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Introduction to Excel
Introduction to Excel for Beginners
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Lesson 1: Introduction to Excel Workbooks

Objective: By the end of this lesson, students will understand the basic structure and features of an Excel workbook, and how to create, save, and navigate through a workbook.


1.1 What is an Excel Workbook?

An Excel workbook is a file that contains one or more worksheets (also known as spreadsheets). Each worksheet is made up of a grid of cells arranged in rows and columns, where you can enter and manipulate data.

Once Excel is started, a blank workbook will open on your screen. A workbook is an Excel file that contains one or more worksheets (sometimes referred to as spreadsheets). Excel will assign a file name to the workbook, such as Book1Book2Book3, and so on, depending on how many new workbooks are opened. Figure 1.2 shows a blank workbook after starting Excel. Take some time to familiarize yourself with this screen. Your screen may be slightly different based on the version you’re using.

Quick access toolbar with commands Excel Help, Zoom slider, view options, and workbook tabs.
Figure 1.2 Blank Workbook

Your workbook should already be maximized (or shown at full size) once Excel is started, as shown in Figure 1.2. If necessary locate the Maximize button as shown in Figure 1.3.

Maximize icon, workbook title in top left-hand corner not top center as in Figure 1.2.
Figure 1.3 Restored Worksheet


Data are entered and managed in an Excel worksheet. The worksheet contains several rectangles called cells for entering numeric and nonnumeric data. Each cell in an Excel worksheet contains an address, which is defined by a column letter followed by a row number. For example, the cell that is currently activated in Figure 1.3 is A1. This would be referred to as cell location A1 or cell reference A1. The following steps explain how you can navigate in an Excel worksheet:

  1. Place your mouse pointer over cell D5 and left click.
  2. Check to make sure column letter D and row number 5 are highlighted, as shown in Figure 1.4.

Note:  Your highlighted column letter and row number may be different than figure shown.

Bold outline D5 cell activated.
Figure 1.4 Activating a Cell Location
  1. Move the mouse pointer to cell A1.
  2. Click and hold the left mouse button and drag the mouse pointer back to cell D5.
  3. Release the left mouse button. You should see several cells highlighted, as shown in Figure 1.5.

This is referred to as a cell range and is documented as follows: A1:D5. Any two cell locations separated by a colon are known as a cell range. The first cell is the top left corner of the range, and the second cell is the lower right corner of the range.

Cell range A1:D5 is highlighted. Multiple worksheet tabs featured at bottom. Shift F11 adds new worksheet to workbook.
Figure 1.5 Highlighting a Range of Cells
  1. At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see worksheets. Depending on your version of Excel, you will see either three as displayed above or just one. If you only have one sheet, click the “Insert Worksheet” to add a worksheet. Depending on your version, you instead may have a + sign; a click on the + adds an additional worksheet as well. This is how you open or add a worksheet within a workbook. Add another worksheet so that you now have three sheets displaying here.
  2. Click the Sheet1 worksheet tab at the bottom of the worksheet to return to the worksheet shown in Figure 1.5.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Basic Worksheet Navigation

  • Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to activate cells on the worksheet.
  • Hold the SHIFT key and press the arrow keys on your keyboard to highlight a range of cells in a worksheet.
  • Hold the CTRL key while pressing the PAGE DOWN or PAGE UP keys to open other worksheets in a workbook.


Excel’s features and commands are found in the Ribbon, which is the upper area of the Excel screen that contains several tabs running across the top. Each tab provides access to a different set of Excel commands. Figure 1.6 shows the commands available in the Home tab of the Ribbon. Table 1.1 “Command Overview for Each Tab of the Ribbon” provides an overview of the commands that are found in each tab of the Ribbon.

Home tab of Ribbon with font, alignment, and formatting options.
Figure 1.6 Home Tab of Ribbon

Table 1.1 Command Overview for Each Tab of the RibbonTab NameDescription of CommandsFileAlso known as the Backstage view of the Excel workbook. Contains all commands for opening, closing, saving, and creating new Excel workbooks. Includes print commands, document properties, e-mailing options, and help features. The default settings and options are also found in this tab.HomeContains the most frequently used Excel commands. Formatting commands are found in this tab along with commands for cutting, copying, pasting, and for inserting and deleting rows and columns.InsertUsed to insert objects such as charts, pictures, shapes, PivotTables, Internet links, symbols, or text boxes.Page LayoutContains commands used to prepare a worksheet for printing. Also includes commands used to show and print the gridlines on a worksheet.FormulasIncludes commands for adding mathematical functions to a worksheet. Also contains tools for auditing mathematical formulas.DataUsed when working with external data sources such as Microsoft® Access®, text files, or the Internet. Also contains sorting commands and access to scenario tools.ReviewIncludes Spelling and Track Changes features. Also contains protection features to password protect worksheets or workbooks.ViewUsed to adjust the visual appearance of a workbook. Common commands include the Zoom and Page Layout view.

The Ribbon shown in Figure 1.6 is full, or maximized. The benefit of having a full Ribbon is that the commands are always visible while you are developing a worksheet. However, depending on the screen dimensions of your computer, you may find that the Ribbon takes up too much vertical space on your worksheet. If this is the case, you can minimize the Ribbon by clicking the button shown in Figure 1.6. When minimized, the Ribbon will show only the tabs and not the command buttons. When you click on a tab, the command buttons will appear until you select a command or click anywhere on your worksheet.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Minimizing or Maximizing the Ribbon

  • Hold down the CTRL key and press the F1 key.
  • Hold down the CTRL key and press the F1 key again to maximize the Ribbon.


