3 simple ideas on how to use Excel CONCATENATE function for technical writing

As I told you in the article Use Excel in your daily work, even if you are a tech writer, you can use Excel in your daily work for multiple tasks. In this article, I’ll show you a specific example: the CONCATENATE function.

How to use the CONCATENATE function

To use the CONCATENATE function, follow these steps:

  1. In Excel, activate a cell and enter:
  2. Click on the first cell that you want to include in your concatenated string.
    Alternatively, in double quotes, enter a value. For example:
    =CONCATENATE(“Your value”
  3. Add as many cell addresses as you want to put into a new string. Separate them with a comma (“,“). For example:
    =CONCATENATE(“Your value”, A2, “another value”, B2, B3, B4
  4. Finish the formula by adding a closing parenthesis (“)“) and press ENTER.

Tip: This function also works great when combined with other functions, for example:

  • Text functions: the UPPER or LOWER function.
  • The HYPERLINK function.
  • In a bit more complicated cases, the IF function.

Stay tuned for an article with more advanced uses of Excel functions.

1. URL generator

A lot depends on the CMS for documentation that your company uses, but very often documentation URLs have a specific structure. For example, the URL might consist of your company’s domain, /manual, and the path to the file that contains your instructions. Take a look at your URLs – maybe you’ll be able to see this structure right away.

If it’s the case when it comes to your documentation, knowing your URLs can be really helpful. Technical writers often have to work on many documents at the same time and open them in a browser to see how they look on a live server. That’s why, it might be helpful to create a URL generator in Excel. This solution can help you speed up a lot of activities, for example:

  • Monitor the documents you are currently working on.
  • Create documentation links for a review.
  • Quickly open the auto-generated URLs (by coping and pasting them in your browser or using the LINK function to create a clickable link).

Sometimes the documents are stored on different servers (for example a live server and a test server) – using the CONCATENATE function to generate URLs can help you to quickly check and compare the documentation hosted in different places.

Concatenate functions used to generate URLs
URLs generated with the CONCATENATE function

2. Message generator

As a tech writer, sometimes you have to send messages that most of the time are more or less the same. For example: “Could you please take a look at this documentation and tell me if it’s correct from the technical perspective: LINK“. Why not speed up this task? You can combine this message with the URL generated in the previous example and you have a ready-made message to send to someone!

Concatenate function used to generate messages
Messages and links generated with the CONCATENATE function

3. Filename generator

It’s always good to apply a naming convention in the structure of your files and their names. Thanks to this practice, it will be easier and quicker for you to:

  • Name your files – naming documents sounds like an easy thing to do, but sometimes even this simple activity can make your mind go blank. If you follow a naming convention, you will always know how to name your file.
  • Make your names follow SEO best practices – for example, you can create a filename that consists of a constant part, and then at the end of it, always add a keyword that you used for your document.
  • Find your files – it’s especially helpful when your documentation is huge.
  • Manage your files – it will be easier for you to keep track of where a document is and what it contains.

The CONCATENATE function is great when you follow a naming convention and want to quickly auto-generate your filenames. You can also combine it with Excel dropdown lists (stay tuned for another article on this topic).

For example, let’s assume that you want your filename to always contain a product name, a component name and a keyword related to the feature described in this document. Your Excel filename generator might look like that:

Concatenate function used to generate filenames
CONCATENATE function and dropdown lists

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