Image: Master the fundamentals of Excel and build a solid foundation for the future
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The Excel window is made up of a number of different elements that you will use as you build your full spreadsheet.
Every function in Excel is accessible from the menu bar. This toolbar consists of a number of drop-down menus. One sometimes frustrating feature in newer versions of Excel, including Excel 2003, is the program’s attempt to help you out. New Office programs try to provide you with only what they think you need.
In this case, after you first install Office, Excel’s drop down menus don’t automatically include every option you might need. Items that you haven’t used, or rarely use don’t show up on the menu unless you wait for a few seconds, or unless you click the down arrows at the bottom of the menu.
Users are often confused by the feature and wonder why some of their menu options have gone missing. Fortunately, it’s easy to change this default behavior without having to mess around with clicking other areas of the menu. To do so, open Tools | Customize and enable the checkbox next to the “Always show full menus” option and then click Close.
As you might have guessed by its name, the Standard Toolbar contains the most common functions that you will need while you use Excel. The left part of this toolbar is almost identical across Office products, including Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. The right part of the toolbar includes some useful and common Excel functions including buttons that let you sort data and more.
Just like in Word, you can granularly format your Excel spreadsheet to make it look any way you want. Using the buttons on this toolbar, you can boldface text, underline text, center cell contents, right-justify cell contents, and much more. In Excel, the Formatting Toolbar also provides other formatting options, including options specifically format numeric cells as percentages, dollar figures and more.
In Image 1, note the box labeled “cell” outlined in red in the center of the workspace. A cell is an individual element of your Excel spreadsheet into which you enter data elements on which you can perform calculations using formulas.
Note the black-bordered cell in the upper right-hand corner of the spreadsheet. The cell with a black border is the active cell. If you start to type, your information will be entered into this cell.rnExcel cells are named by the point at which the column and row intersect. In Image 1, the cell with the black border is named A1, because it is in column A, row 1. The cell with the red border that I outlined is named C5.
Each Excel sheet can support up to 256 columns of information and are ordered by letters of the alphabet starting with A and going up to IV. Once you get to the column named Z, Excel starts using two letter column names, so column 27 is named AA, 28 is named AB, and so forth. The 256th column is named IV.
A column in Excel is usually used for a particular data element. For example, across the top of an inventory spreadsheet, you might use column A for part number, column B for description, column C for quantity and column D for purchase price.
You can select the entire contents of a column by clicking the column heading. When you move your mouse over a column heading, your cursor changes to a down arrow and, when you click, the entire column turns black to indicate that you’ve selected the whole column.
With capacity for 65,536 rows of data, Excel can hold a whole lot of information! In Excel, a row is usually used for a record of information. Rows are numbered from 1 to 65,536.
If 256 columns, each with 65,536 rows aren’t enough, you can just use more sheets to expand your workbook. You can have up to 256 sheets in a single Excel workbook.rnSo, if you do the math? 256 columns x 65,536 rows x 256 sheets = 4,294,967,296 total cells available for your use in a single Excel file.rnWhen you start a new Excel workbook, you are provided with three sheets. You can add more any time you like. Further, unlike cells and columns, you can rename sheets to make it easier to find what you’re looking for.rnTo move to a different sheet, click the tab that corresponds to the sheet you want to work with. It’s as easy as that.rnTo rename a sheet, right-click the sheet you’d like to rename and choose the Rename option from the resulting shortcut menu.
To add a new sheet, right-click a sheet name, and choose Insert… from the shortcut menu. This opens the Insert dialog box from which you can choose the kind of sheet you’d like to add to your workbook.rn
Once you select the kind of sheet you want to add, click OK. In most cases, you’ll need to add Worksheets to your workbook.rnIf a sheet has outlived its usefulness, right-click its name and choose Delete from the shortcut menu.
The Name/Range box serves the singular purpose of helping you keep track of where you are in your spreadsheet. Look back at Image 1. Note that the selected cell is A1 and that this matches what you see in the Name/Range box. As you move about your spreadsheet, the contents of this box will change to reflect your current position.rnYou can also name ranges, or groups, of cells in Excel. When you do so, the name of the range appears here when you are within that area of your sheet.
Office 2003 programs all use the Task Pane in the same way. This is the area of the screen highlighted in the image. The contents of the Task Pane change depending on what you’re trying to do. For example, if you choose File | New to start a new workbook, the Task Pane changes to give you the various option that have to do with this task.
On the standard toolbar, note the box labeled “Type a question for help”. Do what it says and good things happen. The image shows what happens when you type “formula” into the box. Excel shows you help topics that have to do with creating Excel formulas. Note that Excel uses the Task Pane to display the results of your search.rn
To open one of the help topics displayed, click the heading. The help topic will open in a separate window.rnExcel 2003 includes a vast knowledgebase for your use. Just about any question you have can be answered using Excel’s built-in help. In fact, your help is usually current since Excel continually connects to Microsoft’s site to get updated help topics as you search for them.