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MS Excel Basics 1 – What is Microsoft Excel?
What is Microsoft Excel (MS Excel)?
When I tell people about the different software I use for data analysis, I sometimes get a blank look when I talk about MS Excel. Many tend to forget that not everyone knows what MS Excel is and what it is used for. Microsoft Excel, or Excel for short, is an electronic spreadsheet program commonly used to store information. Once you have the information stored, you can use MS Excel to organize and manipulate the data. It is important to organize the data in a meaningful way so that when you try to manipulate the data finding answers or patterns will make the job easier.
When you open MS Excel 2013, it looks the same as MS Excel 2007 and 2010.
So what do I look for when I open Excel?
When you open Excel 2007 or a newer version, you’ll see a command ribbon to help you quickly complete any tasks you need to do. Below the ribbon, you’ll see a rectangular table, also called a grid, that contains rows and columns. Rows are identified by numbers in the left-hand column on the left side of the screen. There are up to 1,048,576 rows in an Excel spreadsheet. Columns are identified at the top of the table by letters starting from A to z and continuing by two or more letters which can make up to 16,384 columns. Even though you have all these rows and columns at your disposal, remember that the quality of your spreadsheet is affected by the amount of information you enter because you are limited by the power of your computer.
The first cell into which you can enter data is identified as A1, which means its address is column A row 1. This is also called the cell reference.
Note that the first column A and the first row are in dark green. That’s how you know the cell reference or cell address of each cell.
What kind of information can you put in a cell?
There are different types of data you can store in a cell, such as numbers, text, links, and formulas. Excel has a whole range of different formulas that you can use to manipulate your data. In MS Excel 2007 and newer versions you can find formulas on the ribbon under the Formulas tab. Transforming data is where Excel’s power lies.
What is the use of MS Excel?
With Excel you can do many things! Some of the things you can do are as follows:
- Basic math calculations like sum, product, min, max, average.
- Manage financial data to calculate profit or loss
- Show different payment plans for loans and mortgages
- Create a personal/family budget
- Graph data in charts
- Pivot tables and charts for sorting and filtering data
- Write small apps called macros to perform daily tasks
How can I use MS Excel data for my presentation needs?
I often use Excel to manipulate data and find patterns. When I am satisfied with the information I have gathered and used, I usually copy the information and paste it anywhere I want like:
- Other MS Excel workbooks
- MS Word file
- Web pages – I start saving it as a picture
- Speeches – PowerPoint easily accepts tables and charts from Excel. Just copy from Excel and paste directly into presentations. I usually choose to paste as an image, but it can be useful to leave the table/chart as an active table/chart for ease of creation within PowerPoint.
- Print it – Printing is an easy way to distribute information from Excel.
As you can see, MS Excel is a powerful tool for storing and manipulating data. It takes practice to get comfortable using it. So start today and don’t be afraid to make mistakes! It’s easy to delete and start again. The important thing is to start!
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