Mohamed Sobhy
Aug 12, 2017

Welcome to our tutorial, now I am going to show you an introduction to Microsoft Excel program. This article will make you ready to carry out your tasks using Excel program by letting you familiar with the program controls and areas.

Setup folder - Microsoft Excel

By the end of this tutorial you will be aware of:

First question:

What is Excel ?

Excel is one out of several useful programs in Microsoft Office, where Microsoft Office is the main bundle of these programs.

Second question:

What are the features of or the basic tasks that you can do using Excel ?

You can use Excel to create and format workbooks or a collection of spreadsheets A spreadsheet is used to organize your data into rows and columns and to perform mathematical calculations. This will help you to do the following:

  • analyze data and
  • make more informed business decisions. Specifically,
  • you can use Excel to track data,
  • build models for analyzing data,
  • write formulas to perform calculations on that data,
  • pivot the data in numerous ways, and
  • present data in a variety of professional looking charts.

Is Excel suitable for you ? and who else ?

Excel is suitable for

  • Accountants
  • Administrative Employees
  • Doctors
  • Engineers
  • Lawyers
  • Students in College
  • Teachers
  • Professors

What parts that first appear in a window when you open the Excel program ?

The following video will show you an illustrated explanation to the above questions. You will find below a transcription of the video.

Transcription of Video

Now we are going to explore parts that first appear in a window when you open the Excel program. In this tutorial, we will be using Excel 2010 for simplicity. The latest version is Excel 2016 or further. Although we are using an older version, the user interface and feature set of Excel 2010 is very similar to that of Excel 2016, so all principles taught in this tutorial can still be applied to the latest version.

Once you open the Excel program the shown window will appear. This window is referred to as workspace. It is divided into 5 horizontal sections 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

In general, keep in mind the following:

  • A command means the tool or the action of program in response to your click on any button
  • Each button has a different icon to indicate it's usage
  • Majorly when you point on or hover over these icons it brings up a screen tip showing relavent name and short description of use.
  • An element is called on cell, or object, also an object is called on shape or picture or chart.

Now I am going to explain sections in the order of dependencies and not the numbering. Lets begin with the first section from the top of the workspace or window. It is called the title bar.

Title Bar - Microsoft Excel

At the right of title bar, you can see the window controls. As usual, the minus sign minimizes the window. The box symbol on the first click it maximize the window to fit the screen and on the second click it reset to customized window size and position and the x button exits the excel program. It is good to know that if you made any changes to file like typing in cell and then you clicked " X " to exit, a prompt message will ask you to save your work before leaving. At the middle of title bar, it show the program title and sometimes the filename as will show you later. At the left of title bar, you can see a group of buttons called " Quick Access Toolbar " it provide a " Save " button to save your work. The saving process will be shown in next tutorials. Next buttons are " Undo and Repeat " commands to restore instant changes in file. These are frequently used commands. More buttons can be added through the next button with down-arrow icon. It is called " Customize " button and opens a drop-down menu. These were buttons in the " Quick Access Toolbar ". This toolbar provide a quick access to frequently used commands. Do not forget that more buttons can be added through the shown drop-down menu.

Lets move to the second section from top of the workspace. It is called the " Ribbon ". The ribbon consists of tabs, each tab contains groups of buttons.

There are three types of tabs as follow:

  • worksheet tabs
  • backstage tab
  • contextual tabs

Types of Ribbon Tabs - Microsoft Excel

The first type of tabs called worksheet tabs are visible ( and comprise Home, Insert, Page Layout, Formulas, Data, Review, View ), and few more of advanced usage. Each tab has groups of related buttons. Each group is titled at it's bottom. Hover over any button to observe screen tips. Screen tips allow to look over the button name and use. Some buttons are split into two parts with one command type. The right part is marked with down-arrow and provide more options to select. While, the left part is to apply the last selected option. Some groups provide " Dialog Box Launcher " button. The " Dialog Box Launcher " button opens a dialog box with related and detailed commands. Note that you can only hide the ribbon panels while the tab names will always be visible.

There are two ways to minimize or back expand the Ribbon panels.

  • Double-clicking on an active tab
  • Clicking on up-arrow button

The second type of tabs called backstage tab is visible and titled by " file ". It provide basic commands including saving, opening a file, printing, or sharing your document. It opens a panel that hides the ribbon panels, the worksheets and the status bar. The Info button used to edit properties or personal information and more advancd options. The Recent menu option lists the Recent accessed documents and places (like folders and files) on your computer. New button to create a new Blank document, or to choose from a large selection of Templates. Options button will open a new window used to change various application options including:

  • window color scheme,
  • default font,
  • number of worksheets,
  • language preferences, and
  • more advanced options.

To switch back to the worksheet from the Backstage panel, click Home tab or any other worksheet tab.

The third and last type of tabs called contextual tabs are hidden and become visible when clicking on or selecting any object, including tables, shapes, images and charts. Contextual tabs provide the formatting options for the selected object. Depending on the object you have selected in the worksheet, several contextual tabs may appear.

