An Introduction to Microsoft Excel | Basics Knowledge + Components + Examples

- Written by Puneet

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The truth is: before you go for a job interview, you must have basic knowledge of Microsoft Excel. From an accountant to a receptionist, human resources to administration departments all are using Microsoft Excel.

learn-excel-basics-introduction

It is not only limited to large companies, small entrepreneurs and college students are using it for their day-to-day work. That’s something that you can’t skip.  To get a job, learning basic Excel tasks (at least some) is a must in today’s era, that’s a firm truth.

And, to help you with this I have compiled this guide. This guide will help you to learn all those basics using some examples. And some of the most important beginner’s tutorials. So, without further ado let’s get down to the business.

Latest Excel Tutorial

Top 10 Benefits of Microsoft Excel

Introduction to Microsoft Excel

There is a number of spreadsheet programs but of all of them, Excel is the most widely used. People have been using it for the last 30 years and throughout these years, it has been upgraded with more and more features.

The best part about Excel is, that it can apply to many business tasks, including statistics, finance, data management, forecasting, analysis, tracking inventory & billing, and business intelligence. Following are the few things which it can do for you:

  • Number Crunching
  • Charts and Graphs
  • Store and Import Data
  • Manipulating Text
  • Templates/Dashboards
  • Automation of Tasks
  • And Much More…

The three most important components of Excel you need to understand first:

1. Cell

A cell is a smallest but most powerful part of a spreadsheet. You can enter your data into a cell either by typing or by copy-paste. Data can be a text, a number, or a date. You can also customize it by changing its size, font color, background color, borders, etc. Every cell is identified by its cell address, cell address contains its column number and row number (If a cell is on the 11th row and on column AB, then its address will be AB11).

2. Worksheet

A worksheet is made up of individual cells which can contain a value, a formula, or text. It also has an invisible draw layer, which holds charts, images, and diagrams. Each worksheet in a workbook is accessible by clicking the tab at the bottom of the workbook window. In addition, a workbook can store chart sheets; a chart sheet displays a single chart and is accessible by clicking a tab.

3. Workbook

A workbook is a separate file just like every other application has. Each workbook contains one or more worksheets. You can also say that a workbook is a collection of multiple worksheets or can be a single worksheet. You can add or delete worksheets, hide them within the workbook without deleting them, and change the order of your worksheets within the workbook.

Microsoft Excel Window Components

Before you start using it, it’s really important to understand what’s where in its window. So ahead we have all the major components which you need to know before entering the world of Microsoft Excel.

excel-basic-with-window-components

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1. Active Cell

An Active Cell in Excel is a cell that is currently selected. It will be highlighted by a rectangular box and its address will be shown in the address bar. You can activate a cell by clicking on it or by using your arrow buttons. To edit a cell, you double-click on it or use F2 as well.

2. Column

A COLUMN in Excel is a vertical set of cells. A single worksheet contains 16384 total columns. Every column has its own alphabet for identity, from A to XFD. You can select a column by clicking on its header.

3. Row

A ROW in Excel is a horizontal set of cells. A single worksheet contains 1048576 total rows. Every row has its own number for identity, starting from 1 to 1048576. You can select a row by clicking on the row number marked on the left side of the window.

4. Fill Handle

Fill Handle a small dot present in the lower right corner of the active cell. It helps you to fill numeric values, text series, insert ranges, insert serial numbers, etc.

5. Address Bar

It shows the address of the active cell. If you have selected more than one cell, then it will show the address of the first cell in the range.

6. Formula Bar

The formula bar is an input bar, below the ribbon. It shows the content of the active cell, and you can also use it to enter a formula in a cell.

7. Title Bar

The title bar will show the name of your workbook, followed by the application name (“Microsoft Excel”).

8. File Menu

The file menu is a simple menu like all other applications. It contains options like (Save, Save As, Open, New, Print, Excel Options, Share, etc).

9. Quick Access Toolbar

A toolbar to quickly access the options which you frequently use. You can add your favorite options by adding new options to the quick access toolbar.

