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What is Microsoft Excel?

Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet program. Spreadsheets are used to store and manipulate data, in particular numerical data. Once this is done, this data can be output in various useful forms such as tables and graphs. Though originally made for business, spreadsheets are widely used in scientific and engineering applications, too.  A spreadsheet can also be used to create a database of information that can be sorted, filtered and accessed for functions such as mail merge.

What are Spreadsheets  used for?

When analysing data, a lot of time can be spent doing repetitive calculations.  For example, when calculating budgets and expenditure the same calculations may be carried out on several different budgets to work out the balance.  This is where spreadsheets work particularly well.  A spreadsheet enables you to perform the calculation with only one piece of data or budget, and then copy this to all the other budgets or the rest of the data.  Spreadsheets also enable you to make clear presentations of data in graphical form.  Thus, spreadsheets provide a convenient method for analysing all types of data (financial, stock control, scientific, etc...) and producing high quality graphics.

Starting Excel

The easiest way to launch Excel is from the Microsoft Excel icon on your computer desktop screen.  Double-click on this icon and Excel will start and bring up a blank workbook.  Alternatively you can click on the Start button and then choose Programs and then Microsoft Excel.

Each file made by Excel has the extension ".xls", for example, "Book1.xls".  We will describe Excel files  as ".xls files".

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