Lets move to the fourth section at the middle of the workspace It is called the " Workbooks Container "

Workbooks Container - Microsoft Excel

Workbooks Container contains all open workbooks and allow you to switch between them. Note that a blank workbook opens with a default file name of " Book 1 ". Will create one more workbook to practice some buttons. Workbooks Container have window controls that allow you to minimize, expand & custom size, and close any workbook. When you right click on workbook header, a drop-down menu will appear which provide useful options. Note that the arrange option allow to arrange your workbooks in different styles. Click arrange, a dialog box will appear, the given options allow you to see your active workbooks side by side as to compare or get data. Each Excel workbook could contain one or more worksheets. Each worksheet contains a grid of cells. You can create new or to switch from one worksheet to another. This can be through buttons and tabs at the bottom-left of the section. The button with star icon allow to create new worksheet. New worksheets are automatically named with increasing number like Sheet 1 then 2 then 3 and so on. Double click any of tabs of the created worksheets to rename it. The four buttons with arrows allow switching left most, left, right and right most of worksheets, respectively. More options are available when you right click any of worksheet tabs. It allow to insert, delete, color, rename also more options with advanced usage. The coloring option is nice to distinguish between your worksheets in a visual manner. Moreover, you can re-order your worksheet tabs by dragging them over each other. Each worksheet contains columns or vertical strips and rows or horizontal strips. The intersection of both is a cell. Each column and row is labeled. Clicking on a label selects the entire column or row. Each cell is identified by two labels for column as a letter and row as a number, respectively. For example, a cell identified by B 2 means intersection of column B with row 2. Once a cell is clicked, it is referred to as selected and will has a dark border around it. It is good to know that Excel could save a workbook regardless of how many worksheets it contains, but can hold a maximum of about one million rows and sixteen thousand columns. The columns and rows extend behind the worksheet borders. That hidden part of the worksheet could be visible through Scroll Bars. Scroll Bars allow you to scroll vertically by a left bar and scroll horizontally by bottom-left bar.

Lets move to the third section at the middle of the workspace I call it the " Element Bar ",

Element Bar - Microsoft Excel

It provides two input boxes and a button. One input box on right and next the button is grouped in smaller bar called " Formula Bar ". The input box in the Formula Bar displays what is in the currently selected cell including any number, text, or formula. The next button brings up " Insert Function Dialog ". The " Insert Function Dialog " allows you to search and select a function as required with written explanation. When we select a cell with formula in it, the answer is displayed in the cell, while the formula is displayed in the input box. It is good to know that a formula could be formed by many functions. Each function represents a mathematical operation. The use of both will be explained in details in next tutorials. The second input box in the element bar is one on left It is called " Name box ". The Name box displays the address of the current selected cell or the name of a shape or picture. The address of any cell consists of two letters, first is an alphabetic refer to a column and the second is a number and refer to a row. You can use this input box to go and select certain cell or object. Type " D 3 " then press enter as you see the corresponding cell is selected.

Lets move to the fifth section at the bottom of the workspace It is called the " Status Bar "

Status Bar - Microsoft Excel

At the right of Status bar, you can see a Zoom Slider. The Zoom Slider allows you to adjust how large the cells in the spreadsheet are displayed on the screen. Adjusting the zoom in or out does not affect the contents of the worksheet, just brings the content of cells closer to your eyes so you can clearly see. The next is Zoom level button. The Zoom level button opens a zoom dialog box which provide various options to adjust the zoom level. Next are three adjacent buttons called " View Tools ", each displays the spreadsheet in a different ways, allowing you to carry out various tasks more efficiently. Button 1 called " Normal ", it is the current view of spreadsheet which simply displays the grid of cells. This is the default view whenever you open a new workbook. Button 2 called " Page Layout ", it shows your spreadsheet as a document and how it will appear on a printed page. You can see where pages begin and end, with headers and footers on the page. Button 3 called " Page Break Preview ", it shows your spreadsheet as a document preview and where pages will break when printed. At the middle of Status bar, you can see useful calculation information, this includes the average, count and sum of selected cells in the spreadsheet as a quick guide. At the left of Status bar, excel provides you with a tip indicating the current status or the next expected command. The next button is called " Macro Recorder ", It will be explained in further advanced tutorials and not constitute a significant importance in this tutorials for beginner and intermediate users. The status bar allow Customization options. Right-click on the Status Bar to bring up the customize menu. Thereby, you can add limited buttons as well enable or disable the display of calculation info or certain modes or certain command status. Options that when clicked toggle showing a checkmark next to them. These options are rarely used and will be explained as necessary as we go.

List of Cursor Shapes in Excel

Lastly, there are different cursor shapes you will encounter while using Excel. The cursor means the mouse pointer.

There are about nine cursor shapes as follow:

Cursors - Microsoft Excel

  • Standard: to click on or hover over groups or buttons
  • Text: to cut, or copy, or paste text
  • Move: to move object all around the worksheet
  • White double arrows: to resize object
  • Thick Plus: to select one cell or more by dragging
  • Thin Plus: point to one edge of cell, then hold click and dray in any direction to copy content of current cell and paste to adjacent cells. Note that the paste by dragging is different than classic paste, it performs mathematical operations along cells. This will be explained in details next tutorials.
  • Black down-arrow: to select entire column
  • Black right-arrow or left-arrow: to select entire row
  • Black cross with double-horizontal-arrow: to change column width
  • Black cross with double-vertical-arrow: to change row height

List of Excel Keyboard Shortcuts

Will tell you more about shortkeys as we go in next tutorials. Thank you for reading the above article and listening to our video. Please let us know your comments below. and if you liked our tutorial, do not forget to subscribe our channel.


  • Microsoft Office Manuals
  • Practical Experience
About the author

Mohamed Sobhy

Mohamed is a freelance web designer, recreational software developer, author and CEO of . Also, has passion to learn and transfer the know-how of every valuable thing.
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