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Excel 2003 All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies
By Greg Harvey
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7645-3758-X
Chapter OneGetting Acquainted with Excel
In This Chapter
Before you go off trying to find out how to do things in Excel, you really need to know what the program is capable of doing. Therefore, I start this chapter with an ever-so-brief overview of the kinds of things that you can do with Excel 2003.
Also, without a sure grasp of the rock-bottom basics of Excel (such as loading the program, entering information in cells, choosing commands - that kind of stuff), moving on and trying to figure out some of the spiffier features in Excel can become not only frustrating, but also just downright counterproductive. To ensure that this doesn't happen as you pick and choose among the many topics in the rest of this book, I have dedicated the first chapter of this first book to a review of Excel fundamentals.
By taking a second to glance over the material in this chapter, you can get yourself in a good position to really go through the exciting stuff found in the rest of the desk reference. By making sure that you're right on the money with your Excel basics, you'll have no trouble taking on new features of thisspine-tingling program (and, hopefully, you can even have a lot of fun with them).
What's Up with Excel?
After Word, Microsoft's word-processing powerhouse, Excel is the most popular program (also known as an application program or application) in the Microsoft Office suite. Excel holds this distinction, no doubt, because it entirely fulfills most people's number-crunching needs, which in modern business, comes right after their word processing needs.
Excel accomplishes this number crunching by combining sophisticated charting (also known as graphing) and data-management capabilities with a sophisticated and powerful spreadsheet program. You're probably aware that, as a spreadsheet program, Excel merges the grid layout of an accountant's green sheet with the calculating power of his or her handheld calculator. This means that not only can you use the program's spreadsheet capabilities to lay out spreadsheet applications (such as financial statements, expense reports, and the like) in the row/column grid arrangement, but you can also use the program's built-in calculating ability to compute all the required subtotals, totals, and grand totals.
This combination of abilities makes Excel a natural for any type of application that uses some sort of tabular layout or relies on extensive calculations between the data that the application requires. For example, you may use Excel to create many fill-in-the-blank paper forms that require no calculations at all. (Many people find that designing forms in Excel's grid layout is much easier than using Word's Table feature.) You may also use the program to create business-type forms, such as expense reports and sales and inventory sheets that involve extensive calculations.
The worksheet grid
The key to successfully using Excel as a spreadsheet program is in understanding its grid-like nature. Figure 1-1 shows you this grid in all its glory (without most of the program and sheet controls that normally appear when you start the program). By the way, in Excel, you always refer to this type of grid as a worksheet.
Note the following items about the grid shown in Figure 1-1:
* The columns of a worksheet are identified by letters (A, B, C, and so on) that appear across the Column header. When Excel runs out of letters (at column 26), it starts duplicating letters (so that column Z is followed by AA, AB, AC, and so on until it reaches column IV).
* Numbers (1, 2, 3, and the like) identify the rows of a worksheet, up to row 65,536. The numbers appear down the Row header.
* The intersecting gridlines of each column and row form a rectangular box known as a cell.
* A totally blank worksheet is a pretty boring affair!
The most important thing to keep in mind about the worksheet is that each cell can hold its own data, depending upon the function and layout of the spreadsheet that you're building.
Getting a cell's address
Cells, by the way, are identified by their position in the grid; their so-called cell address. This address is normally noted with the cell's column letter followed by its row number. So the first cell (located at the intersection of the first column and row) in every Excel worksheet has the address A1, the cell in the first row of the second column has the address B1, the cell in the second row of the first column has the address A2, and so forth.
I say that a cell address is "normally" noted as a combination of its column letter and row number only because you can switch to a different style of cell address notation, known affectionately as the R1C1 reference style. It has this wonderful appellation because, in this system, R1C1 is the first cell of every worksheet instead of A1. You turn on the R1C1 system by choosing Tools[right arrow]Options and then, on the General tab in the Options dialog box, clicking the R1C1 Reference Style check box.
Note the following two big differences between the normal A1 style cell addresses and the R1C1 style addresses:
* R1C1 style addresses don't ever use the column letter. In fact, numbers replace the letters in the column header, as shown in Figure 1-2.
* R1C1 style addresses always note the row position, and then the column position of each cell. Normal A1 style cell addresses do the opposite by first noting the position of the column position (by letter), and then the row.
The big advantage of the regular A1 style cell addresses is that they're shorter. Therefore, most people find them easier to deal with (especially in formulas), because their addresses don't have to include the R and C abbreviations (letters always designate columns and numbers always designate rows).
The big disadvantage of the A1 style cell address is that the cell addresses must duplicate letters in order to designate any column past 26 (and each worksheet contains a total of 256 columns). When referring to cell addresses hanging out in the wilds of a worksheet, the R1C1 cell address system suddenly doesn't seem so bad. For example, if you're using the R1C1 style address system and the data you want is in cell R1C52 of the worksheet, you have a good idea of the cell's general location relative to the first cell. If, on the other hand, you're using the normal A1 style reference system, and the data you want is in cell AZ1, you probably don't have a clue where that cell is located in relation to the first cell, A1, except that it's somewhere pretty far over in the same row.
Identifying the active cell
Regardless of which cell address system you have turned on, Excel indicates which cell you're working with at any given time (known as the active cell or current cell) in three ways:
* Listing its cell address at the beginning of the row immediately above the row with the worksheet's Column header (this area is known as the Name box)
* Highlighting in gold the cell's column and row in the Column and Row header, respectively
* Displaying a heavy black border around the cell in the worksheet grid itself (known as the cell pointer)
Figure 1-3 illustrates these three ways of identifying the active cell. In this figure, you can bet your bottom dollar that cell C7 is the active cell in this worksheet because C7 appears in the Name box and the cell pointer is located at the intersection of column C and row 7, which, in turn, are both highlighted in a golden color on the Column and Row borders of the worksheet.
