Getting Started with Excel


Excel is one of the most important business applications of all time. It allows managers to perform sophisticated and powerful analyses, including quickly connecting with corporate databases with hundreds of thousands of records. At the same time, it is intuitive and straightforward to use. It would be hard to find any business, small or large, whose managers do not rely on Excel in their daily work.

In this book, we start with the basics and then quickly demonstrate how to use some of the most advanced features of Excel. At the outset, it is important to get two important things out of the way. First, as a beginner, there is no substitute for experience. Each lesson in this book contains a rich set of practice problems and assessments that require that you apply what you are learning in the live Excel application. Don’t skip over the problems. The only way to learn a skill in Excel is to do it in Excel.

The second important point is that you should also find ways to experiment with Excel. When you have a decision to make that requires you to analyze something numerically, put the numbers in Excel. When you are done with a homework assignment or set of practice problems, play with the numbers in the assignment. Eventually, you will feel comfortable with Excel as a tool to help you solve many types of business and personal problems. Let us begin by discussing the Excel working environment.

Working in Excel

The Excel Working Enviorment Transcript

When you open Excel, you are typically presented with a blank workbook. A workbook is an Excel file that stores all the information, calculations, and analyses that you may have already completed. A workbook must contain at least one worksheet. A worksheet contains the actual data and calculations. A worksheet is organized into a collection of cells arranged in the form of a table. Cells store individual pieces of data or calculations. Figure 1.1 shows a blank Excel workbook. You will notice a fairly sophisticated menu system at the top of the workbook—but don’t worry! We will discuss Excel’s menus in the next few sections. Near the bottom left of Figure 1.1, you can see the text “Sheet1” on a tab. This designates that there is one worksheet in the workbook. You can add a worksheet by clicking on the plus icon next to the word “Sheet 1.” When you have more than one worksheet in your workbook, you can move to another worksheet in the workbook by clicking on that particular worksheet tab.

You will also notice that each of the worksheets is divided into a number of cells. You can select a cell by clicking on that cell. You will also notice that each cell has an address that can be described in terms of the row and column that correspond to that particular cell; we refer to cells by their addresses. The top-left cell in a worksheet is cell A1. The cell in column F and row 10 is called cell F10.

Figure 1.1: A Blank Excel Workbook.

Excel has literally dozens of menu items that you can access. The menu area is divided into major groups according to each group’s function. The major menu areas can be accessed by clicking on the various menu tabs. Figure 1.2 shows the various menu tabs and the specific menu items available under the Home tab. While the menu displayed in Figure 1.2 may not exactly match the menu you see when you open Excel on your computer, it should be pretty close. Each of the major menu areas is further organized into specific groups separated by vertical lines. As you can see, the Home menu area is divided into menu groups (such as Clipboard, Font, and Alignment). There are other groups in the Home area that are not shown in Figure 1.2.

Hidden within each of the menu groups are many other menu items that are not shown. In most cases, Excel displays the most commonly used menu features for convenient access. You can access the menu items that are not shown by clicking on the expand icon in the bottom right area of each menu grouping:

Don’t let the number of features and menu items overwhelm you; while each item can perform a helpful task, there are many items that you may never use.

Figure 1.2: The Excel Menus.

The features in each menu tab are grouped together because they perform similar functions. (From left to right in Figure 1.2) The File menu is used to manipulate workbooks. The Home area includes items used to format the appearance of data in cells. Items in the Insert area include features that allow you to place specialized elements into your workbooks, such as charts, pictures, and shapes. The Page Layout menu items are used to format the appearance of worksheets. The Formulas menu items use Excel’s built-in functions to help perform calculations. Items in the Data area are used to aid in importing and working with large amounts of data. The Review menu items contain options for sharing the Excel workbook with colleagues. The View menu items are used to change how a worksheet is displayed on the screen. The Excel menu area is also customizable; other menu tabs, such as the Developer or Add-Ins tabs, can be added to the Excel menu as you begin to use more of the features included in these groups. More details about each menu area will be provided when we start to use the items in each area.

Working with Excel Workbook Files Using the File Menu

Excel File Menu and Help Transcript

The File menu tab contains the menu items necessary for working with workbooks. You will notice that the File menu is different from the other tabs in Excel. Clicking on the File menu tab causes the entire current worksheet to be replaced with the File menu items (see Figure 1.3), while clicking on any other tab reveals a new set of icons in the menu area that can be used with the open worksheet.

The left column of the File menu contains the major categories of tasks that can be performed on workbooks. The Info portion of the File menu displays information about the current workbook and the users who have contributed to the file.

The New portion of the File menu contains features related to creating a new workbook. You will notice that you can create a blank workbook or workbooks that are based on templates. Templates can be particularly useful because they often contain data, formatting, and calculations that relate to common spreadsheet tasks (such as managing a budget or expense report).

Open is used to select a different workbook that you want to be opened in Excel (Figure 1.3). Here you can open recently used workbooks or select a workbook that has been saved on OneDrive (a cloud service provided by Microsoft) or locally on your computer.

Figure 1.3: The File Tab: New Menu Items.

The Save and Save As menu items allow you to (1) save the current workbook, (2) save a copy of the current workbook with a new name or location, or (3) save a copy of the current workbook as a different file type. These options can be helpful as you gain experience with some of the more advanced features in Excel.

The Print menu area contains items related to printing a worksheet. These items include selecting the correct printer, manipulating the various printer functions, and sending a worksheet to the printer. The Print area also displays a preview of how a particular worksheet will look once printed.

Items in the Share area (Figure 1.4) are used to make this workbook available for colleagues. The Export area allows you to convert your work to another file format (such as PDF) for those colleagues who prefer to review the work in a different application.

Figure 1.4: The File Tab: Share Menu Items.

The Close menu closes the open workbook. The Options set of menu items allows you to customize the appearance and functionality of Excel. Finally, the Account menu items allow you to manage users.

Getting Help

It is nearly impossible to keep track of all of the options and features available in Excel, and it is not uncommon to need help along the way. In addition to the large amount of Excel content that is available on the internet, there is a large help database available within Excel. To access this help, click on the lightbulb icon (Tell me what you want to do) in the top right corner. The Excel Help area (Figure 1.5) provides access to Microsoft’s extensive online help materials and information about what version of Excel you are using and how to get started with Excel. As you gain more experience with Excel, you will find that using the help features can save you a lot of time and frustration.

Figure 1.5: The Help Menu Items.

Take a few minutes and explore Excel; you will find that it is intuitive to use and easy to learn.