Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet program. So what’s a spreadsheet? For anyone with an old fashioned accounting background you might know a spreadsheet as a large piece of paper called a ledger that you use to track income and expenses. In more modern computer terms a spreadsheet is better defined as: a document that stores data in a grid of rows and columns (TechTerms.com). For a teacher excel can be a pretty powerful tool for quickly sorting, calculating and analyzing data, making charts and graphs and creating simple data bases.

In this technology tip we just want to introduce you to the first screen you see when you open excel:

The Geography of Excel

Below you will find the different areas of the screen in excel.
Click on the picture to enlarge it.

The Menu Bar and Tool Bar should look familiar from any other Microsoft program. The formula bar is unique to Excel and it gives you a place to enter mathematical formulas. The task pane is a place where special features are displayed.

The main part of the screen is taken up by the “worksheet” which is made up of columns and rows. Where a column meets a row is called a cell. Every cell (or box on the worksheet) has an address. Anyone who has ever played Battleship can understand how cells get their addresses. Column E is outlined in light blue and row 9 is outlined in yellow. Where they cross is the cell with the address “E9” This becomes particularly important later on when we write formulas.

One more thing about the geography of excel. Whenever you open a new excel spread sheet you actually are looking at 3 worksheets. If you go to the bottom left hand corner of the screen you will see there are actually three “tabs” there, each one representing a different spreadsheet:

Just click on "Sheet2" or "Sheet3" to view those worksheets.

Here's a quick video that explains how to select cells and navigate around a spreadsheet:

PRACTICE ACTIVITY: Open up a blank excel spreadsheet and try doing the following:
1) See if you can find the following cells on the worksheet: A1, E9, Z4, and HV1278.
2) Try typing into a cell and then erasing what you typed.
3) Try clicking between different sheets using the tabs in the bottom left.

TO KEEP ON LEARNING: If you'd like to learn more how to use Microsoft Excel try searching the internet for:

Excel tutorials
How to use Excel
Free Excel templates