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FAST Spreadsheets

Q: What are the computer system requirements to run the FAST programs?

A: Microsoft Excel version 2000 or higher is needed to use any of the spreadsheet tools. Excel is one of the programs in Microsoft Office. Visit the Microsoft Excel website at

Q: Do I need to be an Excel expert to operate the spreadsheets?

A: Absolutely not! All programs are menu driven with navigation buttons that allow the user to easily maneuver throughout the spreadsheets. Cells requesting user information are clearly marked with a yellow background and blue font. The user can operate all tools simply by clicking on navigation buttons and typing data in the appropriate cells.

Q: When I open a FAST spreadsheet, it asks if I want to “Enable or Disable Macros.” What does this mean?

A: When opening the Excel programs, you will receive a message asking you to “Enable or Disable Macros.” There are no known viruses in the spreadsheets, so always choose “Enable Macro.” If this option is not chosen, the calculations within the programs will not function properly and the navigation buttons will not work.

If you do not receive the “Enable Macros” message, the security level for Excel on the computer you are using may be set too high causing the programs to not operate properly. To check the security level, open Excel. Click on “Tools,” located on the menu bar at the top of the screen. Move the mouse to highlight “Macro,” which should cause another window to open. Move the mouse to highlight and click on “Security”. The Security level section has three options: high, medium, and low. To operate the FAST tools, the “high” option should NOT be selected. Make a different selection to operate the spreadsheets. This process needs to be done only once.

Q: None of the buttons in the spreadsheet appear to be working. What is wrong?

A: If you click on a program button and nothing happens, then the macros for the spreadsheet have been disabled or the security level on the computer you are using is set too high. To solve this problem, first check the security level by following the steps in the answer to the previous question. Make sure to select a level other than “high.” Next open one of the FAST programs. When the message asking you to “Enable or Disable Macros” appears, click “Enable Macro.”

Q: How do I know which FAST spreadsheets have been updated?

A: Included in the updated FAST CD that subscribers receive each quarter are the latest versions of the spreadsheets. An update letter accompanies the CD documenting which programs have been modified. Also, the information page of each tool shows in the upper right corner the date the program was last updated. You can also see which spreadsheets have been recently updated by going to the FAST Tools website located on farmdoc. In the “Download FAST Tools” section is a column stating the date each tool was last modified.

Q: How do I save the information entered in a spreadsheet?

A: Data entered in any FAST program can be saved for future use. To save a spreadsheet, click on “File,” located on the menu bar at the top of the screen. Move the mouse to highlight and click on “Save As.” Select where on the computer you want to store the file and click “Save.”

When saving a FAST spreadsheet, DO NOT click the Save icon on the standard bar at the top of the screen. This action will write over the original spreadsheet. It is recommended that you save the program with your entered information as a separate spreadsheet so that you have a blank copy to fall back on.

Q: Where can I get additional information and help on FAST Tools?

A: For additional information regarding FAST Tools and Resources, FAST training workshops, or for assistance with any of the FAST spreadsheets, please contact Paul Ellinger at (217) 333-5503 or via email at

Q: What are FAST training workshops? When are they held?

A: FAST training workshops are designed to educate the use and applications of the FAST spreadsheets. Participants are provided with laptops to gain hands-on experience with the programs.

Workshops are conducted throughout the year across Illinois . The majority of these sessions are held during the winter months, while other workshops are conducted over the summer.

Each summer FAST holds a series of workshops on the University of Illinois campus designed to provide in-depth training to individuals who desire a comprehensive understanding of FAST and who may like to teach the spreadsheets to students, farmers, or clients. Other workshops held during the year cover a variety of topics with each meeting focusing on a specific set of the FAST programs.

The locations and dates of all FAST workshops are posted in the “FAST Training Workshops” section of this page.

Q: Do lenders appreciate the financial statements produced by FAST?

A: YES! Agricultural lenders have been relied on heavily in designing the financial statements generated by FAST spreadsheets. These reports are viewed as accredited statements that accurately document the financial condition of a farm operation. Lenders have shown overwhelming acceptance and support for the FAST financial statements and encourage their use by clients.

FAST Tools and Resources CD

Q: What is on the FAST Tools CD?

A: The FAST CD is divided into two main areas: FAST spreadsheets and farmdoc resources. The CD contains all FAST spreadsheets plus supporting material, such as program descriptions, case studies of selected tools, documentation on CD contents and use, and announcements of upcoming FAST hands-on training sessions. The farmdoc section of the CD is a comprehensive archive of the literature and information provided by the farmdoc website. All the major subject matter areas are available on the CD. The latest farmdoc newsletters and reports are included with each CD update.

The FAST CD package can be easily installed on any computer. To download the resources from the CD, highlight and click on “Install CD Resources” on the Main Menu. Then click on “Install Tools and Resources CD to Hard Drive” and follow the directions.

Q: What are the advantages of subscribing to FAST Tools and Resources?

A: With a FAST subscription you get a CD containing all spreadsheet tools plus the information and literature available on farmdoc. This offers you the advantage of not having to download the programs from the FAST website, which is particularly convenient for those who do not have high-speed Internet access.

Furthermore, the CD package allows you to download the contents of the CD onto any computer. The benefit to installing the CD is that all tools and resources can be accessed on the computer without the CD. Plus, the package can be installed on more than one computer.

Q: I put the FAST CD in the drive and nothing happens. What should I do?

A: Upon inserting the CD in the drive, the CD will activate and display the Main Menu on the computer screen. If the menu does not appear, activate the CD by going to My Computer, select the CD drive, and open the Main Menu file titled “MainMenu.exe.”

Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics    College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
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