Excel Beginner’s Guide: Introduction to Excel – Lesson 1

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Working with Excel – Basics

As an Excel user I will be constantly making use of two areas most of the time:

  1. Ribbon consisting of tabs
  2. Workarea consisting of cells

Cells, Columns and Rows

One of main feature you immediately notice is that you have Alphabets at the top and numbers on the left. Alphabets are simply names of columns and numbers are simply names of rows. With column and rows named in this fashion help us name each and every cell inside work area. Having named a thing makes easier identification. This is exactly we are achieving in Excel. For example if I am asked to move to cell B2 I Exactly know which cell it is. In Excel world it is known as Cell Address.

Important: When naming the cell Column reference is given before Row reference. For example A1, E14, HS76 etc.

Navigating from one cell to another

It is as easy as with other things. You can use pointer keys to move the active area and to jump from one cell to another.

Entering the record

To enter a record you can type just like normal and on pressing Enter key on the keyboard will confirm the record or data to be inserted in that particular cell.

Editing the existing record

If you need to make a change in Existing record you may have it as active cell and start typing but it will completely overwrite or replace the existing content. However, if you don’t want to overwrite but to make a change then you have to enter the ‘Edit mode’ first by pressing F2 key. Now you can make the change.

Fetching contents of another cell

Knowing that each cell has address we can fetch the data from another cell without retyping again. For example you have some information in cell A1 and you want it in cell A5 as well. Then you simply need to press “=” sign and give the cell address which is A1 and press Enter. Job done!

If you have to fetch data from multiple cells in a row or column? Then you can make use of Fill handle to quickly do it by dragging it right, left, up or down. Once you have a cell reference in one cell and you drag the fill handle Excel populate the next cell automatically with appropriate cell reference or cell address.

For example you have data in Column A starting in cell A1 and you want to duplicate that in column B. You just need to refer to first cell and drag the fill handle down. And if you check the reference in each cell later you will find that Excel has automatically incremented the row number as you dragged down. Same is the case with columns if you move from left or right.

But what if you want the references not to change automatically? There will be occasions when you won’t be happy with this automation and that is where one must learn how to use Absolute, Mixed and Relative cell references.

Remember your cell address is actually a combination of Column and Row address.

When you use simple row:column addresses you have to option to make the references absolute or relative and this enables you to reference in four different ways for example if you have to refer to cell A1 you can refer in the following ways:

$A$1 – this makes both rows and column static

$A1 – this makes the column static, however, relieves the row and it will change when the contents of this cell are dragged downwards or upwards

A$1- this makes the row static, however, relieves the column from being static and it will change when the contents of this cell are dragged leftwards or rightwards

A1 – this puts no restriction at all on any part of reference and rows and columns will change if they are dragged using a fill handle.
Remember: You can put $ sign by typing or by selecting the cell address and repeatedly pressing the F4 key on the keyboard as Excel cycles through reference styles.

Another fact to remember is that you can perform a certain task with a simple key press or combination of keys on the keyboard. It is called shortcut. For example F2 and F4 are two examples we just discussed above. Similarly pressing Ctrl + S to save the file is also a shortcut.

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