Microsoft Excel Tutorial - Lesson 01: Microsoft Excel Fundamentals

Microsoft Excel Fundamentals


Startup With Microsoft Excel



Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet application. That is, it is used to create and manage lists of information. To effectively handle list-related assignments, this environment provides many more features than simply dealing with lists.

Starting Microsoft Excel

To use Microsoft Excel, there are various ways you can start it:

  • As a regular Microsoft Windows application, to use Microsoft Excel, you can click Start -> (All) Programs -> Microsoft Office -> Microsoft Office Excel 2003
  • You can also create a shortcut on the desktop, in Windows Explorer, or in My Computer. To create a shortcut, you can click Start -> (All) Programs -> Microsoft Office, right-click and hold your right mouse on Microsoft Office Excel and drag (with the right mouse button) to the desktop. On the menu that appears, click Create Shortcut Here. Another technique you can use consists of opening My Computer, expanding the drive, the Program Files folder, the Microsoft Office folder, the Office11 folder, right-clicking Excel, clicking Create Shortcut, right-clicking the new shortcut and clicking Cut, right-click your desktop and click Paste.
  • If you are using My Computer or Windows Explorer, you can open the Program Files folder, then Microsoft Office, then Office, and double-click Excel
  • You can create an empty document on your desktop and use it to launch Microsoft Excel. To do that, you would right-click an empty area on the desktop, position the mouse on New -> Microsoft Office Excel Worksheet, type a name for the document, such as Time Sheet, and press Enter twice
  • If you see a file in My Computer, Windows Explorer, My Network Places, Microsoft Outlook, or you receive a document by e-mail, you can launch Microsoft Excel by double-clicking the file or the attachment.

The classic way users launch Microsoft Excel is from the Start menu on the task bar. You can also start the application from a shortcut on the desktop. There are many ways you can create a shortcut on your desktop. To create a Microsoft Excel shortcut on the desktop, do one of the following:


Practical Learning: Starting Microsoft Excel

  • To start Microsoft Excel, from the Taskbar, click
    Start -> (All) Programs -> Microsoft Office -> Microsoft Office Excel
    Microsoft Excel


The Microsoft Excel Interface

Microsoft Excel is a classic computer application and easily recognizable if you have spent some time with other Microsoft Office applications. On top of the application, it displays a horizontal object called the title bar.

On the left side of the title bar, there is a small picture called the application icon or the system icon. This icon allows you to minimize, maximize, restore, resize, move, close Microsoft Excel. To perform any of these actions, you would click the icon and this would display a menu:

On the right side of the application icon, the name of the program, in this case, Microsoft Excel, displays. The application's name is followed by the file name; in this case Book1.

Microsoft Excel identifies each one of its documents with a name that starts with Book. Microsoft Excel is a Multiple Document Interface (MDI), which means you can open more that one document inside the application. Therefore, if you create or initialize more than one document in Microsoft Excel, subsequent documents would be called Book2, Book3, BookX.

The main menu of Microsoft Excel allows you to request various tasks. The File menu allows you to create either a new empty document or a document based on one of the templates that ship with the application. You can also use the File menu to save the current document, to close the current file, or to configure or initialize printing. The File menu allows you to perform other various actions that we will discover as we move on.

Besides the File menu, there are other menu items that allow you to do many other things. Just like any menu that is part of the operating system, there are four classic categories of menus in Microsoft Excel:

  • A sub-menu that is gray is temporarily disabled, which means it is not currently available. Some examples at this time are Edit -> Paste, Data -> Refresh Data. A menu in this state will not work, it is waiting for something else to happen, and then it will become enabled
  • A sub-menu that stands by itself will perform a simple action, some of those actions even occur behind the scenes, sometimes giving you the impression that nothing happened when you clicked them. Examples of such menus include File -> Save, Edit -> Copy, etc (The File -> Save menu will behave like the next category if the document has not been saved yet)
  • Menus in another category have three dots on their line. This type of menu indicates that it requires or expects an intermediary action such as calling a dialog box
  • The last category of menus has a right pointing arrow. You don't need to click these menus. The arrow means that this menu item has a sub-menu. To access the sub-menu, you can just position your mouse on the item with arrow and you will have access to the sub-menu

Whether a menu falls under one of these categories or not, some menu items display a combination of buttons on their line, these are shortcuts. A shortcut is a key or a combination of keys that you press (simultaneously) to perform an action.

Whenever you have opened a menu by mistake or you simply want to get rid of it, you usually can click somewhere else, you can also click the same menu, or press Esc.

To perform a single key shortcut, you would press the corresponding key. To perform a combination key shortcut, you would press and hold the first key, then press the second key once. From now on, if you are asked to press Ctrl + O, this means press and hold Ctrl, press the letter O once, and then release Ctrl.

Since you already know that Microsoft Excel is an MDI, you can check how many documents are opened at this time, using the main menu.

Some shortcuts can be seen or checked on the main menu, some of the shortcuts are not obvious, some others are part of the operating system.

