Just what is a spreadsheet, and why do I need it?

excel logoThere are many spreadsheet applications available, but by far the most prevalent is Microsoft Excel. A spreadsheet can be incredibly useful when you want to organize information in horizontal rows or vertical columns, and/or when you need to do any kind of mathematical calculation on the data. We'll spend a minute here going over the basic navigation in a typical spreadsheet

The first thing you'll notice is that the spreadsheet is made up of many cells:

Excel spreadsheet 1

which are organized into horizontal rows (1,2,3...)

Excel spreadsheet 2

and vertical columns (a,b,c...):

Excel spreadsheet 3

You refer to a single cell by the intersection of the row and column. So the cell B3 is in the second column from the left, down the third row from the top:

Excel spreadsheet 4

To enter any value in a cell, simply select it by clicking in the center of it with the mouse, then type the value into the cell or into formula bar at the top of the spreadsheet. If you type in the cell you'll see the same values in the formula bar, if you type into the forumula bar you'll see it reflected in the cell:

Excel spreadsheet 5

Everything you do in a spreadsheet follows from entering data into these cells, we'll be showing how to work with this data in upcoming entries.