10. Ribbon

Starting from Microsoft Excel 2007, all the options menus are replaced with the RIBBON. Ribbon tabs are a bunch of specific option group which further contains the option.

11. Worksheet Tab

This tab shows all the worksheets which are present in the workbook. By default, you will see, three worksheets in your new workbook with the names Sheet1, Sheet2, and Sheet3 respectively.

12. Status Bar

Status Bar in Excel is a thin bar at the bottom of the Excel window. It will give you instant help once you start working in Excel.

Top 25 Excel Skills + Describe Your Excel Skills on Resume

HOW TO USE EXCEL

1. Start Excel Application

Once you install Excel in your system, you can open it from your Start menu. You can search from the search bar and add an icon on the desktop.

start-excel-application

When you click on the Excel application icon, it loads add-ins and then opens the Excel application, showing you the Excel start screen.

excel-application-icon

2. Creating a New Workbook in Excel

Once you open the Excel application, it shows you the backstage from where you need to click on the “Blank Workbook” to open a new blank workbook.

creating-new-workbook

As I said, it will instantly open a new workbook named “Book1”. You need to save the workbook which you have inserted.

new-workbook-opened

3. Save a Workbook

Once you create a new workbook, it’s better to save it right away before you start working on it. To save it, click on the File > Save As.

save-a-workbook

From there, in the “Save As” dialog box, you need to enter the name and then click on the Save.

save-as-dialog-box

If you want to save the File to a different location, click “Browse” and locate the folder where you want to save the workbook.

browse-to-save-to-different-location

4. Insert a New Sheet

There are three (more or less) worksheets by default in each workbook, but you can also insert new worksheets (sheets). And here are multiple ways for this. When you right-click on the sheet tab that you already have in the workbook, there’s an option “Insert”.

insert-a-new-sheet

When you click this option, you get a dialog box to select the type of sheet to insert and then click OK to insert the sheet.

dialog-box-to-select-type-of-sheet

Apart from this, if you want to insert a worksheet, you can use the keyboard shortcut Shift + F11.

5. Delete a Sheet

You can also delete a sheet you don’t need or don’t want to use further. For this, you must right-click and click the “Delete” option.

delete-a-sheet

When you click on this option and delete a sheet or worksheet where you have data, Excel will show you a prompt to ask you for permission to delete it.

delete-a-sheet

And you can also use a keyboard shortcut Alt > H > D > S for this.

6. Enter Data in a Cell

In Excel, you can enter data in a cell using multiple methods, but the easiest way to enter the data is to use the keyboard keys.

enter-data-in-cell

Just select the cell where you want to enter data and type what you want to enter. Once you enter the data, press the “Enter” key to move to the next cell downwards.

Or, if you already have data in the cell and you want to enter the data, you can use the F2 key. It will edit the cell, and you can enter the data.

7. Using Options from Ribbon

In Excel (starting from the Excel 2007 version), the majority of the options that you need to use are listed on the Ribbon. And further on the Ribbon, you have tabs.

using-options-from-ribbon

On each Tab, there are buttons and drop-down lists to use the options. For example, on the Home Tab, you have basic options for formatting and options to work with worksheets, range, and cells.

8. Right-Click Menu

Like other applications, Excel has a right-click options menu listing some of the most important and useful options.

right-click-menu

The right-click menu has a lot of options that you can use quickly from there instead of looking at Ribbon.

There is also a tiny search bar on the top of the menu, which you can use to search for the option you want. This search bar finds options for the entire application instead of only the right-click menu.

9. Cut, Copy, and Paste

When you select a cell or a range of cells, you can find cut, copy, and paste options on the right-click menu. You need to click the option to cut, copy, and paste.

cut-copy-paste-options

Apart from this, you can also use the keyboard shortcuts:

  • Ctrl + X – Cut
  • Ctrl + C – Copy
  • Ctrl + V – Paste

All these options can also be used from the Home Tab > Clipboard.

home-tab-clipboard

10. Opening Excel Options

In Excel, you have options to customize the application. When you go to the File > More > Option, Excel opens the options dialog box where you can find all the options to change.

opening-excel-options

There are further tabs in the options dialog box to explore and find the options you want to change.

