Excel Tutorial for Beginners

Microsoft Excel is one of the most popular and extensively used spreadsheet programs globally. Developed by Microsoft, it was first released in 1985 and has been updated with several changes over time. However, the main functionality has mostly remained the same. It is compatible with multiple Operating Systems like Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS.

Excel is used to organize data in rows and columns, perform mathematical functions, and record and analyze statistical and numerical data. Microsoft Excel has various preset features built to perform numerous operations like calculations, graph tools, pivot tables, macro programming, and the like. 

An Excel spreadsheet can be recognized as a collection of columns and rows that make a table. The alphabets are generally assigned to the columns, whereas the numbers are assigned to the rows. The intersection where a row and a column meet is a cell. A cell is addressed by the letter representing the column and the number representing a row.

This article is dedicated to computer users who are beginners in using Microsoft Excel. With a few quick and simple steps, anyone who wishes to gain beginner-level knowledge to get them started with the basics can learn MS Excel.

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Before going further with this tutorial, the following prerequisites must be met:

  • A basic understanding of computer devices like keyboard, mouse, screen, monitor, etc., and how they work. 
  • Basic file management skills and folder navigation knowledge.

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How To Get Started with Excel?

Step 1: Install MS Excel

Microsoft Excel is quite commonly available. It can be bought from computer stores that sell software or found in the Microsoft Office suite of programs. Alternatively, it can also be downloaded from the Microsoft website with a pre-purchased license key.

Step 2: Open MS Excel 

Running Excel is similar to running most of the other Windows programs. Simply click on the Start menu and click on the All Programs button from the menu. Next, click on Microsoft Office and select Microsoft Excel from the drop-down menu. If you are going to use it frequently, it is easier to locate it if you create a desktop shortcut.

Step 3: Create New Workbook

Click on the New blank workbook button to create a new workbook. Then proceed to type the name for the workbook and finally hit the enter button to save it. 

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Understanding The Components Of Microsoft Excel

1. File Tab: The File tab is located at the top left corner and is used to open or save files, check the Backstage view, create a new sheet, print a sheet, and perform other operations related to the file.

2. Quick Access Toolbar: The Quick Access Toolbar is located right above the File tab. It is where all of Excel’s most frequently used commands are conveniently stored. It can be customized as per the user’s choice.

3. Ribbon: The Ribbon consists of the commands organized into three components:

  • Tabs: They are located at the top of the Ribbon and consist of related commands like Home, Page Layout, Insert, etc.
  • Groups: Groups are used to organize commands related to the worksheet. Each group name can be found on the Ribbon below the group. For instance, a group of commands for fonts, alignment, and the like.
  • Commands: Commands can be found in each group, as previously mentioned.

4. Title Bar: The title bar is located at the top of the window in the middle. Its primary function is to show the program and sheet titles.

5. Zoom Control: The Zoom control is used for zooming in for a magnified look at the typed text. This tool consists of a slider that can be adjusted by sliding left or right for zooming in or out. Additionally, the + button can also be used for the same purpose.

6. View Buttons: There are three buttons found at the left side of the Zoom control, towards the bottom of the screen. This function enables you to switch among Excel’s different sheet views, namely Normal Layout view, Page Layout view, and Page Break view.

7. Sheet Area: The sheet area is where you input your data. The vertical flashing bar is the insertion point that represents the location where that text will appear after being typed.

8. Row Bar: Rows start from 1 onwards and keep increasing as data is entered continually. The maximum number of rows in Excel is 1,048,576.

9. Column Bar: The Columns are sequenced alphabetically from A onwards and keep increasing as long as data is entered continually. After Z, the series continues with AA, AB, and so on. The maximum number of columns is 16,384.

10. Status Bar: The status bar displays the active cell’s current status in a worksheet. There are fours states that a cell can be in:

  • Ready mode: This mode shows that the worksheet is ready for user input. 
  • Edit mode: This mode shows that the cell is in editing mode. An inactive cell can be activated into the editing mode by double-clicking on it.
  • Enter mode: This mode indicates that a user is typing data into a cell.
  • Point mode: This mode indicates the input of a formula when it is entered by using a cell reference.

11. Dialog Box Launcher: The dialog box launcher is shown as a tiny arrow in the lower-right corner of numerous groups located on the Ribbon. This button opens a task pane or a dialog box that gives the user more options relevant to the group.

Creating formulas step by step

A formula in Excel is also called syntax. It is primarily used to perform mathematical calculations. In MS Excel, formulas begin with an equal sign (=) in the cell, followed by the calculation. 

The steps to executing a formula are as follows:

  • Choose a cell
  • Type in the equal sign (=)
  • Choose a cell or type value
  • Type in an arithmetic operator
  • Choose another cell or type value
  • Press enter

Important Excel shortcuts

Ctrl + P: For opening the print dialogue window

Ctrl + N: For creating a new workbook

Ctrl + S: For saving the current workbook

Ctrl + C: For copying the contents of a current select

Ctrl + V: For pasting the data from the clipboard

Shift + F3: For displaying the function ‘Insert Dialogue Window’

Shift + F11: For creating a new worksheet

F2: For checking the formula and cell range that is covered

Pro-tips For Working With Microsoft Excel

  1. Always save workbooks keeping backward compatibility in your mind. If you use the previous features in higher versions of MS Excel, make sure you save your files in 2003 *.xls format to maintain backward compatibility.
  2. Always use descriptive names to identify columns and worksheets in a workbook.
  3. Try not to use complex formulas with numerous variables. Instead, always break them down into smaller and more manageable results that you build on.
  4. Try using the preset functions instead of unnecessarily writing your own formulas.

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Microsoft Excel has been extensively used to store data or perform simple math calculations. It is a vital tool for data science because of the variegated range of statistical functions that it has to offer. Possessing an in-depth knowledge of MS Excel is a core skill and is bound to prove highly useful if one plans to pursue a career in data science. 

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What is the most useful function in Excel?

Two of Excel's most commonly-used and essential functions are INDEX MATCH and VLOOKUP. Most data analysts and Excel users use these functions to search values from an external table. These functions help automate their work with dynamic spreadsheets.

What are cells in Excel?

Cells are boxes that are present in the grid of every Excel worksheet. Each cell on a worksheet can be identified by its reference, row number, and column letters common to the cell's location. The column is always used first in a cell’s reference.

What is an Excel file called?

An Excel file is called a workbook. It is named so because it contains various sheets called worksheets, just like pages in books. A workbook should have at least one sheet for you to save it. MS Excel is a group of worksheets (Sheet 1, Sheet 2, and the like), and this group of worksheets is known as Workbook.

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