Many people get nervous when you say the word “spreadsheet.” I love spreadsheets and spend most of my business day working in Excel. Of course, I had to go through the Excel spreadsheet basics. We were all beginners at some point, right?
Excel Spreadsheet Basics | Getting Things Started
In my personal life, I use Excel to organize family birthdays, my mailing list, and even my grocery shopping. Hopefully, you are here because you also want to give spreadsheets a chance!
Let’s open MS Excel and click on “Blank Worksheet” from the templates shown on the new document screen.
If you are used to MS Word or PowerPoint, you’ll notice some similarities and some differences. At the top, you have the Excel tabs or ribbon. The Home tab looks similar with sections for the Clipboard, Font, and Alignment. Next, comes some specialty sections, such as Number, Styles and Cells. Cells?
Cells and Location Box
Cells are those little rectangles all over the Excel screen. Each cell has a name, such as Cell A1. Cell A1 is in Column A and Row 1. The column letters go across the screen left to right. The numbered rows go down the spreadsheet top to bottom. It should remind you of a Bingo card.
Click on a different cell, like Cell D4. Now look just below the ribbon and above the column letters. There is a Location Box that now says “D4,” sort of like “You Are Here” on a map.
Click back on Cell A1. Type your first initial and last name, then press Enter. When you pressed Enter, the information was stored in Cell A1, and your cursor moved down to Cell A2.
Click on Cell A1 again. Do you see your name? Now, look up to the Formula Bar between the ribbon and the column headings. Your name will be in both locations.
You can make changes in either spot: the cell or the Formula Bar. On the Formula Bar, click between your first initial and your last name. Type the rest of your first name. While you are still in the Formula Bar, look down at Cell A1. The changes you are making in the Formula Bar appear in Cell A1. Press Enter to finish putting your changes in the cell.
You can also press the checkmark in the box between the Location Box and the Formula Bar. The “X” cancels your changes and so does pressing the “Esc” key, also known as the “Escape” key.
Moving Around a Spreadsheet
Let’s learn some keyboard shortcuts to get around. On your keyboard, find the “Home,” “End,” “Page Up,” “Page Down,” and cursor keys. The cursors are little up, down, and left, right arrows. Do you see them?
Let’s use our shortcut keys to find out how far the columns and numbers go. Usually the “End” key helps us get to the last row or column in a long list, but we don’t have a list yet, so it will take us to the last empty cell.
Press the “End” key on your keyboard. Now press the right cursor arrow, and Excel will find the very last column on the right. Now press the “End” key and the down cursor arrow. That takes you to the very bottom row. On my computer it’s Cell XFD1048576. After the columns use “A” through “Z” columns use “AA” to “AZ” and so on. The rows just keep going down.
To get back to the top Cell A1, we could cursor up, we could press the “Page Up” key a zillion times, or “End” and up cursor then “End” and left cursor, or we can use one simple shortcut: hold down the “Ctrl” key, then press “Home.” Ctrl-Home takes us right back to the very top of our spreadsheet, right to Cell A1.
Now press “Enter.” Enter takes you down one cell at a time. Hold down the Shift key and press “Enter.” This takes you up one row at a time.
Press “Tab” a few times. Tab takes you one column to the right. What does Shift-Tab do? It takes you one column left.
We don’t really think of spreadsheets in terms of pages, so why do we use “Page Up” and “Page Down?” Let’s say you see twenty-five rows of your spreadsheet on your monitor. Press “Page Down” and you will see the next twenty-five rows. “Page Up” takes you back. Got it?
The Excel Cursor and Selecting a Range
You may have already noticed that your cursor changes shape as you move around the spreadsheet. The normal Excel cursor is the large white plus within the rows and columns.
You can select a range of cells by “dragging” this plus cursor through a group of cells. Dragging means to click on one cell, then hold down the mouse button as you move to other cells. The entire “range” or group of cells will be highlighted.
When you move your cursor up to the menu ribbon, it changes to the standard arrow. Click inside your Formula Bar, and it changes to the “I-beam” or vertical line so you can place it between letters or numbers.
Click on the letter “A” in Column A, just above Cell A1. Your cursor changes into a dark down arrow and the column is highlighted or “selected.” Click on the number “1” in Row 1 to the left of Cell A1. Your cursor changes into a dark right arrow and the row is highlighted or selected.
Do you want to select your entire spreadsheet, perhaps to change to a new font? Click that little box between Column A and Row 1. The “Select All” shortcut of Ctrl-A does the same thing. Remember, there is usually more than one correct way to give a command.
Moving a Cell
Think of each cell as a mini-document. You can change a cell’s format and wrap text within it. The other cells stay the same. When you move or copy a cell to a new location, all the contents and its formatting goes along for the ride.
Click on Cell A1 with your name and green lines appear around its edges to tell you it is selected. Now move your cursor to one of those edges, right on a green line. Your cursor will change to the compass-like move cursor. Once you have the move cursor, drag your name to a new location. For example, click on Cell A1, find the move cursor on the lower edge, then click, hold the mouse down and move to another cell. For today, when you get to Cell C3, let go.
Try it again. Put another word, like your favorite color or your pet’s name, under your name. Now move them both by dragging through both cells, finding the move cursor and dragging them to another location.
Cut and Paste work the same way. Try both methods. Usually dragging is easier if it is on the same screen, while Cut and Paste work best on larger spreadsheets.
Have you tried incorporating excel into your daily tools? Let us know in the comments section below.