1.1. Creating a Basic Worksheet
When you first launch Excel, it starts you off with a new, blank worksheet . A worksheet is the grid of cells where you type your information and formulas, and it takes up most of the window, as shown in Figure 1-1. This grid is the most important part of the Excel window. It's where you'll perform all your work, such as entering data, writing formulas, and reviewing the results.
Here are a few basics about Excel's grid:
The grid divides your worksheet into rows and columns . Columns are identified with letters (A, B, C ...), while rows are identified with numbers (1, 2, 3 ...).
The smallest unit in your worksheet is the cell . Cells are identified by column and row. For example, C6 is the address of a cell in column C (the third column), and row 6 (the sixth row). Figure 1-2 shows this cell, which looks like a rectangular box. Incidentally, an Excel cell can hold up to 32,767 characters .
A worksheet can span up to 256 columns and 65,536 rows (giving you a grand total of 16,777,216 cells) . In the unlikely case that you want to go beyond those limitssay you're tracking blades of grass on the White House lawnyou'll need to create a new worksheet. Every spreadsheet file can hold multiple worksheets, as you'll learn in Chapter 5.
When you enter information, you enter it one cell at a time . However, you don't have to follow any set order. For example, you can start by typing information into cell A40, without worrying about filling any data in the cells that appear in the earlier rows.
The best way to get a feel for Excel is to dive right in and start putting together a worksheet. The following sections cover each step that goes into assembling a simple worksheet. This one tracks household expenses, but you can use the same approach to create any basic worksheet.
When you fire up Excel, it opens a fresh workbook. If you've already got Excel open and you want to create another workbook, just select File New. Contrary to what youd expect, this step doesn't actually create the new file. Instead, it pops up the New Workbook task in the Task Pane (if that isn't already visible). To finish the job, you need to click the "Blank workbook" link. The New Workbook task gives you a few other options that allow you to create workbooks based on templates , which provide customized layouts for certain types of data. You'll learn about using (and making) templates in Chapter 15.
The most straightforward way to create a worksheet is to design it as a table with headings for each column. It's important to remember that even for the simplest worksheet, the decisions you make about what's going to go in each column can have a big effect on how easy it is to manipulate your information.
For example, in a worksheet that stores a mailing list, you could have two columns: one for names and another for addresses. But if you create more than two columns, your life will probably be easier since you can separate first names from street addresses from Zip Codes, and so on. Figure 1-3 shows the difference.
You can, of course, always add or remove columns later. But you can avoid getting gray hairs by starting a worksheet with all the columns you think you'll need.
The first step in creating your worksheet is to add your headings in the row of cells at the top of the worksheet (row 1). Technically, you don't need to start right in the first row, but unless you want to add more information before your tablelike a title for the chart or the date you're creating itthere's no point in wasting the blank space.
For a simple expense worksheet designed to keep a record of your most prudent and extravagant purchases, try the following three headings:
Date Purchased stores the date when you spent the money.
Item stores the name of the product that you bought.
Price records how much it cost.
Right away, you face your first glitch: awkwardly crowded text. Figure 1-4 shows how you can adjust column width for proper breathing room.
You can now begin adding your data: simply fill in the rows under the column titles. Each row in the expense worksheet represents a separate purchase that you've made. (If you're familiar with databases, you can think of each row as a separate record.)
| FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION |
Is that 2,003 or 2003?
What do Excel's version numbers mean?
Most people realize that the "2003" in Excel 2003 indicates the year, not the 2003rd release of the software. Microsoft's on-again, off-again naming policy is to leave the actual version number out of product names. So what version is Excel 2003?
If you dig around a little (select Help About Microsoft Excel from the Excel menu) you'll discover that Excel 2003 is actually Excel Version 11. But even this version number doesn't mean what you might expect. Excel 11 is actually the ninth release of Excel on the Windows platform. The first version of Excel was a Macintosh-only release, and there is no Excel 6. The reason? Microsoft felt that the change in software that ran on Windows 3.x to that which ran on Windows 95 was so great that they were entitled to jump up two version numbers at once. (As questionable as that sounds, it's a technique that nearly all software makers use.)
As Figure 1-5 shows, the first column is for dates, the second column is for text, and the third column holds numbers. Keep in mind that Excel doesn't impose any rules on what you type, so you're free to put text in the Price column. But if you don't keep a consistent kind of data in each column, you won't be able to easily analyze (or understand) your information later.
That's it. You've created a living, breathing worksheet. The next two sections explain how to edit data and move around the grid.