Excel Basics – Understanding the Spreadsheet – A Beginners Guide

Importance of Excel is increasing day by day as many jobs are demanding knowledge of Excel. Excel is an ocean with many features, options, commands and functions each of them designed to perform a specific task. It will be easy to swim across the ocean once you understand and have an idea about the basic concepts. Basic concepts include familiarity with excel user interface, how to navigate, understanding the ribbon, entering and formatting data, access and use the features you need. In this post let’s see the basic concepts and understand the terminology of excel.

The below image shows the excel interface with the areas highlighted. We’ll see about each of them in detail.


Workbook and Worksheets: When you open an excel file it would look as shown in the below image. Entire Excel file is called a workbook. This workbook may probably include more than one sheet by default. Sheet 1, Sheet2 and Sheet 3 at the bottom of the screen. Sheets can be inserted/ deleted per requirement and also can be renamed to have an easy identification while working with data. To do this Right-Click on the name of the sheet and you can see a small window with multiple options. You can click on the name of the sheet to make the particular sheet active.

Use the keyboard shortcuts CTRL+PGUP and CTRL+PGDN to Navigate/ Switch between the Sheets while working.

Rows, Columns and Cells: The horizontal lines on the sheet are called rows, whereas vertical ones are named columns. The intersection of a Row and Column is called as Cell. Each Cell in Excel is named based on the row and column. The column name is on the first succeeded by the row name. In the below image you can see the corresponding cell name as A1 where A is column name and 1 is the row name.

Spreadsheet Grid: This is the work area on the excel sheet. By default, only a part of the grid is visible. You can use the scroll bars on the right or below to see more rows or columns.

Quick Access Tool Bar (QAT): This is on the top-left corner of the screen. By default it has only 3 options save, redo and undo. You can add any feature of excel to this Quick Access Tool Bar to access the feature quickly and easily. Read more about how you can improve efficiency/ productivity using QAT.

Ribbon and Tabs: Ribbon can be termed as the Menu of Excel. All options are grouped separately in the ribbon based on the functionality. These groups are called as Tabs. The default tabs are Home, Insert, Page Layout, Formulas, Data, Review and View. Ribbon can be minimized by clicking the small arrow mark pointing upwards at the extreme lower right end of ribbon to increase the screen space.

Formula Bar: You can view the formulas/ calculations done on a particular cell(s) in the Spreadsheet.

Status Bar: The status bar shows the current tasks/ calculations running in the active excel sheet. Also, it shows the sum, average, count, max and min when multiple cells are selected in the sheet. To customize what to be seen on the status bar Right Click and Select the options that you want to see on the status bar.


The data in Excel can be formatted per your requirements. You can adjust the type of font, size, color, highlight e.t.c as you do in other office applications. This can be done using the options in the Font, Alignment and Styles groups available in the Home Tab. See the below image to understand about formatting.

Excel basics and terminology

Shortcuts for Basic Formatting

Operation Windows MAC
Bold Text CTRL+B + B
Get Italics CTRL+I + I
To Underline CTRL+U + U
Increase font size by one step ALT+HFG + + >
Decrease font size by one step ALT+HFK + + <

4 Replies to “Excel Basics – Understanding the Spreadsheet – A Beginners Guide”

  1. […] the dirty manual work that needs to be done. To begin with cell references, we need to understand what a cell is and the notation/ language used in excel to identify a cell. Read more about the terminology used […]

  2. […] Go to the Data Tab (learn more about tabs in excel). […]

  3. […] to formula bar on the spreadsheet is the name box. This shows the name of the cell selected. Know more about excel terminology in case if you are not familiar about excel […]

  4. […] ribbon on and off. To toggle the ribbon on/ off just double click on the active tab of the ribbon. (Know more about tabs, ribbons and […]

Leave a Reply