How to work in Spreadsheet/Microsoft Excel

A spreadsheet is simply information put in rows and columns on paper. The information can be text or numbers. Many things in our daily lives are spreadsheet. The bill that a shopkeeper gives us for purchase of things is spreadsheet. Our report card is also a spreadsheet. So is a page from the accounts book in our school. In this article I am going to discuss how you can prepare a project using spreadsheet.


Generally spreadsheets are used with numbers. With the use of computers becoming popular, electronic spreadsheets started replacing the ones made by hand on paper. Just as a word processor processes words, a spreadsheet processes numbers. It can perform all kinds of calculations on numbers-from simple calculations that we can do in school, to complicated scientific calculations.

History of Spreadsheet:

The first electronic spreadsheet software was developed in 1978. It was called VisiCalc. It was very popular and widely used. In 1983 the founders of Lotus Development Corporation developed another spreadsheet software called Lotus1-2-3. It was made for the IBM PC. It allowed data to be presented in the form of charts as well. Lotus 1-2-3 is still used. However, a more powerful and advanced spreadsheet software is now available. This is the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet software.

Working on Excel:

To start Excel go to the start button. Select programs, and click on Microsoft Excel in the list of programs. The Excel window appears on the screen. The blank spreadsheet looks like a table. It has rows and columns made in it.

Columns are labeled as letters. Letters go from A to Z, and then from AA to AZ, BA to BZ, and so on till IV. There are 256 columns in all in a spreadsheet. Rows are labeled as numbers 1,2,3….There are several thousand rows in a spreadsheet.
A single spreadsheet with 256 columns and thousands of rows is really huge. You can only see a few rows and columns on the screen at a time. You can use the scroll bars to see the other rows and columns.

A row and column meet in a small rectangular area called a cell. This is where data is entered. We can see several cells in a spreadsheet. Each cell has a label which tells which row and column it lies in. For example the first cell is A1. It lies in column A and the first row. The cell D5 lies in column D and row 5. That is, it is the fifth cell in the fourth column.

Entering data in a cell:

Each cell can store a number or a word. When the mouse pointer is moved in the work area, it changes from an arrow shape to a plus sign. Clicking the mouse on a cell selects the cell. The selected cell has a dark boundary around it. The arrow keys on the keyboard can also be used to move from cell to cell. Suppose, you want to enter 'Arun' in the cell A2, and the number 90 in cell B2. Proceed as follows.

Move the pointer to cell A2. A dark boundary around the cell shows that it is selected. Type in 'Arun'. It appears in the entry bar as well as in the cell A2.
If you have made a mistake, press the escape key to cancel what you have entered.

Press the Enter key to confirm. The next cell A3 gets highlighted, ready to receive entry. Now select the cell B2 and enter 90 in it.

Making a spreadsheet:

Let us now make a spreadsheet as follows to show the marks obtained by four of your friends, in the class 5 half-yearly examination.

You have already entered 'Arun' in column A2 and 90, his marks in Maths, in column B2.

Now first enter the subjects as follows:

*Maths in cell B1

*Science in cell C1

*Soc. Sc in cell D1

*Computers in cell E1

*English in cell F1

*Hindi in cell G1
We have already entered 'Arun' in cell A2. Enter the other names.

*Poorva in cell A3

*Raji in cell A4

*Lata in cell A5
Now enter the marks in the correct cells. This completes your first spreadsheet.

Saving and retrieving the spreadsheet:

Suppose you want to save the spreadsheet under the file name 'result'. From the File menu select Save As. Type the file name and click Save.

If you want to work on the spreadsheet again, you have to retrieve it. Go to File menu and select open, Type the file name 'result' and click open. The spreadsheet will appear on the screen.

To exit Excel:

Once your work is done and you have to saved a copy of the spreadsheet, you may want to leave the program. From the File menu, select Exit. Excel now closes. If you have forgotten to save the spreadsheet before trying to exit, the computer will ask you if you want to save the changes made in the spreadsheet. Click Yes.

Making calculations in spreadsheet:

You have made and saved your first spreadsheet 'result'. But it only contains the marks. The total and % of marks are not worked out. Let us see how we can do this on the spreadsheet.

