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Quick Start Guide - Exl-Plan

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Thank you for downloading a trial (or fully operational) copy of Exl-Plan. This short, printer-friendly guide will take you through the various stages of installing, running and exploring Exl-Plan. Print it and refer to it as you progress through Exl-Plan.

Exl-Plan will help generate comprehensive financial projections for your business. It will save you having to build your own planning system or the expense of engaging outside help. You only need a very basic knowledge of Excel to prepare highly professional and presentable projections. If you are an advanced Excel user, you can utilize your expertise to enhance and expand Exl-Plan to meet particular needs. Exl-Plan requires Excel versions 5, 7, 8, 95, 97, 2000, XP, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016 running on Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP/Vista/Win7,8,10.

Note that your downloaded trial version contains, in addition to online help, a 90-page manual (Word or PDF format) for all versions of Exl-Plan and a series of Flash-based tutorials (running for 19 minutes) covering setting up Excel, getting started, the basics and using Quik-Plan. They are accessible via the Start > Programs > Exl-Plan menu.

1. Installation Notes

You have a choice of downloading Exl-Plan as either an EXE or ZIP file. If you do not have access to an unzipper on your PC, you should download the EXE file.

Once Exl-Plan has been downloaded (and unzipped if appropriate), run the EX*.EXE file to start installing Exl-Plan. Note that the * signifies a "wild card" which indicates that part of the file name will vary depending on the version you have downloaded. You will be guided through this procedure by on-screen prompts. Be sure to note of the name of the folder (it starts with "EX") where you install Exl-Plan. We recommend that Exl-Plan be installed within the C: drive. You will be informed in README.TXT on how to uninstall Exl-Plan.

2. Loading Exl-Plan

After Exl-Plan has been installed onto your PC, do one of the following to run Exl-Plan:

  1. Click Window's Start button, open the Programs menu and then select Exl-Plan from this menu. It will be probably the last item listed on the menu.
              or
  2. Load Excel and open the EXLPLAN.XLS file from within the EX* folder which was specified during installation. If you cannot locate this file, use Start, Search to find it.

Excel should open the EXLPLAN.XLS master file and automatically run its built-in macros. During setup, it will make a copy of this file called TESTPLAN.XLS. The latter should be used for experimentation and the former should be carefully retained as your master copy. If this does not happen, refer to the next section.

3. Setting Up Excel to Load Exl-Plan

If Exl-Plan does not load smoothly or fully, please check the following. Also, see the tutorial Set Up Excel (2 min.) for guidance.

When loading Exl-Plan into Excel, you must enable macros so that Exl-Plan's menus, buttons, tools etc. can operate. The following instructions explain how to do this for different versions of Excel.

If using Excel 5, 7, 8, 95, 97, 2000, XP and 2003:

  1. If Excel displays a message about enabling macros while Exl-Plan is loading, you must select Enable Macros.
  2. If Excel displays a message like "The macros in this project are disabled ..... " you need to reduce the security level set within Excel from High to Medium via Tools | Macro | Security | Security Level (click thumbs below for guidance). You should then close and reopen Excel and then reload Exl-Plan. During reloading, you will be asked whether you want to enable macros. This is quite safe to do provided you secured Exl-Plan from our site or another reliable, trustworthy source.
  3. If Exl-Plan appears to load but only its FRONT worksheet is visible and its special menus do not appear in Excel's toolbar, you need to reduce the security level set within Excel from High to Medium via Tools | Macro | Security | Security Level (click thumbs below for guidance). Once done, you will be asked whether you want to enable macros whenever you try to load a workbook file (like Exl-Plan) that contains macros.
  1. Click to display full size Click to display full size Click to display full size
    Load Excel, select Tools, Macro, Security ... ... click Medium security level and close Excel. Reload Excel, load Exl-Plan and, when prompted, enable macros.