The Quick Access Toolbar is found at the upper left side of the Excel screen above the Ribbon, as shown in Figure 1.7. This area provides access to the most frequently used commands, such as Save and Undo. You also can customize the Quick Access Toolbar by adding commands that you use on a regular basis. By placing these commands in the Quick Access Toolbar, you do not have to navigate through the Ribbon to find them. To customize the Quick Access Toolbar, click the down arrow as shown in Figure 1.7. This will open a menu of commands that you can add to the Quick Access Toolbar. If you do not see the command you are looking for on the list, select the More Commands option.

Customize Quick Access Toolbar with frequently used commands. Open Quick Access Toolbar via keyboard: Alt, F, T, arrow down. Via Keyboard to open Quick Access Toolbar: Alt, F, T, arrow down.
Figure 1.7 Customizing the Quick Access Toolbar

In addition to the Ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar, you can also access commands by right clicking anywhere on the worksheet. Figure 1.8 shows an example of the commands available in the right-click menu.

Right click commands: font formatting, cut, copy, paste, insert, delete, clear, filter, sort, insert comment, cell formatting, define name and hyperlink.
Figure 1.8 Right-Click Menu


The File tab is also known as the Backstage view of the workbook. It contains a variety of features and commands related to the workbook that is currently open, new workbooks, or workbooks stored in other locations on your computer or network. Figure 1.9 shows the options available in the File tab or Backstage view. To leave the Backstage view and return to the worksheet, click the arrow in the upper left-hand corner as shown below.

File Tab/Backstage View displays workbook name; Esc Key: return to workbook Save As, Excel default settings. Includes Protect, Inspect, Manage Workbook Info.
Figure 1.9 File Tab or Backstage View of a Workbook

Included in the File tab are the default settings for the Excel application that can be accessed and modified by clicking the Options button. Figure 1.10 shows the Excel Options window, which gives you access to settings such as the default font style, font size, and the number of worksheets that appear in new workbooks.

Options window General tab: Font size, number of worksheets in a workbook can be changed. Other Excel options are Formulas, Proofing, Save, Language, Advanced, Customize Ribbon, Quick Access Toolbar, Add-Ins, Trust Center.
Figure 1.10 Excel Options Window


Once you create a new workbook, you will need to change the file name and choose a location on your computer or network to save that file. It is important to remember where you save this workbook on your computer or network as you will be using this file in the Section 1.2 “Entering, Editing, and Managing Data” to construct the workbook shown in Figure 1.1. The process of saving can be different with different versions of Excel.  Please be sure you follow the steps for the version of Excel you are using. The following steps explain how to save a new workbook and assign it a file name.


1.2 Structure of an Excel Workbook

  • Worksheets: The individual sheets within a workbook. By default, a new workbook contains one worksheet, but you can add more as needed.
  • Cells: The basic units where you input data, identified by a column letter and a row number (e.g., A1, B2).
  • Rows: Horizontal lines of cells, identified by numbers.
  • Columns: Vertical lines of cells, identified by letters.
  • Workbook Tabs: Located at the bottom of the Excel window, these tabs allow you to switch between different worksheets in your workbook.

1.3 Creating a New Workbook

  1. Open Excel: Start the Excel application.
  2. Create a New Workbook:
    • Go to the File tab.
    • Click on New.
    • Select Blank Workbook.

1.4 Saving a Workbook

  1. Save As:
    • Go to the File tab.
    • Click on Save As.
    • Choose the location where you want to save the file.
    • Enter a name for your workbook.
    • Click Save.
  2. Save:
    • Once the workbook has been saved initially, you can quickly save any changes by clicking the Save icon on the Quick Access Toolbar or pressing Ctrl + S.

1.5 Navigating Through a Workbook

  1. Using Worksheet Tabs:
    • Click on the worksheet tabs at the bottom of the Excel window to switch between sheets.
  2. Scrolling:
    • Use the scroll bars to move up and down or left and right within a worksheet.
  3. Go To:
    • Press Ctrl + G or click on the Name Box to quickly jump to a specific cell.

1.6 Basic Operations

  1. Entering Data:
    • Click on a cell and start typing to enter data. Press Enter to move to the next cell below or Tab to move to the next cell to the right.
  2. Editing Data:
    • Double-click on a cell to edit its contents or click on the cell and make changes in the Formula Bar.
  3. Copying and Pasting:
    • Select the cell(s) you want to copy, press Ctrl + C, move to the destination cell, and press Ctrl + V.
  4. AutoFill:
    • Drag the fill handle (small square at the bottom-right corner of a selected cell) to copy cell content or fill a series.


The Status Bar is located below the worksheet tabs on the Excel screen (see Figure 1.13). It displays a variety of information, such as the status of certain keys on your keyboard (e.g., CAPS LOCK), the available views for a workbook, the magnification of the screen, and mathematical functions that can be performed when data are highlighted on a worksheet. You can customize the Status Bar as follows:

  1. Place the mouse pointer over any area of the Status Bar and right click to display the “Customize Status Bar” list of options (see Figure 1.13).
  2. Select the Caps Lock option from the menu (see Figure 1.13).
  3. Press the CAPS LOCK key on your keyboard. You will see the Caps Lock indicator on the lower right side of the Status Bar.
  4. Press the CAPS LOCK on your keyboard again. The indicator on the Status Bar goes away.
Customize Status Bar drop-down menu with options for indicators including Caps Lock.
Figure 1.13 Customizing the Status Bar


The Help feature provides extensive information about the Excel application. Although some of this information may be stored on your computer, the Help window will automatically connect to the Internet, if you have a live connection, to provide you with resources that can answer most of your questions. You can open the Excel Help window by clicking the question mark in the upper right area of the screen or ribbon. With newer versions of Excel, use the query box to enter your question and select from helpful option links or select the question mark from the dropdown list to launch Excel Help windows.

Help link in Home Ribbon.
Figure 1.14 Excel Help Window
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