Excel Basics: Creating a Workbook

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Organization and Efficiency

Microsoft Excel is a program that allows you to organize and manipulate data. It can sort data, perform calculations (using formulas), and make it easy to find and search the exact data you are looking for. The great thing about Excel is that it can be extremely useful to a very wide variety of people. From organizing a household budget to running functions for thousands of cells of data, Excel can be useful to pretty much anyone.

Excel can look pretty daunting to a first-time user – this tutorial will cover the basic functions of the program. Let’s look at creating a workbook, customizing a worksheet as well as entering and editing data in the tutorial below:

Creating an Excel workbook:

Using your mouse, point to your start menu or Excel icon on your desktop and double click to open the application. Make sure you save your workbook by selecting File – Save As.

Entering and editing data:

To enter data into your worksheet, you simply use your mouse to click the cell you wish to use and begin typing your data. You can use your enter key on your keyboard to enter text in the next cell within the same column or you can press the tab key to move to the next cell in the same row. You can also enter a new line within the same cell by pressing the alt and the enter keys on your keyboard at the same time.

Each cell is identified by a ‘cell reference’, consisting of the column letter and row number that intersect with that cell’s location. If you find that your data is too wide for the cell (which causes it to overlap the next cell to the right), you can widen the entire column by:

  • placing the mouse over the line between the two columns in the column header (changing it to a double-headed arrow) and clicking and dragging to the right to widen the column
  • double clicking when the mouse turns into the double-headed arrow (which widens the column to fit the cell with the most data in that column)

Another option for formatting cell size is the Merge and Center feature, which we will cover more later.

Customizing a worksheet:

You can make your worksheet data effortless to read. An easy way to do this is by applying cell borders. Using your mouse, click and drag your cursor over the cells you wish to add borders to. You will see that those cells are highlighted in blue. Use your mouse to point to the down arrow found at the bottom right of the font group square on your ribbon. A dialogue box should open up, click on the border tab and choose the style you wish to apply to your highlighted cells. See how much easier it is to read your data now that each cell is clearly defined?

Filling in cells automatically:

You can also automatically fill data in cells. For example, type the number 1 in cell A1, then type the number 2 in cell A2. Using your mouse to highlight both of those cells you will see a little “fill handle” at the bottom right of cell A2. Click on the fill handle to grab it, and continue dragging your mouse down the same row – Excel will automatically number those cells for you. You could also do the same thing with days of the week or months of the year. Type January in cell A1. Using the fill handle at the bottom right of cell A1 click and drag down the column or across the row to automatically fill in the rest of the months.

Excel is an excellent tool for any industry, whether you are working as a transcriptionist or anywhere else in the business world today. Knowing Microsoft Excel at an advanced level and using these shortcuts regularly will keep your productivity up and allow you to make the most of your work day. Head to our Microsoft Excel program curriculum page to find more topics covered in our program.