Microsoft Excel For Dummies - The Ultimate Beginner Guide
Meta Description: Don’t know how to use Excel? This Microsoft Excel for dummies guide teaches you the basics of this program. Learn and become an expert now!
Regardless of your location, your profession, or if you love technology or not – you’ve probably had to use Microsoft Excel at least once.
If this is the first time using it, this could be a traumatic experience, but a necessary one. Companies from all over the world, from small businesses to corporations, use spreadsheet software like Excel to run their business. And its usage keeps rising over the years.
In fact, according to a study made in 2015 by Microsoft, Microsoft Office products had 1.1 billion active users. Just imagine how many they have in 2022.
So, if you don’t want to be left behind, this article will drive you in the right direction so you can join the Excel family sooner than later. Learn the basic features of this widely welcomed software to improve your value!
What Is Microsoft Excel?
Excel is one of the productivity tools that you can use when you purchase the Microsoft Office 2021 suite.
The program is a long document based on cells, rows, and columns that you can use to create functions, tables, charts, graphs, and more. All with the end of analyzing, visualizing, and organizing data.
You can use Excel to:
- Create a database for your business.
- Make reports.
- Develop complex calculations that require macros.
- Format cells based on your needs.
- Enter data in the form of an array.
- Create charts and graphics to evaluate data.
- Save a range of formulas to reuse them.
- Display multiple sheets at the same time.
- Protect your information by blocking sheets.
- Get physical information by printing a table or a range of cells.
- Insert images, videos, and other media content.
In Excel, you don’t have character limitations like in other database programs. Here you have the liberty to write everything you want, set up a date, display an image, expand cells or create a table with the content of your preference.
Thanks to this versatility and easy commands, this software is a good start for anyone trying to run a business.
And now that the 2021 edition brings more collaborative value to users, you can be sure that you’ll see Excel in both personal and business environments.
Let’s see the main Excel attributes and features you’ll face when using a new Excel workbook.
Microsoft Excel 2021 has a completely different interface than the previous versions. This new edition is cleaner, more intuitive, and easier to use.
You now have the rounded corners that prevail on Windows 11, colors are lighter, and the toolbars are easier to find.
The new interface now includes slight changes in the bars when you enter compatibility mode so you can see who is in your document at the same time as you do.
When you open a new workbook, you’ll immediately start on your first cell. You can press enter and start adding information or prepare a template among all the available.
Configuring Spreadsheets With Excel Options Dialog Box
Every Microsoft program has a central setting to configure the document. That includes Excel.
Follow these steps to access the Excel Options Dialog Box:
1. Once you’re in a workbook, go to the File tab to access the backstage view tab.
2. Select Options to enter the central dialog box.
3. A new window will open, showing the entire Excel settings.
The window shows you various tabs – over 12 panels – with Excel settings to customize your workbook. Each panel shows a small description so you can know exactly what you’ll find there. Here’s what you can expect in each section:
- General Tab: Here you can modify general interface settings like cell color, font color, number of sheets, font size, and most general aspects of formatting.
- Formulas: This tab contains information about formulas that involve calculation, error checking, reports, xmatch, and more.
- Data: The Data tab panel brings information related to importing data or data analysis. It’s important if you’re trying to create a database.
- Proofing: Here you can check the spelling, correction, and grammatical options for your workbook.
- Save Tab: It contains the ways you can use the Save button to store your workbooks. It includes formats, recovery options, and more.
- Language Tab: You have options related to the language you will display.
- Accessibility: The Ease of Access tab involves options to make your Excel accessible for people with disabilities.
- Advanced Settings: This panel is reserved for those expert Excel users. It brings further customization to your workbooks, such as a customizable Ribbon, quick access toolbar, Add-ins, the Trust center, and more.
Difference Between Excel Workbook and Worksheet
There are two basic terms – Workbook and Worksheet – that you need to understand if you want to learn how to use one of the best calculation operators in the market.
The first one, Workbook, refers to the entire file that you create before you start editing cells or click “Save” to store your document in XLS or XLSX formats. You can change the file name box to identify it and locate it in our OneDrive or local storage.
On the other hand, the Worksheet – or spreadsheet – is the tab you create in the workbook to insert your data. You can add as many tabs as you need to add different content on each one of them.
It’s the most efficient way to separate information and have it organized in one document.
Excel Ribbon - A.K.A The Tool’s Bar
The Excel Ribbon, also known as the Tool’s Bar is the top row section of the workbook. It’s composed of all the tabs where you can find tools to visualize data.
Here we’re going to disclose each one of them:
1. Home Tab: After you create a new document, you land in the Home Tab by default. Here you can cut, copy, paste, edit, change data formatting, insert or delete a row, add a conditional setting, and more.
2. File Tab: This is a key tab on your sheet. You can create, open, print, save, search and share documents. You can also access the backend view from the normal view.
3. Insert Tab: Here you can add media content like pictures. You can also include charts, filters, and hyperlinks. They help perform better in your sheet.
