Microsoft Excel – How to get started

Microsoft Excel is a spectacularly useful and well-used software application that forms part of the Office suite of solutions that has been a pillar of PC use around the world now for a couple of decades.

Why use Excel?

The essential purpose of the software is to make it easier for people to organise, manage, categorise and analyse any data they may have cause to be getting to grips with. The latest versions of Excel are capable of a wide range of often quite remarkable calculations and operations but the software is still used primarily for more basic purposes and for the simple saving and sharing of information.

Opening a document

To open a new Excel document you’ll need to go to the ‘Start’ button on the left hand corner of your PC and look through the programmes you have available until you find the right icon. Alternatively, if you are working with the Windows 8 operating system then you’ll find an Excel app on your dedicated ‘Start’ page along with all the other tools or apps you’ve downloaded or installed.

Understanding your spreadsheet

Once you’ve open a new Excel document, you’ll be faced with what is referred to as being a spreadsheet and which you’ll see has columns running horizontally and vertically. You’ll see also that the system uses numbers on the left hand axis and letters across the top. The columns along both axes run on indefinitely if you scroll down or over to the right so there’s theoretically no limits to the amount of data that can be entered into any Excel document. It’s generally best though to make sure that your documents remain somewhat manageable, organised and intelligible rather than letting them turn into something more like a sprawling mess. You can add new sheets to a single document by clicking the + icon at the foot of the page to help in that regard.

Entering your data

You’ll find as you become more familiar with the software that there are lots of interesting and potential very valuable ways in which an Excel spreadsheet document can be utilised. However, when you’re just getting started you’ll want first to be aware that the columns can be adjusted for size simply by placing your cursor on a single dividing line, holding the left mouse button down and manoeuvring the cursor and your line into a new position. You’ll see also that by clicking on a particular box it becomes highlighted and that column is identified for you in a rectangular box below the banner toolbar as ‘C9’, ‘H12’, ‘N22’ etc. based on the numbered and lettered vertical and horizontal axes. To enter data or information of any kind into a particular box in your Excel spreadsheets you can click on it directly and start typing, or you can write or paste into the elongated column above the lettering of the horizontal axis. To enter this content, whatever might be, whether it’s written words or numbers or anything else, simply hit the odd-shaped ‘return’ button that you probably know by now is the largest sat there on your keyboard. Hitting return enters your data into the Excel spreadsheet in the particular column you’re working in and moves you on automatically to the next one below.

Useful tricks and tools

You can adjust your fonts and text sizes very easily in Excel in the same way as you would in Word, which means making your selection with the help of two dropdown menus that sit side-by-side in the banner toolbar. You might notice that there are options there also relating to formulas, page layouts and some quite advanced data techniques. We will leave these for now but you might find at some stage that there are tools integrated into Excel that you find massively helpful in processing your data and doing the kind of math equations that most of us would struggle with at the best of times. Even getting started though with Excel can be very worthwhile whatever area of work or study you’re involved in, so hopefully this brief crash course has been of some use. As ever though, it is practice and persistence that really helps improve your skills with particular sorts of software.

For more information about our Excel Training courses please follow the link.

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