  2. If Exl-Plan loads and all its worksheets are visible but its special menus (they all start with * to simplify identification) do not appear in Excel's toolbar, you will need to temporarily reduce the number of menus displayed by Excel by disabling any add-ins which create special menus. To do this, use Tools | Add-ins to open a list of available add-ins. Uncheck the relevant add-ins, press the OK button, close and reload Excel. This should allow Exl-Plan to load fully and display its menus. To restore the disabled add-ins, reverse the procedure described above.
  3. Occasionally, Exl-Plan will load satisfactorily but may not display its special menus starting with *Assumptions, *Protect and so on. This may be due to a conflict with some add-ins loaded automatically by Excel. The fix is to reload Excel, uncheck all add-ins via Tools | Add-Ins; reload Excel and then open the Exl-Plan file.
  4. If a blank screen appears while loading of Exl-Plan and the system hangs, there has probably been a memory leak, caused by another application, which has reduced the memory available to Excel and Exl-Plan. To resolve, use CTRL+ALT + DEL to close down Excel and Exl-Plan. Then, reboot the PC to wash out the leak.

If using Excel 2007:

  1. Change the security level in Excel 2007 to enable it run macros by checking that Excel's Macro Settings within the Trust Center have been set to Disable all macros with notification. Access the Trust Center by clicking the Office button and selecting Excel Options. Having done that, you must permit Excel to run macros each time that Exl-Plan is loaded as indicated in #2 and #3 below.
  2. Once Exl-Plan has loaded, look out for a message Security Warning - Macros have been disabled and an Option button immediately below Excel's Home tab. Note that this warning is much less evident than that used in earlier versions of Excel.
  3. Click the Options button, specify Enable this content in the Security Alert Macro dialog and wait a few moments for Exl-Plan's macros to run. Note that Exl-Plan's menu bar (*Assumptions, *Protection etc.) is located in the Add-Ins tab. For ease of identification, the Exl-Plan menus all start with an asterisk (*), e.g. *Assumptions. Exl-Plan's special toolbar also appears in the Add-Ins tab. Note that by design the toolbar does not appear for every Exl-Plan worksheet. For more information on using Exl-Plan with Excel 2007, see the comprehensive Checklist and FAQs at http://www.planware.org/exlfaq3.htm.

If using Excel 2010, 2013, 2016:

  1. Change the security level in Excel 2010, 2013, 2016 to enable it run macros by checking that Excel's Macro Settings within the Trust Center have been set to Disable all macros with notification. Access the Trust Center by clicking the File button and selecting Options. Having done that, you must permit Excel to run macros when an Exl-Plan file is loaded for the first time as indicated in #2 and #3 below.
  2. Once Exl-Plan has loaded, look out for a message Security Warning - Macros have been disabled and an Enable Content button immediately below Excel's Home tab. Note that this warning is much less evident than that used in earlier versions of Excel.
  3. Click the Enable Content button and wait a few moments for Exl-Plan's macros to run. Note that Exl-Plan's menu bar (*Assumptions, *Protection etc.) is located in the Add-Ins tab. For ease of identification, the Exl-Plan menus all start with an asterisk (*), e.g. *Assumptions. Exl-Plan's special toolbar also appears in the Add-Ins tab. Note that by design the toolbar does not appear for every Exl-Plan worksheet. For more information on using Exl-Plan with Excel 2010, 2013, 2016, see the comprehensive Checklist and FAQs at http://www.planware.org/exlfaq3.htm.

Problems ?
If you experience a problem installing or loading Exl-Plan, feel free to use this Contact Form. Be sure to indicate file name; exact stage at which problem was experienced; and precise nature of problem or text of any message.

if using Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, see the special Frequently Asked Questions about using Exl-Plan with Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016.

4. Getting Familiar with Exl-Plan

Important Note: By design, Excel's automatic calculation function does not work in Exl-Plan. To update projections, you must click the one of the "C" buttons within Exl-Plan's toolbar or use one of the two calculate options within Exl-Plan's *Tools/Setup menu. To restore autocalculate to Excel after using Exl-Plan, close and reload Excel. Alternatively, select Tools | Options and choose the Calculation tab and check the Automatic button.

If using Vista and if Exl-Plan's help files fail to load and/or Excel indicates "There was a problem running the macro (1037)." there are two solutions as follows:

  1. Download and install the widely-used Help program (WinHlp32.exe) needed for help files used by some versions of Exl-Plan. You can get it from the Microsoft Download Center. If this link is broken, search the Microsoft site for "Windows Help program (WinHlp32.exe) for Windows Vista".
  2. An alternative solution is to disregard the help files and simply use the comprehensive manual supplied in PDF format with all versions of Exl-Plan. This covers the exact same material as the help files. If doing this, you should not click the help-related buttons within Exl-Plan's worksheets or within the *Exl-Plan Help menu. Also, you should turn off Toggle Help for Calculation Errors within Exl-Plan's *Tools or *Setup menu.

