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Launching and Exploring Excel


To launch Microsoft Excel, do the following:

  1. Click on the Start button in the bottom left hand corner of your computer screen
  2. A menu pops up
  3. Move your mouse up to Programs
  4. A sub menu appears
  5. Move your mouse to Microsoft Excel
  6. When Excel is highlighted, click once with your left mouse button

When you have clicked on Microsoft Excel, the software will load. When it is finished you will be looking at the main Excel screen. It will look like the picture on the next page. If you've never seen spreadsheet software, it can seem quite daunting at first. But don't worry: we'll break it down.

The main Excel screen then looks like this one:

Excel Main Screen (Opens in new window 67KB)

It is a fairly daunting piece of software, at first glance. To break it down, let's start with all those numbers and letters.


Grid Coordinates

Right across the top of the spreadsheet you'll notice that there are some letters, A to L in the picture above. The letters are the columns. If you click on any of the letters with your left mouse button, you'll highlight an entire column. In the picture below, the letter B has been clicked on, thereby highlighting this entire column.

Excel Column

You can't change the letters. If you wanted to call column B "Column Two", for example, this would not be possible. You're stuck with the letters.

Running right down the left hand side of the spreadsheet are numbers. The numbers are the Rows. Click on any of the numbers to highlight an entire row. In the image below, the number 5 has been clicked on, thereby highlighting the entire Row.

Excel Row

In a spreadsheet, you combine a Column letter with a Row number. This gives you an individual Cell in the spreadsheet. For example, the B column plus Row 5 will give you an individual Cell of B5. Likewise, the D Column plus Row 6 will give you an individual Cell of D6.

To see this in action, click on any of the cells in the spreadsheet. In the two pictures below, the picture on the left shows a darker border around cell A1; in the picture on the right, the darker border is now around cell C3.

Excel Cell A1 Excel Cell C3

Notice two things: first that your mouse pointers turns into a white cross when it moves around the spreadsheet; second that the coordinates of the cell are displayed at the top left.

When we clicked inside cell C3 with the left mouse button we highlighted that cell. When we highlight a cell, it has the thicker black border around it. This means that it is the Active cell. The coordinates of the Active cell are displayed in the top left - in the Name Box.

When you enter text or numbers into a cell, you first have to make it the Active cell. In other words, you have to click on it to highlight the cell. (Another way to move around the cells in a spreadsheet is by pressing the arrow keys on your keyboard.)

Get some practice by clicking on individual cells in the spreadsheet. Notice the Name box, and how the Cell coordinates change whenever you click on a new cell.

Before moving on, make sure you understand how the Grid coordinates work in a spreadsheet. If you are asked to locate cell G4, for example, you should be able to do so quite easily.

In the next part, we'll see how to enter some text and some numbers into a cell.

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