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Ten Common Spreadsheet Terms


Here is a quick list of 10 of the most common Spreadsheet terms: A handy tool for those new to using a spreadsheet program like Excel or Microsoft Works.

1. Active Cell

Spreadsheet Terms - Active Cell
© Ted French
In an Excel worksheet, each small rectangle or box is known as a cell.

The active cell is the cell surrounded by a black border. The black border is referred to as the active cell highlight

Data can only be entered into the active cell.

Even if more than one cell is selected, there is still only one active cell.

Use the mouse pointer or the arrow keys on the keyboard to move the active cell highlight from one cell to another.

It is also known As the Current Cell.

2. Cell Reference

Excel Cell Reference
© Ted French
A cell reference identifies the location a cell or group of cells in the spreadsheet.

A cell reference consists of the column letter and the row number that intersect at the cell's location. Note that when listing a cell reference, the column letter is always listed first.

The current cell reference can always be found in the Name Box (see below).

In some spreadsheet programs, a cell reference is referred to as a cell address.

3. Data

Data is information that is stored in a spreadsheet program.

Data is stored in the individual cells of a worksheet. Only one piece of data is stored in each cell.

In addition to being stored in the spreadsheet, the data can be used in calculations, displayed in graphs, or sorted and filtered to find specific information.

There are three types of data in Excel: values, labels, and dates/times.

4. Formula

Spreadsheet Formula
© Ted French
A spreadsheet formula is a mathematical equation that will calculate a result.

Examples of simple formulas : = A3 - C6 / D2 or = ( B4 + B5 ) * E7

In spreadsheet formulas, normally we use the cell reference of the data rather than the data itself.

In Excel, formulas begin with an equal ( = ) sign.

In other spreadsheet programs, such as Lotus 1-2-3 and Quattro Pro, formulas begin with a plus ( + ) sign.

Alternate Spellings: formulae

5. Function

Excel SUM Function
© Ted French
A function is a preset formula.

Like formulas, functions in Excel begin with the equal sign ( = ) followed by the function’s name and its arguments.

The function name tells Excel what calculation to perform. The arguments are contained inside round brackets and tell Excel what data or other information to use in the calculation.

For example, the SUM function is one of the most commonly used functions in Excel. It is used to add together the data in selected cells. The SUM function is written as -

= SUM ( D1 : D6 )

Here the function adds the contents of cells D1 to D6 and stores the answer in cell D7.

6. Name Box

Excel Name Box
© Ted French
The Name Box is located next to the formula bar above the worksheet area.

The Name Box displays the cell reference of the active cell.

It will also show if a name has been assigned to a cell or range of cells.

The Name Box can also be used to assign names to cells or ranges of cells.

7. Formula Bar

Excel Formula Bar
© Ted French
The formula bar in Excel is located next to the name box above the worksheet area.

The formula bar displays the data or formula stored in the active cell.

It can also be used to enter or edit a formula, a function, or data in a cell.

8. Range

A range is a group of cells in a worksheet that have been selected or highlighted. When cells have been selected they are surrounded by a black outline or border.

Using the mouse, keyboard or name box, a number of cells can be selected to create a range. Commands executed by Excel will affect the entire range.

A range is identified by the cell references of the cells in the upper left and lower right corners of the range. These two references are separated by a colon ( : ) which tells Excel to include all the cells between these start and end points.

An example of a range of adjacent cells would be B5 : D10.

9. Worksheet

Worksheet tabs in a Spreadsheet
© Ted French
A worksheet is a single page or sheet in an Excel spreadsheet.

By default, there are three worksheets per file.

Switching between worksheets is done by clicking on the sheet tab at the bottom of the screen.

10. Ribbon

The Clipboard and Font Sections of the Excel 2007 Home Ribbon
© Ted French
The Ribbon is the strip of buttons and icons located above the work area in Excel 2007 and 2010.

The Ribbon replaces the menus and toolbars found in earlier versions of Excel.

Above the Ribbon are a number of tabs, such as Home, Insert, and Page Layout. Clicking on a tab displays the options located in this section of the ribbon.

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