Three cheers for this book and the other Thomson/Course Technology "Comprehensive" books addressing various applications in Microsoft Office 2007 (and, earlier, in Office 2003, etc.). The books are designed for successful use (either on a self-study basis, or in formal courses) on the part of those who, starting with no prior knowledge, want to bring themselves up to a skill level corresponding to what Microsoft terms "Microsoft Certified Application Specialist." Here are some of the distinguishing features of this Excel 2007 book:
(1) The book makes effective use of color, including frequent and well annotated screen shots.
(2) The book presents material in a highly readable, step by step way. (This might be a disadvantage for fast-track users of the book who do not need or want that much "hand holding," but it does mean that just about any motivated person who works conscientiously with the book can achieve success.)
(3) Each of the 12 chapters is set in the context of a "case" providing meaningful settings within which the application potential of Excel is brought into focus, usually in a "business-related" way. (This contrasts with some books that describe "how to do this" and "how to do that," but might lack motivation for WHY it might be of interest to be able to do this or do that.) Peripheral benefit: the book provides an informal introduction to some aspects of business, in the sense of extracting information from data to provide insights and perhaps support fundamental decision making.
(4) Each chapter concludes with a set of five exercises or "cases," starting with an exercise in which the reader is asked to extend the material developed in the body of the chapter. Starting-point workbooks for these exercises (and for the case presented in the body of the chapter itself) can be downloaded from the publisher's website. Workbook "solutions" for the cases can be downloaded by instructors using the book in a course setting. (Although some of the exercises include "explore" steps, the exercises do largely tend to take a "follow the bouncing ball" approach, which helps the user ease into the material but probably falls short for fast-track users who might want to be challenged to be more creative in applying the material, i.e., "Here's a situation, and here's the information that is to be developed in this situation. Starting from scratch and using your own wits entirely, develop the information. No step by step approach is provided for your use. You're on your own. Go to it!"
(5) The book is certified by Microsoft as containing the Excel material that, when mastered, puts the user in a position to pass Microsoft's "Certified Application Specialist" exam. This certification, in turn, can be a valuable resume' entry for some people in the workforce. (Ditto for similar certifications for Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Access, and so on.)
(6) There is a companion book ("Casegrader," by Crews and Murphy, ISBN 978-1-4239-9823-5) consisting of twelve "cases" integrated with the Excel material presented in the corresponding chapters in the Parsons, Oja, Auer, and Carey book. After developing the workbook for a Crews and Murphy case, the workbook can be uploaded to a website for automatic scoring, with a step by step analysis and report produced as a result. (The Crews and Murphy cases fall into the "follow the bouncing ball" category, but have the virtue of forcing use of the Parsons et al. material after the material has been studied. In my opinion, Parsons et al. and Crews and Murphy are best used together in this sequence: (a) Study a Parsons et al. chapter. (b) Do the corresponding Crews and Murphy case, keeping at it until you score 100% on it. (c) Do at least two of the Parsons et al. exercises at the end of the chapter. (d) Proceed to the next Parsons et al. chapter, etc.)
All best wishes for success to users of Parsons et al.