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Excel 101: Part 1 – Learning the Basics

6 mins read

This article is written to begin introducing you to Microsoft Excel, and why it is the preferred software in many organizations.

Excel is an electronic spreadsheet program which is used for a variety of reasons. For most businesses, Excel is used for:

      • Various Reporting and Metrics
      • Visual Reporting and Metrics Graphs
      • Forms
      • Accounting and Finance Calculations
      • Calendars, Schedule, Planning

Most businesses think using Word is sufficient, however, Excel has proven to increase productivity and efficiency.

In this part of the series we are going to discuss the basics of the workbook: Cells. Throughout this series we are going to discuss other intermediate to advanced features that we use in the development of our templates.

Spreadsheet Cells and Cell References

When you look at Excel, you see a rectangular grid of Rows and Columns.

As you can see below, this workbook is a prime example of what the different types of stored data types that one cell can have. Most cell data types are fairly straightforward such as number, currency, accounting, date and time, percentages, fractions, text, or Boolean values.

      • Rows are identified by numbers (1, 2, 3…) and always run horizontally.
      • Columns are identified alphabetically (A, B, C…) and always run vertically.
      • The intersection point between a column and row is called a Cell. The cells are where all data is stored, and each can be identified by its Cell Reference (A1, B3, G10…).

For example: When looking at this screenshot of one of our templates formatted in Excel, you can reference that in C4 the ‘Corporate Employees’ is the data stored, and D4 is where the headcount number is stored, under column D which is related to the month of January only.

As you can see in this screenshot, the rows and columns can be:

      • Adjusted in size, as seen in Column A, B, C, and D
      • Merged to make a larger cell, as seen in B4, B5, and B6
      • Contain different visual formats such as number, text, alignments, fonts, borders, fills, and so forth

Cell Stored Data Types

The various types of data that a cell can hold include number, currency, accounting, date and time, percentages, fractions, text, formulas, or Boolean values that are specialized formats like phone numbers or SIN.

As you can see above, this workbook is a prime example of what the different types of stored data types that one cell can have. Most cell data types are fairly straightforward such as number, currency, accounting, date and time, percentages, fractions, text, or Boolean values.

Formulas

Formulas are used for calculations – usually encompassing data contained in other cells, some of which may be located on different worksheets or even in different workbooks! Creating a formula always starts by entering the equal sign (as seen above).

The screenshot above contains a fairly advanced formula, which we will discuss later in this series, but your formulas could be simple (as seen in the right screenshot).

The fantastic thing about Excel, is that it contains a catalogue of formulas (or Functions) of which you can reference from for that additional support.

Workbook Tabs

One of the amazing basic features of Excel is the capacity to centralize data and other information. A very helpful practice… what I consider to be the best leading practice is to have a centralized location where related data and information is stored. Rather than having several workbooks containing similar metrics, why not utilize the Tab feature in one workbook and create multiple tabs with the different related metrics? This way, you only need to maintain one workbook and can easily reference to it.

At the bottom of each new workbook, you will notice that it displays a tab called ‘Sheet1’ with a plus icon next to it. This shows you which sheet you are currently on, and when you click on the plus sign, you start a whole new tab.

These tabs can be easily renamed to title what information you are going to find on that tab, which is done by double-clicking on the tab name. When you do this, it will allow you to rename the tab. Below is an example:

You will notice that some of the tabs have been coloured, for visual purposes. The colour feature can make it easier to visually differentiate between tabs. This can be done by right clicking on the tab and selecting the ‘Tab Colour’ option.

Now that you have a basic understanding of cells, rows, and columns, as well as workbook tabs, please stay tuned for our article on Adjusting, Inserting, Deleting, or Hiding Cells.

Download this resource Excel 101: Part 1 – Learning the Basics.

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Visit our Resource Library for all available downloads.

If you require assistance with any of the guides, forms or templates, please contact a BIG representative.

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