Microsoft Excel Basics

Microsoft Excel is a powerful tool for spreadsheet applications developed by Microsoft for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. It features calculation, graphing tools, pivot tables, and a macro programming language called “Visual Basic for Applications.”. It is a powerful data visualization and analysis tool also.

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Data from different external sources such as stock market feedback, tally, etc., can be programmed into Excel. Various formulae can be applied on this data for analysis and inference. Some key functions in Excel help in data analysis which is extremely important in the current world scenario. In this blog, we shall learn and understand the basics of Excel which will help lay a strong foundation for our journey in it. 

When you open the Excel application, the following image will be displayed:

Excel offers a range of templates for your use. You can use these templates for budgeting, travel itinerary, keeping a track of your health and fitness, things-to-do list, medication log, meal planner, calendars, project management, and much more.

Double click on the blank workbook to open a worksheet. We shall work on and understand the blank workbook as this lets us explore Excel comfortably.

The picture below shows how a blank workbook looks:

Quick Access Toolbar

The left top-most bar in the spreadsheet is called the “Quick Access Toolbar.” Users can add useful and frequently used commands in the Quick Access Toolbar. The following video is an example of how we can add commands into the quick access toolbar.

You can add multiple commands to the Quick Access Toolbar by clicking on the drop-down menu -> “More Commands” option.

Shortcut key to use the command in the Quick Access Toolbar in the Excel sheet – Alt + Number appearing next to command. 

Example: If you want to print view your sheet, you can simply press ALT+4

Tabs and Groups

Under the Quick Access Toolbar, is the ribbon. The ribbon contains many tabs within it, namely, File, Home, Insert, Page Layout, Formulas, Data, Review, View and Help. The tabs in turn contain groups.

In the course of time, we shall learn how to use each group and its functions offered by each tab. 

You can use these Tabs with the groups they already contain or you can customise the tabs according to your requirements. If you want to add your own customised tab, you can follow the following steps:

File -> Options -> Customise Ribbon -> New Group/New Tab -> Rename

By clicking on the small arrow near the group, a detailed box of what the group offers opens. There are multiple functions which can be used in various permutations and combinations.


A sheet is a single page that contains its own collection of cells to help you organise your data. A sheet is usually called a “worksheet.” You can add 255 worksheets in an Excel workbook.

To add a new sheet to your Excel workbook, click on the “plus” sign next to the Current Sheet – usually named Sheet 1. You can also right click on “Sheet 1” -> Insert.

To rename a sheet, Right click on “Sheet 1” -> Rename. You can also double click on “Sheet 1” to rename it. 

You can add a password to your sheet by Right Click on “Sheet 1” -> Protect Sheet.

Add a sheetShift +F11 or Alt +Shift +F1
Delete a sheetAlt +H +D +S
Rename a sheetAlt +H +O +R


There are 1048576 rows and 16384 columns in Excel. The rows are numerically labelled whereas the columns are labelled alphabetically. A particular cell (intersection of a row and a column) is given the reference of both the column and the row—alphanumeric labelling.

In the example given above, cell “Medhini” will have the cell reference B3, where “B” refers to the column and “3” refers to the row. You can add a new row/column in between your data by following these steps in the given video

Add new rowShift +Spacebar & Alt +I +R
Add new columnCtrl +Spacebar & Ctrl +Shift ++
Last row of SpreadsheetCtrl +Down Arrow
Last Column of SpreadsheetCtrl +Right Arrow
Adjust columns widthAlt + O + C +A
Adjust Rows widthAlt +O +R +E
Last populated cell in a rowCtrl +Shift + Right Arrow
Last populated cell in a columnCtrl +Shift +Down Arrow
Range of cells in a rowShift +Right Arrow/Left Arrow
Range of cells in a columnShift +Down Arrow/Up Arrow

Shreya Nayak