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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, sometimes I still get a blank look when I mention MS Excel. Many people 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 that is commonly used to store information. Once you have stored the information, 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 to find answers or patterns, it will make the task easier.
When you open MS Excel 2013, it looks similar to MS Excel 2007 and 2010. If you have an older version, then Excel looks different, but the concept of a worksheet is very similar.
So what am I looking for when I open Excel?
When you open Excel in version 2007 or later, you’ll see a ribbon of commands to help you quickly complete the tasks you need to do. Below the ribbon, you’ll see a square table, also called a seed, that contains rows and columns. Rows are identified by numbers in the left column on the left side of the screen. An Excel file can contain up to 1,048,576 rows. The columns at the top of the table have letters starting with A through z and then two or more letters, which can add up to 16,384 columns. Even if you have these rows and columns at your disposal, remember that because you are limited by the power of your computer, the more information you put in, the quality of your table will suffer.
The first cell you can enter data into is identified as A1, meaning its address is column A row 1. This is also referred to as a cell reference.
Notice how the first column A and the first row 1 are dark green. This way you know the cell reference or cell address for each cell.
What kind of information can you put in a cell?
There are different types of data that you can store in a cell, such as numbers, text, links and formulas. Excel has a complete list of different formulas that you can use to manipulate your data. In MS Excel 2007 and newer versions you can find formulas under the Formulas tab in the ribbon. Data manipulation is where Excel’s power lies.
What are the Uses of MS Excel?
You can do a lot with Excel! Some things you can do are:
- Basic math calculations such as sum, product, min, max, average.
- Manipulate financial data to calculate profit or loss
- Draw up payment plans for different rates on loans and mortgages
- Create a personal/family budget
- Graphical data in charts
- Rotate tables and charts to sort and filter data
- Write small applications called macros to automate everyday tasks
How can I use MS Excel data for my presentation needs?
I usually use Excel to manipulate data and find patterns. When I am satisfied with the information I have collected and manipulated, I can usually copy the information and paste it anywhere I want such as:
- Other MS Excel Workbooks
- MS Word file
- Web pages – First I save it as a picture
- Offers – PowerPoint easily accepts tables and charts from Excel. Just copy from Excel and paste directly on the presentations. I usually choose to scan as an image, but it can also be useful to leave the table/chart as a functional table/chart for easy manipulation within PowerPoint.
- Print – 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 of mistakes! It’s easy to delete and start again. The important thing is to start!
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