11. Changing Font Style and Size

In Excel, you can change the font style and font size. That means you can change the default font to a different font you like. On the Home Tab, you have a drop-down to select the font style.

font-style-and-size

And next to that, there’s a drop-down to select the font size. From both drop-downs, you can edit the name and size by typing. If you know the font name you want to change or the size you want to apply, enter it by typing and hit enter to apply.

12. Change Cell Alignment

You can also change the alignment of the cell if required. On the Home Tab, you have the buttons for the alignment options. There are two options to align (centre, left, and right) and (top, middle, and bottom).

change-cell-alignment

With these option buttons, you can apply borders to a single cell, range, or multiple ranges. But as I said, there are two options here, so you need to apply alignment in two ways.

13. Apply Border to a Range or a Cell

You can apply cell borders on a cell or a range of cells. Once you select a range or cell, you need to go to the Home tab and click on the Borders drop-down.

apply-border

In this drop-down, you have all the options to apply the Border to the selected range. In the last option of the drop-down, you can click “More Borders” to apply custom borders.

more-borders-options

14. Open Cell Format Options

Excel allows you to add a comment to a cell. A cell comment can have multiple usages, like a message for other users or an identification for a cell so that you can find it easily.

add-comments

In the Review tab, click “New Comment” to add a new comment and then enter your comment in the input bar.

15. Adding Comments

Excel allows you to add a comment to a cell. A cell comment can have multiple usages, like a message for other users or an identification for a cell so that you can find it easily.

add-comments

In the Review tab, click “New Comment” to add a new comment and then enter your comment in the input bar.

16. Replying to Comments

Once you add a comment, a user or even you can reply to those comments. It is like a conversation that you can have with the comments.

replying-to-comments

In the reply input bar, you can enter your reply, press Ctrl + Enter, or click the send button to send your response.

17. Adding Notes

Apart from comments, you also have notes to enter on a cell specifying additional information for the user.

adding-notes

In the review tab, click on the notes drop-down and then click on the new note to insert a recent note to the selected cell.

18. Entering a Function in a Cell

Function is one of the most powerful features in Excel. Select a cell first to enter a function and type (=). Once you enter =, you need to start typing the name of the function that you want to use.

entering-function-in-cell

Once you enter the function’s name, specify its arguments to get the desired result. For example, we have two arguments to define in the above function.

specify-arguments

But if you see the second argument enclosed in square brackets, it’s optional.

19. Create a Basic Formula in Excel

In Excel, you can create a basic formula in a cell using the basic calculation operator (Addition, Subtraction, Division, and Multiplication).

Type the equal sign, and then you can start writing your formula. Let’s say you want to sum 10 and 20, then, you need to write a formula like (=10+20).

basic-formula-in-excel

And if you want to refer to cells in the formula, you can also do that. In the same way, you can also do subtraction, division, and multiplication.

refer-to-cells-in-formula

20. Creating a Named Range

As you have seen, each cell in a worksheet has a cell address. But Excel also allows you to specify a meaningful name for a range of cells or a single cell. It’s called a named range.

create-name-range

Select the range and click within the address bar for this. After that, enter the name you want to give and hit enter to create the named range. And then, you can use this named range within the formulas and functions.

select-range

BASIC EXCEL TUTORIALS

2. Keyboard Shortcuts

9. Formulas

Recommended Books

Below are my two favorite Excel books for beginners which every person who is starting out with Excel should read.

  1. Excel 2016 for Dummies: This book covers everything you need to know to perform the task at hand. Includes information on creating and editing worksheets, formatting cells, and entering formulas […]
  2. Microsoft Excel 2016 Bible: Whether you are just starting out or an Excel novice, the Excel 2016 Bible is your comprehensive, go-to guide for all your Excel 2016 needs Whether you use Excel at work or […]
Last Updated: November 30, 2023

58 thoughts on “An Introduction to Microsoft Excel | Basics Knowledge + Components + Examples”

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