Under the menu bar, the Standard toolbar provides some of the most regularly used actions performed on the main menu. A toolbar provides the same actions you would perform from the main menu, only faster, so that instead of going through the menu to save a document, you can just use the Save button.

Since there are various buttons and sometimes they are unpredictable, to know what a particular button is used for, you can position your mouse on it. A small yellowish box would appear to let you know what that particular button is used for; that small box is called a tool tip:

You can also use context sensitive help in some cases to get information about an item.

On the right side of the Standard toolbar, there is another toolbar called the Formatting toolbar
This second toolbar offers some formatting features that we will use as we move on. Its buttons also provide tool tips. Besides other buttons, the Formatting toolbar is equipped with combo boxes, and each combo box can display an appropriate tool tip.

Under the toolbars, there is a white box displaying a name like A1 (it may not display A1...), that small box is called the Name Box:

Name Box

On the right side of the Name box, there is a gray box with an fx button. That fx button is called the Edit Formula button.

On the right side of the Edit Formula button is a long empty white box or section called the Formula Bar.

Under the Name Box and the Formula bar, you see the columns. The columns are labeled A, B, C, etc:

There are 255 of columns.

On the left side of the main window, there are gray boxes called rows. Each row is labeled with a number, starting at 1 on top, then 2, and so on:

The main area of Microsoft Excel is made of cells. A cell is the intersection of a column and a row:

A cell is identified by its name and every cell has a name. By default, Microsoft Excel appends the name of a row to the name of a column to identify a cell. Therefore, the top-left cell is named A1. You can check the name of the cell in the Name Box. To see different cells names, find the cell that intersects a column and a row.

On the right side of the cells area, there is a vertical scroll bar that allows you to scroll up and down in case your document cannot display everything at a time:

On the lower right section of the main window, there is a horizontal scroll bar that allows you to scroll left and right if your worksheet has more items than can be displayed all at once:

Sometimes the horizontal scroll bar will appear too long or too narrow for you. If you want, you can narrow or enlarge it. To do this, click and drag the button on the left side of the horizontal scroll bar:

On the left side of the horizontal scrollbar, there are the worksheet tabs:

By default, Microsoft Excel provides three worksheets to start with. You can work with any of them and switch to another at any time by clicking its tab.

On the left side of the worksheet tabs, there are four navigation buttons:

If you happen to use a lot of worksheets or the worksheet names are using a lot of space, which will result in some worksheets hidden under the horizontal scroll bar, you can use the navigation buttons to move from one worksheet to another.

Under the navigation buttons and the worksheet tabs, the Status Bar provides a lot of information about the job that is going on.


Practical Learning: Using Cells

  1. Click anywhere on the worksheet and type A
    (It doesn't matter where you click and type)
  2. Click another part of the worksheet and type 42XL
  3. Click again another place on the worksheet type Fundamentals and press Enter

The Zoom Settings

The zoom combo box on the Standard toolbar helps to increase or decrease the view items of the main area of Microsoft Excel. Although it doesn't affect the actual display of the characters sizes or cells contents, using the zoom setting can make the worksheet a little easier to read.

To change the zoom setting, you can click the arrow of the Zoom combo box and select one of the values in the list. On the other hand, you can click the zoom value itself, type an integer (natural number) like 128, and press Enter.

Practical Learning: Control The Interface’s Zoom Settings

  1. On the Standard toolbar, click the arrow of the Zoom combo box and select 200%
  2. Notice that the worksheet displays with everything big now
  3. Click the 200% number on the Zoom combo box, type 145, and press Enter. Now the display is smaller than the previous setting.
  4. Press Alt, v, z. That will call the Zoom dialog box
  5. Click the text box right to Custom, delete its content, type 68, and press Enter. Now the display is even smaller.
  6. On the main menu, click View -> Zoom...
  7. Click the 100% radio button and click OK

Microsoft Excel File Operations


Saving a File

A Microsoft Excel file gets saved like any traditional Windows file. Two issues are important. Whenever you decide to save a file for the first time, you need to provide a file name and a location. The file name helps the computer identify that particular file and registers it.

A file name can consist of up to 255 characters, you can include spaces and dashes in a name. Although there are many characters you can use in a name (such as exclamation points, etc), try to avoid fancy names. Give your file a name that is easily recognizable, a little explicit. For example such names as Time Sheets, Employee's Time Sheets, GlobalEX First Invoice are explicit enough. Like any file of the Microsoft Windows operating systems, a Microsoft Excel file has an extension, which is .xls but you don't have to type it in the name.

The second important piece of information you should pay attention to when saving your file is the location. The location is the drive and/or the folder where the file will be saved. By default, Microsoft Excel saves its files in the My Documents folder. You can change that in the Save As dialog box. Just click the arrow of the Save In combo box and select the folder you want.

Microsoft Excel allows you to save its files in a type of your choice. To save a file in another format than the default Microsoft Excel file, from the Save As dialog box, click the arrow of the Save As Type combo box and select a format of your choice.