This guidance assume that Exl-Plan is running with Excel 5, 7, 8, 95, 97, 2000, XP or 2003. If using Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, see also Frequently Asked Questions for Using Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016.

The suggestions below mainly relate to trial copies of the Micro, Lite, Pro, Super, Super Plus, Ultra and Ultra Plus versions rather than to the Free or Basic versions. Trial copies of Exl-Plan contains restrictions which are automatically removed once upgraded to the fully-operational version.

  1. To become familiar with the basics and geography of Exl-Plan and its reports, take the Quik-Tour (*Exl-Plan Help | Quik-Tour) from within the previously created TESTPLAN.XLS or EXLPLAN.XLS files.
  2. Run the cursor across the menu bar - File, Edit etc. Note that Exl-Plan has added several new menus (*Assumptions, *Protection etc.).
  3. Click the M_S worksheet tab (or the "MA" toolbar button) to go to the monthly assumptions report for sales forecasts etc. Note that assumption values (displayed in blue) should be entered or altered only within the rectangular boxed-in areas opposite the green ->> or <<->> arrows. Values shown in black contain formulae and are normally locked (protected).
  4. Try adding or changing some of the supplied assumption values for sales in the M_S worksheet and recalculate (by pressing the "C" button or via *Tools/Setup | Calculate All & Check) to check the model's integrity and to update all the monthly, quarterly and annual output reports. (As explained above, Exl-Plan always uses manual calculation).
  5. Click worksheet tabs to view the other monthly assumption reports (M_M, M_C etc.). Change/add assumption values as desired and recalculate.
  6. Use Exl-Plan's menus, worksheet tabs and buttons (especially "<-" and "->" arrow buttons) to view the remaining assumption and the various output reports and charts.
  7. Explore Exl-Plan's extensive help facilities within the *Exl-Plan Help menu.
  8. Open up the 90-page manual (Word of PDF format) located within the EX* folder created during installation via the Start > Programs > Exl-Plan menu.
  9. View the Flash-based tutorials (running for 19 minutes) covering setting up Excel, getting started, the basics and using Quik-Plan via the Start > Programs > Exl-Plan menu .

For additional help, see the How to ... Tutorials covering the basics of setting up and using Exl-Plan.

5. Things to Try

This guidance assume that Exl-Plan is running with Excel 5, 7, 8, 95, 97, 2000, XP or 2003. If using Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, see also Frequently Asked Questions for Using Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016. The suggestions below mainly relate to trial copies of the Micro, Lite, Pro, Super, Super Plus, Ultra and Ultra Plus versions rather than to the Free or Basic versions. Trial copies of Exl-Plan contains restrictions which are automatically removed once upgraded to the fully-operational version.

