# Tidying messy Excel data (Introduction)

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#### [Re-posted from Abhijit’s blog]

### Personal expressiveness, or how data is stored in a spreadsheet

When you get data from a broad research community, the variability in how that data is formatted and stored is truly astonishing. Of course there are the standardized formats that are output from machines, like Next Generation Sequencing and other automated systems. That is a saving grace!

But for smaller data, or data collected in the lab, the possibilities are truly endless! You can get every possiblle color-coding of rows, columns and cells, merged cells, hidden columns and rows, and inopportune blank spaces that convert numbers to characters, and notes where there should be numbers. That’s just from the more organized spreadsheets. Then you get multiple tables in the same spreadsheet, ad hoc computations in some cells, cells copied by hand (with error), and sundry other variations on this theme. In other words, it can be a nightmare scenario for the analyst. To wit,

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