The ability of a spreadsheet to perform calculations on the data is what makes the spreadsheet application so powerful. The spreadsheet can perform addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of marks. But you have to first 'tell' the spreadsheet what calculations have to be done. This is done by giving formulas.

For example, suppose in the spreadsheet 'result', you want to find the total marks obtained by Arun. You want the total to be given in the cell H2. You have to tell the computer to add the data given in cells B2, C2, D2, E2, F2 and G2 and to give the result in cell H2. Therefore, the formula to be given in cell H2 is (B2+C2+D2+E2+F2+G2).

But if you simply enter this in cell H2, the computer will not know that this is a formula. It will consider it to be simply some data that you have entered in cell H2. It will therefore simply enter 'B2+C2+D2+E2+F2+G2' in cell H2. No addition will be done.

You tell the computer that this is formula by giving the equal sign '=' before it. So, select cell H2 and enter (=B2+C2+D2+E2+F2+G2).

You can see the formula in the Entry bar as well as in the cell H2. Press Enter to confirm.

The computer uses the formula to do the calculation and give the answer in cell H2 and the total of the marks obtained by Arun appears. However, the formula can still be seen on the Entry bar.

Now enter TOTAL in cell H1.

In the cell H3, enter the formula to total the marks obtained by Poorva. The formula to be entered is 'B3+C3+D3+E3+F3+G3'. Remember to put the '=' sign before the formula.

Similarly, enter the total of marks obtained by Raji in cell H4, and Lata in cell H5. Your spreadsheet is ready. Save it as 'result'.

Making multiplication tables on a spreadsheet:

You have seen how to enter an addition formula in the spreadsheet. Now let us use multiplication to make a multiplication table of 4 on the spreadsheet.

Remember that on a computer the sign of multiplication is '*' and not the usual cross sign. So, in the formula you have to enter '*' for multiplication.

Changing values:

The formula in cell E2 multiplies whatever is present in cells A2 and C2. So, If you change the value in cell A2 or C2, the value in cell E2 should also change automatically. This is the benefit of using formulas.

The computer automatically does all the calculations. In case any value in a cell is changed, it automatically does the recalculation.

Division on a spreadsheet:

Let us go back to our 'result' spreadsheet, and find the average % marks obtained by the 4 children. The total marks that you have already got in your worksheet are out of 600. So, to find the average % you have to divide the total by 6. Remember that there is no division sign on the keyboard. Instead we can use the '/' sign.

Thus an example is '4/5'.

Open the spreadsheet 'result'. In cell I1 enter percent.

Select cell I2. Enter the formula H2/6.

Remember to put the '=' sign before the formula. The cell I2 displays the percentage marks obtained by Arun. Similarly, enter the formulas in cells I3, I4 and I5 also.

Save it as 'result'.

Making a chart:

The data contained in an Excel worksheet can be displayed as a chart. A chart is a simple and attractive method of representing data. When data is represented graphically, it is easier to understand. Let us represent Arun's marks in different subjects in the from of a bar chart.

Open the spreadsheet 'result'. Select cell A1. Keeping the left button of the mouse pressed, drag it till cell G2, and these becomes dark. These cells contain Arun's name, the names of the subjects and his marks in each subject.

Now look for the icon for the chart wizard in the Tool bar, click on it.

A window appears asking you for the kind of chart you want. The vertical bar chart would be selected as default. Press Finish, and the chart appears below the spreadsheet. The computer has itself given the name 'Arun' to the chart. It has also given the name of the subjects on the horizontal line (called the X-axis). Smart, is not it?

The spreadsheet and the chart appear as shown. You can drag the chart to another place or resize it.

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More articles: Microsoft Excel How to


Author: Chitra27 Jul 2014 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 4

This is a very useful article which explains clearly about the basics of Microsoft excel and spreadsheet. Knowledge of MS Excel is an added advantage these days as most of the companies prefer a candidate with MS knowledge, especially in Excel. It is always better to go to a near by reputed computer center and train yourself in MS office package. This way you will get a valid certificate at the end of your course which can be produced at the time of an interview to prove your skills and knowledge.

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