The three basic spreadsheet tasks
As I see it, you almost always end up doing the following three basic tasks when creating a new spreadsheet table or list:
* Entering the headings that define the layout of the spreadsheet table or list
* Entering the data in the table or list
* Formatting the data that you entered in the table or list
Note that most spreadsheet tables have both a row of column headings and a column of row headings that identify the different types of data that the tables contain. This stands in contrast to lists (also called data lists or databases in Excel) that use only a row of column headings at the top to identify their data.
The data that you enter in the cells of your table or list (see Book I, Chapter 2, for details) can consist of text, numbers, or even formulas that perform essential calculations. These calculations may use values or even sometimes text entered in other cells of the table or list.
After you've entered all the data, the formatting of the table or list data is mostly done. In formatting the data, you actually change the formatting of the cells containing the data. In other words, instead of actually making the text that you've entered in a particular cell bold and italic (as you might do in a Word document), you assign these attributes to the cell that holds this text. This way, the bold and italic attributes remain associated with the cell even after you delete the text or replace it with a number or a formula that returns a calculated value. Because formatting is so important in building a spreadsheet in Excel, I devote an entire chapter to it (see Book II, Chapter 2).
Beyond the spreadsheet
Although working with spreadsheets is definitely Excel's strong suit (thus the worksheet as the underlying document), it is by no means the program's only claim to fame. As an adjunct to its basic spreadsheet abilities, Excel adds sophisticated charting and data analysis capabilities, along with a set of features that offer an uncomplicated approach to database management.
All these extra features make some sort of use of the basic worksheet grid and, in the case of charting and data analysis, actually work with the data entered in spreadsheet applications (for details on charting, see Book V and for details on data analysis, Book VII). In the case of database management, Excel adds the ability to perform routine tasks, such as sorting and filtering, on data that you've actually entered in a worksheet in the form of a data list or have imported from other external sources, such as a dedicated database management program, such as Microsoft Access or the company's corporate database (see Book VI for details on performing these kinds of tasks).
Getting Excel Started
Excel is simply no fun at all if you can't get the blasted thing to run! So I want to begin this portion of the Excel "basics" material with an overview of the many ways you can get Excel up and running (and then I discuss ways that you can catch it!). Starting Excel 2003 under Windows XP gives you no lack of options.
Starting from the Windows taskbar
The steps for starting Excel from the Windows XP taskbar are as follows:
1. Click the Start button at the beginning of the taskbar.
The Start menu appears.
2. Position the mouse pointer over the All Programs item at the bottom of the Start menu.
A submenu appears, showing the oodles and oodles of programs installed on your computer.
3. Click the Microsoft Excel item on the Programs menu to fire up Excel.
One nice thing about starting Excel from the Windows XP taskbar is that Windows automatically adds Microsoft Excel to the Start menu, as shown in Figure 1-4. So the next time you need to start the program, you can do it even more quickly by simply clicking the Start button and then clicking the Microsoft Excel item on the Start menu. Just keep in mind that Excel's appearance on the Windows XP Start menu is only a temporary advancement. As you continue to launch other programs besides Excel (such as Word, for example), Windows eventually knocks Excel off the Start menu and replaces it with a more recently launched program.
Starting Excel with a desktop or toolbar shortcut
If you use Excel extensively in your work, it probably won't take too long before the procedure for starting Excel using the Windows Start button wears a little thin. In such cases, you need to add a desktop or Quick Launch toolbar shortcut for starting the Program, or you need to start using the built-in Excel button on the Office Shortcut bar (described in the very next section).
To add a desktop shortcut for Excel, you need to find the program file that actually runs the Excel application (a nifty little executable file called excel.exe) and then use the file to create a desktop shortcut. Here's how you do that:
1. Click the Start button on the Windows XP taskbar.
The Windows Start menu appears, containing a Search item.
2. Click the Search item on the Start menu and then click All Files and Folders in the Search Results dialog box.
3. Type excel.exe in the All or Part of File Name text box.
4. Click the Search button.
Windows begins searching your computer's hard disk looking for the excel.exe file that starts the program.
5. Click the Stop button when the Excel file, listed as an Application type, appears in the Search Results dialog box.
Now, all you have to do is send a shortcut to this program file to your computer's desktop.
6. Right-click the Excel file, and then position the mouse pointer on Send To on the shortcut menu and click the Desktop (Create Shortcut) on the cascading menu.
Windows responds by creating a Shortcut to Excel on your desktop. You see the shortcut as soon as you close the Search Results dialog box.
7. Click the Close button in the upper-right corner of the Search Results dialog box to get rid of it.
As soon as you close the Search Results dialog box, you should see your Shortcut to Excel icon (just like the one shown in the left margin). To start Excel with this desktop shortcut, you simply double-click the icon or right-click it and then click the Open item on its shortcut menu.
If Microsoft Office Excel shows up on the Frequently Use Programs list when you click the Start button on the Windows XP Start button, you can create a desktop shortcut by clicking the Start button, right-clicking Microsoft Office Excel 2003 and then highlighting Send To on the shortcut menu and clicking Desktop (Create Shortcut) on the submenu.
Excerpted from Excel 2003 All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies by Greg Harvey Excerpted by permission.
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