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Discussions are a flexible way to have conversations within workbooks using chat-like functionality that streamline the process of model review and improve quality control, minimizing errors. Multiple team members can contribute to discussions, attach supporting references (i.e., "back-ups") such as files, links to websites, screen shots, and more. Discussions are linked to specific cells or ranges of cells, providing an audit history that "tells the story" behind an assumption or calculation.
Discussions are a beta feature that is currently available for Excel 2013 and 2016, only. This feature may be extensively modified or removed altogether in subsequent releases.
There are many ways to incorporate discussions into your modeling workflows; below is an example:
A Summer Analyst—an intern—is tasked with a comparable acquisitions analysis by his Associate. Because the Summer Analyst is inexperienced, the Associate insists that the intern source every data point and explain every assumption. As the Summer Analyst builds the analysis, he sources each data point using Macabacus' Discuss pane by either adding a source file, a link to the source web page, or a screen shot of the applicable information. Where he must use his judgement, he explains his rationale behind an assumption by adding a text message in the Discuss pane.
When the analysis is complete, the Associate opens the model for review and also opens the Discuss pane. The Associate can clearly see all of the source materials used in the analysis, as well as explanations behind the assumptions made by the intern. As the Associate reviews the model, she has comments and questions on the inputs in certain cells, such as "I think this value is too high, let's use 12%" and "where does this number come from?" She records these thoughts in Macabacus' Discuss pane, which links her comments to the cells to which they refer, and sends the workbook back to the Summer Analyst for follow-up.
In the Discuss pane, click the New Discussion button to begin a new discussion regarding the selected cell(s). The discussion will remain linked to the selection cell(s), even as you change the structure of your workbook by inserting rows, for example. Messages, files, links, and screen shots that you add to the discussion appear in blue balloons, while those contributed by others appear in gray balloons.
To add a text message to the discussion, click the New message button in the Discuss pane. In the text box that appears, type your message and key Ctrl+S to save the message to the discussion. You can also apply bold, italics, and underline formatting to your message using the Ctrl+B, Ctrl+I, and Ctrl+U shortcuts, respectively. Key the Esc to cancel adding a message.
You can add files to a discussion—perhaps to source your data—by dragging files into the Discuss pane or clicking the appropriate button to add them using a file picker dialog. If you intend for other to access these files, be sure they reside on a shared network drive, rather than your computer. Alternatively, you can check the Embed files box to embed files directly into your workbook, so that they always accompany the workbook. Note that embedding files increases the file size of your workbook.
To view a file in a discussion, right-click a file and select Open File from the context menu.
To add a link to a web page, copy the page's address from your browser's address bar to the clipboard and click the Paste web address button in the Discuss pane. After a brief delay, and if connected to the Internet, Macabacus will normally display the web page's title and icon that shows in your browser's tab.
To view a web page in a discussion, right-click the link and select Follow Link from the context menu.
To add a screen shot to the discussion, first take the screen shot using Window's Snipping Tool or other software, then copy the screen shot to the clipboard. In the Discuss pane, click the Paste screen shot button to insert the screen shot in line with other messages in the discussion. Use the pen and highlighter tools at the bottom of the Discuss pane to add boxes or highlights, respectively, to the pasted image to draw attention to certain information within the screen shot.
Screen shots are embedded within your workbook and, accordingly, contribute to file size (although typically not as much as embedding files). Use smaller screen shots to minimize the impact on file size.
When you delete a discussion, Macabacus will remove any embedded files and screen shots associated with that discussion from the workbook.
When another user adds a message to a discussion, it appears in bold font at the top of the Discuss pane until you read the discussion, at which point the bold formatting is removed. This is similar to how Outlook and Gmail display read/unread messages.
This documentation refers to Macabacus version 8.5.4, and may differ from the PDF documentation
on your computer that installed with your version of Macabacus.