4. Formula Tab: You can set formulas, insert, change, add a new range or use macros from this tab. We cover an entire section about this tab below.
5. Page Layout Tab: You can change the data and prepare it for exporting or printing.
6. Data Tab: It enables you to sort filters, modify data or group them to define them based on an objective.
7. Review Tab: You can check spellings, track changes, comment, suggest, and more.
8. View Tab: you can change how you view your sheet. This way, a user can improve how he sees and manipulates data. Here’s where you can freeze panes to “freeze” the sheet and see your screen.
Basic Page Layout & Cell Functionality
Before you can start writing formulas and making your first Excel report, you must learn how the page layout and cells work.
The page layout allows you to change how your spreadsheet looks at your command. You can modify margins, orientation, size, break, filter, print, or even change the background where you are writing.
Beginners need to understand that – most of the time – you’ll end up printing or showing your sheet to someone. It may be your boss, a co-worker, or a teacher. So, you must choose the right layout to download the document and make it as accurate and easily visible as possible.
Now, cells work easier than you think. A cell is a blank space where you can type information – texts, formulas, graphics, etc. – and give it sense to your document. Change the size of your cells, and combine or erase them. You can also copy the information from one to the next cell.
What’s more, you can multiply the value in a cell using the “=value*value” query.
Now, right-clicking a cell will drop a menu that you can use to edit the space itself. Have in mind that both the online and offline Excel editions have these functions.
The formula tab has great importance in this software. It has two functions:
- Change values and add quick functionalities such as date, time, lookup, references, financial and logical functions.
- Check errors, show formulas, set names, and manage names.
You’ll find it useful when you want to explore functions, create macros or arrays and call functions. Of course, you need to learn the basics first before you can do that.
Common Formulas/Functions To Master Excel
To make the most out of the Formula tab, you will need to learn the common formulas and functions you’ll use in your Excel journey.
The easiest functions you must learn to improve your work life are:
- =SUM – This function sums up 2 or more values in your spreadsheet.
- =AVERAGE – It returns the average value of a range of cells.
- =IF – Returns a conditional “Yes” or “No” based on a range of cells.
- =MIN – Shows the smallest value in a series.
- =MAX – Shows the biggest value in a series.
- =COUNT – Returns the number of cells in the range of rows or columns that contains numbers.
We’re going to take the Average function to give you an example of how you would use them. Let’s say you have the numbers [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] in a column. To make the formula work, you only need to type “=average” on your keyboard and select the cells involved in your action.
In this example, the function should return “4” as the average value.
Press Ctrl+C and save these formulas where you can find them!
Shortcuts You Can’t Forget About
A shortcut is an important Excel feature that you can’t forget about. When you learn how to move “freely” through the spreadsheet and you are used to calculating or returning results, you need ways to move even faster.
That’s what shortcuts do. You can now complete functions instantly and then keep on your regular work. Some of the most used shortcuts are:
- F2: To edit an active cell
- F4: Toggle references
- CTRL - 1: Format a range of cells.
- CTRL - C: Copy
- CTRL - V: Paste
- CTRL - R: Fill right
- CTRL - D: Fill down
- ALT - = Autosum
- ALT - I - R: Insert row
- ALT - I - C: Insert column
It takes training to memorize each of them, but as you progress through your Excel career, you’ll make it.
How To Save an Excel Workbook
You may think that saving a document is easy and shouldn’t be explained. But to master Excel, you must know all the basic features of this program.
If it's the first time you are creating an Excel spreadsheet, here’s how you save your document:
- Go to the File Tab with your mouse. Click it to enter the backstage view.
- Find or scroll down until you see “Save.” You can also use “Save as” if you are going to change formats and other advanced aspects.
- Change the file name that’s already written.
- Click Save.
As optional, you can also save your document in your OneDrive account.
Using Excel Templates To Visualize a Database
Templates are extremely useful for Microsoft Office documents. You can use a predetermined template, design based on one, or even create your own for future projects.
You can find the template folder in the Home Tab and then go to “Cell Styles.” Here you’ll find basic models that you can use to make data more enjoyable.
If you have the Microsoft 365 integration, you can also browse the web for more designs.
Getting Better Working on Excel Worksheets
After learning how to use Excel basics, how can you get better?
You may be surprised by the answer, but you need to practice. Start creating a streamline of documents, from reports to calculations with graphics or charts. This is the best way to learn how to use Excel.
Impress your boss or colleagues with your knowledge!
Microsoft Excel For Dummies - Mastering Excel Features Has Never Been Easier
Learning how to use Excel is easier than you think. It only requires practice and the willingness to understand how a blank workbook can help you in data analysis.
The average worker only knows one or two functions that help him pass throughout the day. But in this dummies guide, you have much more “juice.”
Once you’ve learned the basic calculations and how functions work, you’ll get to use Excel for almost everything you want. From project management tasks to budgeting or checklists.
Don’t forget that you’ll also have the whole Microsoft Office 2021 suite. All of them give you the speed and working skills that you need to be productive in your job.