What Excel Is all About
Excel and Word are the two powerhouses of the Microsoft Office family. While Word lets you create and edit documents, Excel specializes in letting you create, edit, and analyze data that's organized into lists or tables. This grid-like arrangement of information is called a spreadsheet; Figure P-1 shows an example.
Some common spreadsheets include:
Business documents like financial statements, invoices, expense reports , and earnings statements.
Personal documents like weekly budgets , catalogs of your Star Wars action figures, exercise logs, and shopping lists.
Scientific data like experimental observations, models, and medical charts .
These examples just scratch the surface. Resourceful spreadsheet gurus use Excel to build everything from cross-country trip itineraries to lesson plans to logs of every Kevin Bacon movie they've ever seen.
Of course, where Excel really shines is in its ability to help you analyze a spreadsheet's data. For example, once you've entered a list of household expenses, you can start crunching numbers with Excel's slick formula tools. Before long you'll have totals, subtotals, monthly averages, a complete breakdown of cost by category, and maybe even some predictions for the future. Or Excel can help track your investments and tell you how long until you'll have saved enough to buy that weekend house in Las Vegas.
The bottom line is that once you enter raw information, Excel's built-in smarts can help compute all kinds of useful figures. Figure P-2 shows a sophisticated spreadsheet that's been configured to help identify hot-selling product categories.
Excel's not just a math wizard; if you want to add a little life to your data, you can inject color , apply exotic fonts, and even create macros (automated sequences of steps activated by the click of a button) to help speed up repetitive formatting or editing chores. And if you're bleary-eyed from staring at rows and rows of spreadsheet numbers, you can use Excel's many chart-making tools to build everything from three-dimensional pie charts to more exotic scatter graphs (see Chapter 16 to learn about all of Excel's chart types). Excel can be as simple or as sophisticated as you want it to be.