The Columns of a Spreadsheet
Introduction to Columns
Imagine you have a list of students whose grades you want to organize to be able to easily view and analyze them. When creating the list, you can start with their names. Here is an example:
Because these are students, you may also add their courses to the list where you would enter their grades. Here is an example:
This type of list is referred to as a sheet or a spreadsheet. To organize its information, this type of list uses vertical arrangements as categories of information. In this case, the categories are First Name, Last Name, English, History, Geography, Math, Chemistry, and Physics. On a spreadsheet, each category arranged vertically is called a column. As you can see from the above list and as we will learn in the next section, each column has a name and borders so it can be identified from the other columns.
To make it easy to create a type of list like the above, Microsoft Excel provides a ready-made arrangement of columns. To easily identify each category of the list, a column is created as a vertical object. On top of each column, there is a (blue) bar called the column header. As seen in the previous lesson, the columns are organized as a row of (blue) bars:
To distinguish each column, it has a name. The name of a column displays in the column header. The name uses one, two, or three letters. The most left column is called, and is labeled, A. The second has a label of B, and so on.
A Microsoft Excel document contains 16,384 columns going from Column A to Column XFD:
When you start a document in Microsoft Excel, the application makes all these columns available. You can use all of them or just a few, but they are always available.
Among the various ways you can use a column, we will see in various sections that you can click it or use the keyboard to get to a column. You can also right-click a column. When you do, an expanded menu would appear:
At times you will almost want to alter the display of a column or various columns. You have to select that column or the group of columns first. Another reason you may need to select a column or a group of columns is because you would need to take some action on it. Some of these issues will be addressed soon, some others will be reviewed as we move on.
You can select a column or a group of columns using the mouse, the keyboard, or a combination of both:
You can also select more than one column. Selecting columns in a range consists of selecting adjacent columns. To perform this type of selection, you can use either the mouse or a combination of the mouse and the keyboard:
Random selection consists of selecting columns that are not adjacent. For example, this allows you to select columns B, D, and H. To do this, click one column header, press and hold Ctrl. Then click each desired column header. When you have selected the desired columns, release the mouse.
As mentioned already, Microsoft Excel has columns named from A to XFD with a maximum of 16384. Microsoft Excel allows you to add a column. Actually, you can insert a column on the left side of an existing column. When you do, Microsoft Excel internally removes the very last column to keep the count to 16384.
To add a new column:
To add more than one column, first select the columns, whether in a range or randomly. Then:
If you select columns randomly (non-adjacent), a new column would be created on the left side of each of the selected columns.
To undo any of these actions:
If you find out that you have a column you do not want, you can remove it. To remove a column:
To delete more than one column, first select the columns, whether in a range or randomly. Then:
If no box under the column header has anything, you would not receive a warning and the column would simply be removed. If at least one of the boxes under the column header has a value, you may receive a warning to indicate whether you want to continue with the operation or not.
To undo any of these actions:
To display the information under it, a column uses a measure from its left border to its right border. This measure is referred to as its width. By default, when Microsoft Excel comes up, all columns use the same width. You are allowed to change the width of one column or a group of columns.
There are various techniques you can use to change the width of a column. You can manually resize a column or a group of columns, or you can use a dialog box to exercise more control.
To manually resize a column, position the mouse on the short line that separates a column header from its right neighbor. Here is an example:
Click, then drag left or right until the small box displays the width you desire, then release the mouse.
You can also resize a group of columns. First, select the columns you want to work on. Then position the mouse on the column header border of one of the selected columns. Click and drag left or right in the direction of your choice until you get the desired with. Then release the mouse.
To undo this action:
If one of the boxes under a column header displays the width you want, you can resize the column to the content of that box. To do this, click the box that has the desired width. Then:
In the same way, to set the widths of columns based on some boxes under their columns headers, select those boxes (in Lesson 4, we will learn how to select the boxes). Then:
To undo any of these actions:
You can use a dialog box to set exactly the desired width of a column or a group of columns. To specify the width of a column:
To specify the same width for many columns:
Any of these actions would open the Column Width dialog box. From there, accept or enter the desired value and click OK
To undo any of these actions:
You may have noticed that, in the documents we have used so far, there are some values under some column headers. Because a column is primarily a group of values, you can copy its values to the clipboard and put them in another column.
In our introduction, we saw that columns assume some default positions when Microsoft Excel starts. On a normal computer spreadsheet, you can move a column from its current position to another.
To move a column, first click its column header to select it. Position the mouse on one of the vertical lines of the selected column:
Click and hold your mouse down. Drag left or right. Two vertical lines would guide you. When you get the column to the desired location, release the mouse.
When you move a column, its boxes move but it assumes the lettered name of the new location so the names would still follow the alphabetic sequence.
To move a group of columns, select them. Position the mouse on one of the vertical lines of the selection:
Click and hold your mouse down. Drag left or right. Vertical lines would guide you. When you get the columns to the desired location, release the mouse. When you move the columns, their boxes move but they assume the lettered name of the new location with the appropriate alphabetic sequence.
As mentioned already, when moving one or more columns, their location changes. In some cases, you may not want to move the column(s) but only its(their) content. To support this, the operating system provides the clipboard and Microsoft Excel has a high level of support for it. In other words, you can copy the contents of column(s) to the clipboard and paste it(them) to other column(s).
To copy the contents of a column to the clipboard:
After copying a column to the clipboard, all of its values are made available. To put those values on another column:
As seen already, if you move one or more columns, they go with their contents. If you copy the contents of columns, you would have duplicate (contents) of columns. As an alternative, you can move only the values of columns, not the columns themselves. The Microsoft Windows operating system supports this operation through cutting to the clipboard.
To temporarily move the contents of a column to the clipboard to wait to be pasted:
After cutting a column to the clipboard, if you do not want to paste it anywhere, you can press Esc. If you want to paste it to another column:
To temporarily move the contents of many columns to the clipboard to wait to be pasted, select the columns. Then:
If you want to paste the values to another group of columns:
When you paste, the values of the boxes under the original columns would be emptied.
When working on a list, you donít always need all columns displaying all the time. You can hide a column whose presence is not required at a particular time. In Microsoft Excel, you can hide one or more columns.
To hide one column:
When a column has been hidden, its letter disappears from the sequence and the line between the previous neighbors is thicker than the other dividing lines:
To hide many columns, select the columns. Then:
To reveal the hidden columns:
If you have a list wider than the Microsoft Excel area can show, you can scroll to the right to see hidden columns. While you are scrolling to the right, some columns would be disappearing from the left section of the Microsoft Excel interface. If you want, you can freeze a column so that, when you scroll to the right, a column or some columns would be fixed and would not move. Also, the column(s) from the left of the frozen column would not move either.
To freeze a column, click the column header of the column that will lead the moving columns. On the Ribbon, click View. In the Window section, click Freeze Panes, and click Freeze Panes.
An alternative to freezing is to split the group of columns into two sections. Just as done for the freezing, you can choose a column to use as reference and scroll the columns from its side. To split the group of columns in two, click a column header. On the ribbon, click View. In the Window section, click Split. This would display a bar:
The similarities between the freezing and splitting are as follows:
The differences between the freezing and splitting are as follows:
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