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# What is Microsoft Excel and When Would I Use it?

What is Microsoft Excel?

Question: What is Microsoft Excel and When Would I Use it?

Excel is an Electronic Spreadsheet Program

Excel is an electronic spreadsheet program that can be used for storing, organizing and manipulating data.

When you look at the Excel screen (refer to the example on this page) you see a rectangular table or grid of rows and columns. The horizontal rows are identified by numbers (1,2,3) and the vertical columns with letters of the alphabet (A,B,C). For columns beyond 26, columns are identified by two or more letters such as AA, AB, AC.

The intersection point between a column and a row is a small rectangular box known as a cell. A cell is the basic unit for storing data in the spreadsheet. Because an Excel spreadsheet contains thousands of these cells, each is given a cell reference or address to identify it.

The cell reference is a combination of the column letter and the row number such as A3, B6, AA345.

Data Types, Formulas, and Functions

The types of data that a cell can hold include numbers, text or formulas. Just as in math class, formulas are used for calculations usually involving data contained in other cells. Excel and other electronic spreadsheets include a number of built in formulas used for common tasks known as functions.

Excel and Financial Data

Spreadsheets are often used to store financial data. Formulas and functions that are used on this type of data include:

• Performing basic mathematical operations such as summing columns and rows of figures.
• Finding values such as profit or loss.
• Calculating repayment plans for loans or mortgages.
• Finding the average, maximum, or minimum values in a specified range of data.

Excel's Other Uses

Other common operations that Excel can be used for include:

• graphing or charting data to assist users in identifying data trends.
• sorting and filtering data to find specific information.

The information garnered in a spreadsheet can easily be incorporated into electronic presentations, web pages, or printed off in report form.

The Original "Killer App"

Spreadsheets were the original killer apps for personal computers. Early spreadsheet programs such as VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3 were largely responsible for the growth in popularity of computers like the Apple II and the IBM PC as a business tool.

Related Tutorials

Ted French