What is Microsoft Excel (MS Excel)?
When I tell people about the different software I use for data analysis, I sometimes still get the blank look when I’m talking about MS Excel. Many tend to forget that not everyone knows what MS Excel is and what it’s used for. Microsoft Excel, or Excel for short, is an electronic spreadsheet program usually used for storing information. Once you have information stored, you can use MS Excel to organize and manipulate the data. It is important to organize data in a meaningful way so that when you try to manipulate the data to find answers or patterns it will simplify the task.
When you open MS Excel 2013, it looks similar to what is MS Excel 2007 and 2010. If you have an older version, then Excel looks differently, but the concept of a spreadsheet is pretty much the same.
So what am I looking at when I open Excel?
When you open up Excel in the 2007 or newer version, you will see a ribbon of commands to help you quickly complete any tasks you need to do. Below the ribbon, you will see a rectangular table, also called a grid, containing rows and columns. The rows are identified by the numbers on the left side column on the left side of the screen. There are up to 1,048,576 rows in an Excel spreadsheet. The columns are identified at the top of the table with letters starting from A to z and then continue with two or more letters which can make up to 16,384 columns. Although you have all these rows and columns at your disposal, remember that the quality of your spreadsheet suffers the more information you insert since you are limited by the power of your computer.
The first cell where you can enter data is identified as A1, meaning its address is column A row 1. This is also referred to as a cell reference.
Notice how the first column A and the first row 1 is also in dark green. That’s how you know the cell reference or cell address for each cell.
What kind of information can you put in a cell?
There are different data types you can store in a cell, such as numbers, text, links, and formulas. Excel has a full list of different formulas you can use to manipulate your data. In MS Excel 2007 and newer versions you can find the formulas in the ribbon under the Formulas tab. Manipulating data is where the power of Excel lies.
What Uses does MS Excel have?
With Excel you can do so many things! Some of the things you can do are as follows:
- Basic mathematical calculations such as sum, product, min, max, average.
- Manipulate financial data to calculate profit or loss
- Figure out repayment plans for different rates on loans and mortgages
- Build a personal/family budget
- Graph data in charts
- Pivot Tables and charts to sort and filter data
- Write small apps called macros to automate daily tasks
How can I use MS Excel data for my presentation needs?
I usually use Excel to manipulate data and find patterns. When I’m satisfied with the information I have gathered and manipulated, I usually can just copy the information and paste it anywhere I want such as:
- Other MS Excel Workbooks
- MS Word file
- Web Pages – I first save it as an image
- Presentations – PowerPoint easily accepts tables and charts from Excel. Just copy from Excel and paste directly to the presentations. I usually select to paste as a picture, but it can also be useful to leave the table/chart as a functioning table/chart for easy manipulation within PowerPoint.
- Print – Printing is an easy way to distribute information from Excel.
As you can see, MS Excel is a powerful tool to store and manipulate data. It takes practice to get comfortable using it. So start today and don’t be afraid to make mistakes! It’s easy to delete and start again. The important thing is to start!