Expect tantrums from BabyPlan

Skip this unintuitive set of spreadsheets.

If you're serious about getting pregnant, you probably know that tracking your menstrual cycles and ovulation is a great way to increase your odds. There are plenty of ways to do this; you can do it the old-fashioned way, using a calendar, or there are any number of Web sites that can do much of the work for you. Or, if you're an Excel user, you can use a spreadsheet.

That's what BabyPlan is: an Excel workbook that helps you calculate your cycle length, predict ovulation, calculate due dates, and even predict the sex of your baby. Unfortunately, BabyPlan is probably one of the most annoying and unintuitive tools you could use for these tasks.

BabyPlan comes with three worksheets: one for entering data, another that displays a color-coded calendar view, and a third containing instructions and other information. At first glance, BabyPlan was a sea of different-colored cells, and it wasn't clear where we were supposed to enter data and where the spreadsheet was supposed to spit out its results, so we headed for the Help tab. The instructions weren't particularly well written, but they cleared up most of our questions, so we returned to the data tab and entered some sample dates.

BabyPlan did succeed in calculating the length of our cycle and our probable dates of ovulation, although it has the annoying habit of displaying dates in the month/date/year format in some cells and in the date/month/year format in others. In some cases, this makes it virtually impossible to know what date the spreadsheet actually means. When we entered a date that was, apparently, in the wrong format, BabyPlan spit up an error message written in Russian.

While BabyPlan technically seems to work, there are much easier ways to accomplish these tasks. We recommend that aspiring mothers check out some other options.

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