“Yes. It’s a strange feeling, Kha’Mak, to know suddenly that all the decisions in your life have brought you to this place. There is no longer doubt or uncertainty. The future now consists of only three probabilities. … In the moment that I strike, the Emperor and I will both die. Or he will die and I will spend my life in prison. Or I will fail and be killed. For the first time in my life, the path is clear.”
“I was ready. I had prepared myself. I had made my peace with the universe, put all my affairs in order. I had the dagger in my hand! And he has the indecency to start dying on his own. Never in my life have I seen a worse case of timing.”
G’Kar in Babylon 5: “The Coming of Shadows”
I’m not a fan of Excel, but I’ve seen an interesting presentation a while ago (sorry, lost the source) in which the author described how he wrote a biography of a famous person (I think it was Martin Luther King, Jr.) by using Excel.
He created an Excel file and used one column to write down information that happened at a specific time in the life of this person, and another column to write down the exact date. After intensive research he had a very long Excel file and the sorting function of Excel ordered all the events in the correct chain of events. I’m not sure, but I think another column was for meta information, like the importance of the event. This way it becomes very easy to make sense of chronological information.
There are limitations (doesn’t Excel cap the amount of letters in each cell?), but it sounds like a very good and easily available starting point. You can research without having to worry about the correct order, as long as you write down the exact date (2012-07-22, or 2012-07-xx if the day is unknown, etc.). And of course, you can easily copy the columns and paste them into a text file and then into an content outliner like Circus Ponies Notebook or OmniOutliner.
Of course, there are similar solutions, like using a database and using one filed for the date, or using a multiple column outliner like OmniOutliner.
So, using Excel (or any other program) in this way is a very specific solution when you get information in more or less random order but the events have a very specific date. If you work with this kind of information, using Excel this way might actually be helpful.