  1. Review a selection of the monthly, quarterly and annual assumption & output reports and charts to see how Exl-Plan handles its assumptions.
  2. Experiment with Exl-Plan's data-entry facilities which are located within the *Assumptions menu (i.e. Clear Assumptions, Constant Assumptions etc.) or are accessible via the graphical buttons in the toolbar.
  3. Go to the Quarterly Assumptions Report (by clicking the Q_A tab or "QA" button). Observe that monthly projections for an earlier year have been included in this report for reference purposes as quarterly values.
  4. Add or change quarterly assumptions. Recalculate and review the quarterly and annual output reports and their associated charts.
  5. If using Pro, Super or Super Plus, go to the optional 4th-5th Year Assumptions Report (click the 45_A tab or "45" button). Add or change annual assumptions for these years and recalculate. If using Ultra or Ultra Plus, go to the optional 6th-7th Year Assumptions Report (click the 67_A tab).
  6. View the Textual Summary Report (Text tab or *Output | Textual) and other annual output reports & charts.
  7. Print selected assumption or output reports and charts.
  8. If using Pro, Super, Super Plus, Ultra or Ultra Plus, try the sensitivity analysis facility (*Tools/Setup | Sensitivity Analysis) to globally change groups of key monthly and/or quarterly assumptions.
  9. Continue exploring Exl-Plan's menus etc. and entering or changing assumptions. Use its online help (*Exl-Plan Help) as appropriate.
  10. Use Quik-Plan (at the Quik worksheet) to prepare high-level, "quick and dirty" projections. Once Quik-Plan has been used, review the projections in the various monthly, quarterly and annual output reports and charts. Also, visit some monthly assumption reports (M_S, M_M, M_C etc.) to see how Quik-Plan has allocated your assumptions within these reports. Note: Quik-Plan may not be useable within all trial versions of Exl-Plan.
  11. If using using Super, Super Plus, Ultra or Ultra Plus, have a look at the additional tools for doing automatic "what-if" analyses of changes in sales and costs (worksheet What-If); for using a Dupont-type chart to assess profitability (worksheet Profit); for automatically generating very short-term cashflow projections (worksheet Cash); for comparing projections with actuals for monthly sales and other key variables (worksheet Track); and for compiling long-term trend reports and charts (worksheet Trend).
  12. Continue exploring Exl-Plan's menus etc. and entering or changing assumptions. Use its online help (*Exl-Plan Help) or supplied manual (Word or PDF format) and Flash-based tutorials as appropriate.

If you have found Exl-Plan to be too simple or complicated, you can download a different version from here.

If you are preparing a business plan, you should also consider using Free-Plan. You'll find a copy of Free-Plan inside the EX* folder created during the installation of Exl-Plan. Free-Plan plus Exl-Plan offer a great business planning solution for users of Word and Excel.

Alternatively, if you want a stand-alone software solution look into Plan Write Business Planner and Plan Write Expert Business Planner.

For additional help, see the How to ... Tutorials covering the basics of setting up and using Exl-Plan.

6. Building New Projections

This guidance assume that Exl-Plan is running with Excel 5, 7, 8, 95, 97, 2000, XP or 2003. If using Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, see also Frequently Asked Questions for Using Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016. The suggestions below mainly relate to trial copies of the Micro, Lite, Pro, Super, Super Plus, Ultra and Ultra Plus versions rather than to the Free or Basic versions.

Note that if you start using a trial version of Exl-Plan to develop financial projections, you can remotely upgrade the file being used to the commercial version - see the Upgrade worksheet and *Exl-Plan Help | Shareware Upgrade Information. This saves further downloading, reentry of assumptions etc. To upgrade online, click here.

To start constructing a new set of financial projections, reload TESTPLAN.XLS or EXLPLAN.XLS, or another copy of Exl-Plan's XLS file, and immediately save it with an appropriate new file name. Be sure to save your model at regular intervals as you work in case you make a mistake or change your mind about assumptions.

If you are using an upgraded or commercial version of Exl-Plan, perform the following preliminary tasks:

  1. Load a copy of Exl-Plan and save it immediately with a new file name.
  2. Select *Tools/Setup | Basic Model Info and enter basic information about the business to be modeled.
  3. Give the new model a title, for example First Attempt, using *Tools/Setup | Enter Model Title. This will be inserted automatically in the footer of each printed report.
  4. Use the *Tools/Setup | Clear All Assumption Reports menu command to remove all unprotected assumption values throughout the model.

If you wish to use Quik-Plan to generate first-cut, high-level projections for 3/5 years, follow steps 1-3 above and then go to the Quik worksheet. Otherwise, go to the Monthly Assumptions Report for sales at M_S to start entering your assumptions. Note that virtually all your assumptions should be entered directly into Monthly and Quarterly Assumption Reports. The Output Reports contain extensive formulae which generate the projections based on your assumptions. The only exceptions are (a) the prior year P&L in the Monthly P&L or Income Statement (i.e. the M_PL or M_IS worksheet) and (b) the opening balance sheet in the Monthly Balance Sheet (the M_BS worksheet) which must be entered directly into these reports.

Refer to Exl-Plan's online help or downloadable manual for guidance - see the topics relating to Model-building Procedure and Entering Assumptions. See also Frequently Asked Questions and the How to ... Tutorials covering the basics of setting up and using Exl-Plan.

For further information about Exl-Plan, go here. To upgrade online, go here.

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