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The Basics of Microsoft Excel

By Yann, published on 30/04/2019 Blog > Academia > Information Technology > The Beginner’s Guide to Microsoft Excel

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” – Albert Einstein

Around a quarter of people over 60 have never used the internet. Digital exclusion is a big problem in modern society given that almost everything is happening online!

Seniors and those who’ve never touched Microsoft Excel, here’s a quick guide to the digital world. Alongside the other programmes in the Microsoft Office suite, such as Word for word processing, Excel is great for analysing data and automating calculations.

Since things like Excel spreadsheets, keyboard shortcuts, Excel apps, Microsoft accounts, and dropdown menus can sound alien to some, this article will guide you through the basics of using Microsoft Excel so that you’ll soon be making a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, Excel worksheets, Excel workbooks, creating charts and graphs, conditional formatting, etc.

How Do You Create a Spreadsheet on Excel?

With Excel formulae, functions, diagrams, macros, merging cells, etc., Excel is a programme for creating a spreadsheet.

How do you make a chart in Excel? You can use Excel spreadsheets to create graphs and charts. (Source: janjf93)

So how do you use Excel and why do so many people use it?

It’s often used by individuals and professionals to organise data into rows and columns. It can also be used to perform calculations and create graphs. In fact, there are so many businesses around the world using Excel data for presentations, data analysis, and its integration into other Office programmes.

Before you create your Excel spreadsheet, you’ll have to make sure that you actually have the programme on your computer. Sometimes you get Microsoft Office when you buy a new computer. This means the software may have been installed before you brought your computer home.

If you don’t have Excel, you’ll need to head online and subscribe to the Microsoft Office suite. Downloading Excel is simple and you can also enjoy the other programmes in the Office Suite such as Word, Powerpoint, etc.

That said, you don’t need to necessarily pay for Excel. There are also free versions from OpenOffice and LibreOffice. However, they’re not exactly the same.

Whether you’ve got a trial version, the full version, an older version, you just need to double click on the icon to open Excel and then to create a new file. You’ll then see a blank spreadsheet on your screen. The rows have numbers and the columns have letters. Get used to them, as you’ll soon see that everything is organised into columns and rows.

To create a simple spreadsheet, you just have to type your data into the cells (boxes) in the spreadsheet. If you have two types of data, you should enter one type in one column (Expenses, for example) then the second (Month of the Year, for example) alongside that in a new column.

You can also create automatic calculations or macros. To do this, start with the equals sign (=) and then your calculation.

For example: “= B2+B3”. The programme will then do the calculation for you and display the answer in that cell.

Once you’ve entered in all the data into your spreadsheet, select all the cells you’ve used in your spreadsheet and click “Insert” on the toolbar. You just have to click on “table” or “pivot table” and you’re done.

To create the headers for your table, you just have to click the cell before and click OK. Once your table is done, you can also modify the style. This means you can change the colour of columns or rows, put information in bold, etc. To do this, once you’ve selected the table, head to the “design” tab to alter the table style. You can pick whatever style you like.

Once your table is finished, you can copy and paste it onto another page or save it as a PDF or Excel document.

IF, AND, OR, and NOT functions on Excel

The functions IF, AND, OR, and NOT on Excel are logic functions. These aren’t the most famous uses of Excel but they can be really useful when it comes to calculations.

How do you use logical operators in Excel? You can become an expert in logical operators. (Source: Pexels)

They allow you to apply certain conditions to data in order to get certain results on whether or not conditions are met. The results are either “TRUE” or “FALSE”.

So how do they work?

To use logic functions, you need to put the calculation at the end of the line Start by writing “=” in your chosen cell to tell the programme you want to carry out an operation.

You’ll write the operation as follows:

=IF(A2>10, “For”, “Against”)

This operation shows you how IF functions work. Thus, if the number in cell A2 is greater than 10, the result will be “For”. If the number is smaller, the answer will be “Against”.

To compare different data, you can use logical operators including equal (=), different (<>), greater than (>), greater than or equal to (>=), less than (<), or less than or equal to (<=). These comparisons don’t necessarily need to be done with numbers. You can also use words.

The IF function is the main logic function. Other functions (AND, OR, NOT) can be added to specify certain conditions.

Thus, the AND function indicates that both conditions must be met for a positive result. The OR function indicates that only one of the conditions needs to be met for the result to be positive.

The NOT function indicates that the condition mustn’t be met in order for the result to be positive.

There are plenty of ways for these operations to be used. There are also embedded functions and you can create several conditions if necessary.

How Do You Create a Graph on Excel?

In addition to creating spreadsheets, Excel is also great at creating different types of graphs. You can use the data from your spreadsheet to create different types of graphs. You can pick the type of graph that best suits your data.

What types of graphs can you make in Excel? You can use graphs to show data more clearly. (Source: rawpixel)

Different types of graphs include:

  • Histogram
  • Line chart
  • Pie chart
  • Column chart
  • Bar chart
  • Area chart
  • Scatter chart
  • Radar

So how do you get started with an Excel graph?

Just like with a spreadsheet or table, you need to enter your data in the rows and columns in your current sheet. The data could be from one or several categories depending on your project.

You just need to choose the cells that you’re interested in and then click “Insert”. “Chart” will be one of the options. By clicking on one of the symbols, a number of subcategories will appear. There’s a large choice of different styles available.

Your chart will appear on your Excel spreadsheet. However, you can modify the formatting. You can click on the graph and then on the “Design” tab. There are various things that you can change:

  • The axes
  • The title of the axes
  • The title of the chart
  • The labels
  • The graph
  • The legend

Now you know how to create a chart!

This doesn’t need to be complicated and it can help you in your everyday life at work. In fact, you can create charts to present a project to your boss, create reports, or manage your expenses. It can be much easier to understand information if it’s presented visually.

Useful Excel Shortcuts

Excel isn’t necessarily an intuitive programme. You may need to spend a few minutes in order to understand certain functions or tasks.

What are the keyboard shortcuts for Excel? Keyboard shortcuts can save you a lot of time. (Source: Pixies)

To help you use Excel more effectively, you should learn a few of the basic keyboard shortcuts. Shortcuts are very useful for those who struggle to use a mouse.

Here are some Excel keyboard shortcuts:

  • Close Excel: ALT + F4
  • Open the Visual Basic Editor (for editing macros): ALT + F11
  • Cut: CTRL + X
  • Copy: CTRL + C
  • Paste: CTRL + V
  • Select all: CTRL + A
  • Undo: CTRL + Z (Undo the last action performed)
  • Redo (Cancel an undone action): CTRL + Y
  • Italics: CTRL + I
  • Underlined: CTRL + U
  • Bold: CTRL + B
  • Display the cell format dialogue box: CTRL + SHIFT + 1

There are plenty of shortcuts that can be very useful in Microsoft Office suite. You can use shortcuts to insert rows, columns, and a whole plethora of other operations.

The more time you spend with Excel, the more shortcuts you’ll learn. Bit by bit, you’ll start using Excel more efficiently, navigating around an Excel worksheet with the greatest of ease. Now you’re ready to excel with Excel!

If you need more help on how to use Excel, you can get tutorials with a private IT tutor on Superprof. Whether you need help creating a macro, managing a workbook, working with templates, or even using other spreadsheet software, you can get Excel training with one to one tutoring or learn more about Excel online.


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