“Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.” - Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

While it seems that the younger generations seem to know everything about technology, the older generations often struggle. However, there are programmes that can make your life easier.

Whatever operating system your computer uses, office suites such as OpenOffice, LibreOffice, or Microsoft Office can allow you to create charts, graphs, and spreadsheets.

So how do you use Excel and how can you create a spreadsheet?

Whether you want to format a spreadsheet, create a spreadsheet, print out a sheet, learn some keyboard shortcuts, hide columns, copy and paste data into a pivot table, insert functions, or do calculations, here’s a crash course on how to create spreadsheets.

Discover all the features of Excel!

Creating Spreadsheets in Excel

Excel is a programme and part of the Microsoft Office suite (which includes Microsoft Word word processor and PowerPoint presentation programme). Excel is used for creating spreadsheets and graphs on PC, Mac, Android, or Linux. It allows you to organise and share data through spreadsheets and charts.

What programmes are included in Microsoft Office?
Excel is one of the programmes included in the Microsoft Office Suite. (Source: Pixaline)

Excel isn’t the only programme for making spreadsheets, but it’s definitely the most popular. Students in primary school are already learning how to use computers and office software.

Knowing how to create a spreadsheet is useful for jobs involving mathematics, economics, sciences, but also in everyday life.

Opening Excel

You have to pay for Excel. You can get Microsoft Office for £59.99 per year with Office 365 Personal. This includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. There’s also Office 365 Home for £79.99 per year for multiple users. You can also get a smartphone or tablet version.

Once you’ve downloaded it, you can open Excel by double-clicking on the desktop icon. If you already have a page open on Excel and you want to create a new one, you just need to go to “File” then “New”.

The Layout of the Programme

Once the programme is open, you’ll see the spreadsheet. The boxes are known as cells and the columns are arranged by letter and the rows by number.

You just need to put the data into your spreadsheet to get started.

Organising Data in a Spreadsheet

To create a spreadsheet, you need to organise your data into columns and rows so that the spreadsheet makes sense.

Organising Data

The table can have one set of data or multiple entries.

A simple table has one type of data. This could be the months of the year as a header and the names of people who have their birthdays each month.

A table with multiple sets of data allows you to combine different types of data. You could have the month of the year on a given row and the expenses across the columns. In this case, you may need to include the month and also the types of expenses (rent, shopping, etc.).

Formatting a Table

Once the data’s in the cells, you need to create a table. You can use the “borders” option in the toolbar but there are a lot more functions than that.

How do you make a chart in Excel?
You can use data to make graphs and charts. (Source: StockSnap)

To create a table, you need to start by selecting all the data you want to include in a table. You can do this by selecting the top left cell and dragging to the bottom right cell.

You can also do this by pressing shift. First click on the top left cell, press and hold shift and then click on the bottom right cell. This will select all cells from the top left one to the bottom right one.

You can then just click on the “Insert” tab and then “Pivot Table”.

A window will pop up and you just need to click “OK” and check “My table has headers” if necessary.

And your table is ready!

Find out more about logical operators in Excel.

Changing the Design of your Excel Table

A spreadsheet doesn’t need to be dull. Excel allows you to format your data and make them clearer to the reader with colours and formatting options.

How do you format Excel spreadsheets?
You can make your data more readable through formatting. (Source: StartupStockPhotos)

You just need to click on the “Design” tab. You’ll only see this when you have a table selected.

You can then go to the “Table Style” section or “Quick Styles” to choose the colours that you want.

You can also resize the table, delete duplicates, etc. You can select cells you want to keep, delete, or highlight, etc.

The header row can be used to name different columns. If you unselect this, the first row will disappear. In most cases, it’s a good idea to keep the entire row. This will allow you to add data at the end of your spreadsheet.

You can alternate the colours between rows. This makes your table easier to read. By alternating colours, it’s harder to skip a row.

The “First Column” and “Last Column” boxes allow you to put these columns in bold. You can also alternate the colours of the columns just like with the rows.

Once you’ve finished, you can just go back to the main tab.

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Filtering Table Data

In the "Design" tab, you can also select the filter button. This allows you to filter and sort data in ascending or descending order.

You just need to click the arrow next to one of the headers and a dropdown menu will allow you to choose:

  • Sorting from smallest to largest.
  • Sorting from largest to smallest.
  • Sorting by colour.
  • Numerical filters.
  • Etc.

Your data will be sorted according to the criteria you choose.

Doing Calculations in an Excel Spreadsheet

One of the best features of Excel is its ability to do calculations. Whether you want to calculate the sum, multiply, or another function, there are shortcuts you can use to save you time.

If you’re going to do any calculations, you’ll need to start by typing the equals sign (=) into the cell. This indicates that you want to do a calculation.

You then need to select the cell that’s the object of your operation and use operations symbols and hit enter. The result of your calculation will be automatically displayed in the cell.

Here are some of the operations:

  • Multiply: an asterisk (*)
  • Subtraction: the minus sign (-)
  • Division: slash (/)
  • Percentage: the per cent symbol (%)

Just like in maths, you can use multiple operations at once.

You can also copy the formula into the following cells. To do this, you just need to click on the first cell and then click the small square on the bottom right of the cell. Drag this into the cells below. The formula from the first cell will be copied and adapted into the following cells.

You can also click the “fx” button to do an operation.

How do you do calculations with Excel?
You'll soon be an expert of Excel. (Source: StartupStockPhotos)

How Do You Export an Excel Spreadsheet

The Excel format isn’t great for presenting a spreadsheet or a graph. The best way is to present your data on another document.

So how do you insert an Excel file into a word processing document?

To get started, you can use the design tab. This allows you to create a clean table. You can also merge cells if you need to.

You can save your table as a .pdf file if you want. You just need to change the document format when saving.

You can also insert the table directly into a Microsoft Word document by copying and pasting the table into the word processor. This is also true for graphs. You can do this for both Word and PowerPoint. You should now know how to create your own spreadsheets and tables.

If you feel like you need more help, consider getting in touch with one of the tutors on Superprof. Superprof has plenty of tutors in the UK who specialise in IT and the Microsoft Office suite. By searching for what you want tutoring in and where you live, you'll be able to find all the tutors offering tuition in your area.

There are three types of tuition: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials.

The first type is the most cost-effective and expensive but you'll get tailored tuition. The second is when your tutor teaches their lessons over a programme such as Skype29 and they tend to be cheaper. Finally, group tutorials are usually the cheapest because you share the lesson with other students but you won't get as much one-on-one time with your tutor.

Fortunately for you, most tutors offer the first hour of tutoring for free so you can see if they're right for you!

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