it’s hard to remember how that table was created. Or you haven’t opened the ACL project in a while, or you have to troubleshoot or review a project someone else created.

So what table(s) were used to create that table, and what filters/joins were used to create it? How many records did the original table contain?

I used to hunt through the ACL log or the scripts to find all that info, but for the most part, it’s all in the table history.

To access a table’s history, 1) open the table you’re interested in, and 2) from the menu bar, select Tools, Table History. You’ll see something like this:

The first line shows the original table (PcardTransactions) and the FILTER used. The second line shows the filtered data (all fields) was extracted to a new table (PCardUSA).

The third line shows number of records in the original table (Input) and the fourth line shows the number of resulting records (Output) in the extracted table.

If a JOIN was used, the table history would list the primary and secondary tables as well as the JOIN command parameters used.

The other nice thing is that you can take a screenshot of the table history and use it for documentation or evidence.

Bonus: Instead of selecting Tools, History from the menu, you can type DIS HIS in the command line, and press ENTER. Same results!

If you have some ACL tricks up your sleeve, let me know.

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Auditor Struggles, Part 4

This is Part 4 of a Case File series that describes how real auditors tried to apply questionable methods to auditing and data profiling. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Does the Process X team provide metrics around their process?” I asked.

“Yes,” the most senior auditor replied, showing me the web page where the Process X metrics were displayed.

After reviewing the page briefly, I said, “I see they do metrics by month. You have a year’s data; are you planning to understand how they prepare their metrics and re-calculate them to see if you get the same numbers?”

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Auditor Struggles, Part 3

This is Part 3 of a Case File series that describes how real auditors tried to apply questionable methods to auditing and data profiling. See Part 1 and Part 2.

I looked at the third page of the handout and asked, “What is this?”

“A list of Active Directory (AD) groups and the user IDs in each group. I searched AD for any group containing the system name,” the junior auditor said, “and identified these 6 groups. I then downloaded all the members of these groups from AD into Excel.”

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Auditor Struggles, Part 1

Some auditors struggle with basic auditing. So when these auditors try to data analysis, well you can imagines how that goes.

I recently met with a team of auditors to give them input on what data profiling would be appropriate to perform. And what analytics might be insightful.

This is Part 1 of a 4-part Case File series that describes how real auditors tried to apply questionable methods to auditing and data profiling. Do not try these methods at home or work. Don’t even dream about them, awake or asleep. 

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Real Auditors Use Excel PowerPivot

powerpivot iconIf you’re an auditor and you are not yet using Excel PowerPivot, you are missing the next greatest thing since spreadsheets arrived.

If you are NOT an auditor, and you don’t use PowerPivot, you’re in the same boat with the auditors mentioned above, and it is sinking.

In other words, if you use Excel, you should be learning Excel PowerPivot. It’s that big.

Let me explain why.

NOTE: I updated this post quite a bit with new info…

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Check Excel Data for Blank and Invalid Values (Part 2 – Sort)

basic data analytics1As I explained in the last Excel post, you can check for blank and invalid data in Excel several ways.

In this post, I will focus on the insights and issues encountered by sorting each column from A to Z and then Z to A.

Sounds pretty simple, but I’m willing to bet you will be surprised to learn a thing or two…

For a list of the reasons why you must validate data before analyzing it, see Why You Must Validate Data.

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Check Excel Data for Blank and Invalid Values (Part 1 – Dropdown)

basic data analytics1You can check for blank and invalid data in Excel several ways.

Depending on the size of the file and your preferences, you can either scroll through the dropdown list, sort each column from A to Z and then Z to A, or apply a filter.

Sometimes, you need to use a combination of these methods.

It’s important to know how these methods treat data differently and to be aware of their limitations.

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#1 Reason for NOT Doing Data Analytics

Do you know the #1 reason auditors don’t do data analytics (DA) much?

It is so simple, so obvious, I hesitated to blog about it. Let me know if you agree.

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Filed under ACL, Audit, Data Analytics, Scripting (ACL), Technology, Written by Skyyler

Excel: Text to Columns

basic data analytics1Excel’s Text to Columns function allows you to separate pieces of data in a single column into multiple columns.

This function helps when key data is buried in a field with other information and you need to extract the key data into a separate column before you can analyze it.

For example, you obtain a list of email addresses, and all you want are the user IDs. Or you get a list of servers, and the server name is server.domain.com, and you need just the “server” name. Or you need to separate LastName, First Name into separate columns. That’s where Text to Columns saves the day.

This article is the fourth post in the Excel basic data analytic series.

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Excel: Identify Unique Values

Tobasic data analytics1 identify unique values in an Excel table, follow the steps below.

This article is the third post in the Excel basic data analytic series, which starts here.

The steps for identifying unique values are similar to identifying duplicates. The first difference shows up in step 3 below.

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Excel: Identify Duplicates

While thbasic data analytics1e previous post in this series described how to remove duplicate values in Excel, this post describes how to identify duplicates.

The remove duplicates function doesn’t tell you which values are duplicates, it just removes them. Sometimes you need a list of the duplicates so you can review them in detail or include them in your workpapers.

So we’ll look at how to create a list of duplicates across all values/columns and in specific columns.

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Review of ACL Excel Add-in, Now FREE! (NOT)

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).

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5 Things I Hate About ACL

I have 5 things I really hate about ACL. 

No, these aren’t critical issues, but I deal with them constantly, and they waste my time. All of them deal with the user interface.

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Filed under ACL, Audit, Data Analytics, Technology, Top 10, Written by Skyyler

Stupid Spam Comments 2

Like most bloggers, I get really stupid spam comments. Fortunately, the spam filter or widget, Akismet, has caught everyone one I’ve received so far. As a result of the filter, I was able to make my blog more comment-friendly (I’d love to tell you all about it, but that would only invite more spam, and I like bacon a bit more).

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Save Your Blog!

If you’re a blogger, have you saved your blog lately?

WordPress makes it easy. Here’s how to do it if you have a free blog:

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