How spreadsheets work

The most popular spreadsheet program is Microsoft Office Excel. Free alternatives include OpenOffice Calc and Google Docs, which runs in a web browser.

Workbooks and worksheets

A spreadsheet file is made up of one workbook and multiple worksheets. Worksheets appear as tabs at the bottom of a workbook. They can be reordered and renamed.

Multiple worksheets can be used in one spreadsheet

Columns, rows and cells

Every cell in a spreadsheet or worksheet has a unique cell reference, which consists of a letter and a number. The letter refers to the column and the number refers to the row.

To select a cell, left click on it. To enter data, double-click it. To select multiple cells, click and hold the left mouse button and drag it in the direction of the cells you want to select.

Entering data into a cell

Data can be typed directly into a cell or into the formula bar. To the left of the formula bar you will find the name box. It shows the selected cell.

The three types of data you can enter into a cell are data, labels and formulas.

  • Data – values, usually numbers but can be letters or a combination of both.
  • Labels – headings and descriptions to make the spreadsheet easier to understand.
  • Formulas – calculations that update automatically if referenced data changes.

Sorting cell data

The A-Z feature automatically orders data in ascending/descending order or alphabetically.

Duplicating cell content or filling a series

The fill handle duplicates a cell’s contents or fills a series. Click and drag the fill handle over the cells you want the duplicate data or series to fill. Numbers 1 to 10 is an example of a series.