An Intro to Excel

Entering Data

Here's how to open the Microsoft Excel program:

  1. Click on the start button in the bottom left corner of the screen.
  2. Scroll over the all programs bar just above the start button.
  3. Look for Microsoft Excel. Click on it. If it is not there, then look for Microsoft Office, and Microsoft Excel should be in the subgroup. Click on it to open.

How to start Excel

When you open up Microsoft Excel this is the main screen. The main part of the screen is called a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is useful for data analysis. You can input the data that you collected into the individual cells of the spreadsheet. Each cell is labeled with a letter and a number, just like in a game of battleship. For example, the cell that is outlined is cell A1, because it is in column A and row 1. We always say the letter before the number. In the upper right hand corner of the screen, there is a box where you can type questions for help.

Main Excel screen

For an example, let's say that we collected a set of 4 pieces of data: 1, 2, 3, 4. We can simply enter them into the first four cells of Microsoft Excel, from A1 to A4, as shown. When entering a number in a cell, simply highlight the cell that you would like to put the information into and type the data. You can navigate the highlighted cell simply by pressing the arrow keys, or the TAB button to advance to the next cell.

Inputting data

Basic Formulas

Now, let's say that we want to find the sum of these 4 numbers. We can type sum into the help box and press enter. Many help options come up, and we will select the one that says sum.

Using Help

After clicking on the Sum box, a helpful guide comes up. It is important to follow the syntax that is given in the help box. We can obtain the sum of these numbers using the syntax =SUM(A1, A2, A3, A4), which represents the sum of all of these cells.

General Sum info

In cell B1, we type =SUM(A1, A2, A3, A4). If you press enter or simply move the highlighted cell to another cell, the sum of these four cells will appear, which is 10. Say for instance we wanted to change B1 to be the sum of cells A1, A2, and A3. We can edit the contents of B1 by highlighting the cell, and then we can click in the toolbar where the original formula =SUM(A1, A2, A3, A4) is, and change it to =SUM(A1, A2, A3). Then, the result given would be the sum of the first 3 cells, A1, A2, and A3, which is equal to 6.

Using the Sum formula

Instead of writing =SUM(A1, A2, A3, A4) for the sum of A1 through A4, all we need to do is put a colon in between the first and the last cell of a list of numbers. In this illustration, in cell B2 you can see that writing =SUM(A1:A4) is another way of finding the sum of the four numbers.

Shorter Sum syntax

More Fun with Formulas!

In another simple example, let's say that we want to find the product of these 4 numbers. We can type product into the help box and then click on product tab. Again, a helpful series of directions come up in the help window seen on the right side of the screen. Make sure to note the syntax necessary to find the product of these 4 numbers.

Looking for Product

In cell B3, we type =PRODUCT(A1, A2, A3, A4). Again, if you press enter or simply move the highlighted cell to another cell, the product of these four cells will appear, which is 24. If we want to edit our formula, we simply need to highlight cell B3, and edit the text in the toolbar that says =PRODUCT(A1, A2, A3, A4).

Adding a Product cell

Just like we did with the SUM, we can shorten the PRODUCT. Instead of writing =PRODUCT(A1, A2, A3, A4), we can write =PRODUCT(A1:A4). This is a shorter way of finding the product of numbers A1 through A4, as displayed in cell B4 in the illustration below.

Shorter Product syntax

If you don't have access to Microsoft Excel, you can download a free spreadsheet and do the same functions with Open Office.

See also