If you have an Excel spreadsheet containing first and last names, how do you convert those names to email addresses (following the format First.Last@example.com)?

If you’re a programmer, maybe you use something like this:


header("Content-type: text/plain");

$names = explode("\n", $_POST['names']);

foreach ($names as $cur_name)
    echo str_replace(' ', '.', strtolower(trim($cur_name))) . '@example.com' . "\n";

But maybe you’re not a programmer. Maybe you’ve never done any programming before in your life. If that’s the case, how do you solve a problem like this? Maybe I’m missing something obvious, but there doesn’t seem to be a simple way to do it (maybe there’s some kind of Mail Merge feature in Excel that could handle it?).

These kinds of problems crop up all the time in the real world. As a programmer, I often find myself writing small scripts and/or piping together some command-line tools to solve tasks like these; at this point, it’s almost second nature. Unfortunately, I realize that a lot of these tasks are much more difficult for people who don’t know how to program. Instead of writing a simple script, the user ends up looking for an application or tool that provides the functionality they need. If they can’t find it, they’re forced to perform the task manually or give up.

My advice for dealing with these kinds of tasks? Take an introductory computer science course and learn how to program, at least a little bit. Even if you never plan to use those skills again, you never know when they might come in handy.

Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to be friends with someone who knows how to program ( ;) ). I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m more than happy to write simple scripts to help my friends out. In fact, remember that PHP script at the top of the page? I originally wrote it for one of my friends. :-)