There are other things you can do in the Save As dialog box.

To save a file for the first time, you can click File on the main menu, then click Save (if the file has not been saved before, the File -> Save menu will call the Save As dialog box). You can also click the Save button on the Standard toolbar. You can as well press Ctrl + S. Other alternatives include pressing F12, Alt + F2, or Shift + F12.

Practical Learning: Saving a File

  1. To save the current document, on the main menu, click File -> Save
  2. Type Fundamentals
  3. Click the Save button

Saving under a Different Name and New Folder

You can save a file under a different name or in another location, this gives you the ability to work on a copy of the file while the original is intact.

There are two primary techniques you can use to get a file in two names or the same file in two locations. When the file is not being used by any application, in Windows Explorer (or in My Computer, or in My Network Places, locate the file, right-click it and choose Copy. To save the file in a different name, right-click in the same folder and choose Paste. The new file will be named Copy Of... You can keep that name or rename the new file with a different name (recommended). To save the file in a different location, right-click in the appropriate folder and click Paste; in this case, the file will keep its name.

In Microsoft Excel, you can use the Save As dialog box to save a file in a different name or save the file with the same name (or a different name) in another folder. The Save As dialog box also allows you to create a new folder while you are saving your file (you can even use this technique to create a folder from the application even if you are not saving it; all you have to do is create the folder, click OK to register the folder, and click Cancel on the Save As dialog box).

Practical Learning: Save a File With Different Settings

  1. To save this file using a different name, on the main menu, click File -> Save As...
  2. Change the name of the file to Employment Application
  3. On the toolbar of the Save As dialog box, click the Create New Folder button (if you have a hard time finding it, press Alt + 5
  4. Type My Files and press Enter. The My Files folder should now display in the Save In combo box. If you clicked Cancel or pressed Esc now to dismiss the Save As dialog box, the computer would still keep the folder
  5. After making sure that the My Files folder displays in the Save In combo box, click the Save button

Opening a File

The files you use could be created by you or someone else. They could be residing on your computer, on a floppy disk (or other media), or on a network. Once one of them is accessible, you can open it in your application.

You can open a document either by double-clicking its icon in Windows Explorer, in My Computer, from the Find Files Or Folders window, in My Network Places, or by locating it in the Open dialog box. To access the open dialog box, on the main menu, click File -> Open... You can also click the Open button on the Standard toolbar.

A shortcut to call the Open dialog box is Ctrl + O.

Practical Learning: Using the Open Dialog

  1. On the main menu, click File -> Open...
  2. In the Open dialog box, click the arrow of the Look In combo box, select (C:); the (C:) represents your hard drive
  3. Locate the folder that contains your exercises and display it in the Look In combo box
  4. Click Allentown Car Sales1
  5. Click the Open button

Files Properties

Every file has some characteristics, attributes, and features that make it unique; these are its properties. You can access a file's properties from three main areas on the computer:

  • If the file is saved on the desktop and/or it has a shortcut on the desktop, if you open My Computer, Windows Explorer, or the folder (as a window) where the file is stored, right-click the file and click Properties. If the file were saved on the desktop, you would see only some of its properties, the most you can do there is to assign a Read-Only attribute. In My Computer and Windows Explorer, you will be able to change the file's properties.
    Before opening a file or while in the Open dialog box, you can view some of the file's properties although you won't be able to change them.
  • When the file is opened in Microsoft Excel, on the main menu, you can click File -> Properties to access its properties.

A file's properties are used for various reasons. For example, you can find out how much size the file is using, where it is located (the hosting drive and/or folder), who created the file, or who was the last person to access or modify it. The Properties dialog box is also a good place to leave messages to other users of the same file, about anything, whether you work as a team or you simply want to make yourself and other people aware of a particular issue regarding the file.

Practical Learning: Changing a File’s Properties

  1. You should still have the Allentown Car Sales1 document opened. Otherwise open it.
    On the main menu, click File -> Properties (in Microsoft Excel 2000, if you don't see the Properties menu, double-click the File menu; you can also press Alt, f, i).
  2. Click the General tab. Notice the icon associated/registered with the file. Review the created, modified and accessed dates.
  3. Click the Summary property sheet.
  4. Click the Title text box and type Allentown Car Sales
  5. Click the Subject text box and type Weekly car sales summary
  6. Click the Manager text box and type Georgia Delaine
  7. Click the Category text box and type Employees Sales Results
  8. Click the Keywords text box and type accounting, sales, review, employees, cars
  9. Click the Comments text box and type This is an attempted summary sales review, if you have any concern, please contact Mrs. Georgia Delaine, the Sales Accounts Manager. If you make any changes, send her an e-mail immediately
  10. Click the Statistics, Contents, and Custom tabs to review their content.
  11. Click OK to register the changes and close the dialog box.
  12. To close Microsoft Excel, on the main menu, click File -> Exit.

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