How to use Excel?: Step by step for beginners

How to use Excel

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Excel is a Microsoft program that is designed to help calculate, tabulate, store, graph, and compare data. Its features are robust. Using Excel for accounting can provide a great tool to accomplish these tasks for small businesses. And also for everyone.

Have you read and experienced Excel, but don’t know how to start? Don’t worry! In this Ninja Excel article, you will learn the most essential things you need to know to start making the calculations you need. Let’s get started! 

What is Excel?

Microsoft Excel is a calculation tool developed by Microsoft. 

Excel is primarily used to perform tasks related to numerical calculations, data analysis, and graphical representations. It provides a spreadsheet interface where users can enter data into individual cells and then perform various mathematical and logical operations on that data using formulas and functions.

History of Microsoft Excel 


In 1982, Microsoft released Multiplan, one of the first spreadsheet applications to mark its entry into the market, with the goal of competing with VisiCalc, developed by the VisiCorp company, VisiCalc. This was the forerunner in the realm of spreadsheets for computers. 

However, in its first versions, Excel was not so popular, since it also had competition from the Lotus Development Corporation, Lotus 1 2 3.

It is unknown why, but in 1985 Microsoft released the first version of Excel for Apple’s MAC. Then in 1987 Microsoft released Excel 2.0, which included significant improvements in terms of functionality and performance. This started the popularity and mass use of Microsoft Excel.  

What is the use of using Excel? 

According to The Balance Money, the Microsoft Excel utility is intended for the following uses: 

  • It has tools for formulas and for a company’s accounting if you are not very expert in the matter. 
  • If you have a large number of databases, but you do not know how to organize the information in them, the Excel functions will help you to do so.
  • You need to see these data or others in graphs in a simple and friendly way.  

Getting started in Microsoft Excel 

First of all, you should check if you have Microsoft Excel on your computer. You can usually find a free version for a set period of time when you get a new computer. If this is not your case, you can purchase the Microsoft 365 suite, where Microsoft Excel comes from. 

When opening the program, we can choose to use a blank book, follow the path that Microsoft suggests, or start with a default template. If you are just starting to use Excel, it is best to start from the Blank Workbook. 

And you will see the following:

Getting acquainted with the blank book 

The blank workbook is the document or file where we will be working on the data , this is where you will know how to use Excel. This is where the magic will be born. But first, let’s look at the detail. The parts that make up the blank book grid are:

  • Sheets: It is the place where we will put the data, whether in letters or numbers. This is where the tables or graphs will be located. You can create all the sheets you need in the same Book. You can add new spreadsheets by right-clicking on the “+” button at the bottom of the window and selecting “Insert Sheet”.
  • Column: It is the upper part that is named by letters, such as A, B, C. To make it easier, consider that it is the vertical axis on the sheet.
  • Row: It is on the left side and is numbered from 1. In this case it would be the horizontal axis. 
  • Cell: It is the intersection of a row and a column.

For example: The number 4 is in column D and in row 4. Therefore, the cell would be D4. 

  • Tabs: are boxes with tools or functions that we will use as we need to add in our sheet.  

Tabs are boxes with functions and tools that you will use in your book. Typically in Excel you will find the following tab boxes. Each tab has buttons to do different actions. If you don’t know which one to do in particular, you can put the cursor on the function to see what works.

The tabs that Excel has are:

You can add more options as you need, by clicking on the following button: 

Entering the data in the cells: Work grid 

The grid is our work surface where we enter numeric or alphanumeric data. To enter the data you can do the following:

They will appear in two places: in the active cell (in yellow) and in the Formula Bar (in purple). 

Format the table

Time to start playing with the board! To give the design and shape of the table, you can make changes in the following aspects:

  • Letter font: You can change the letter fonts available in your Excel, change the size, add italics or italics. 
  • Table design: In the table you can change the background color and the color of the letter. 
  • Borders: You can customize the borders of the table based on thickness or color. 
  • Go to the format table option: You can add a custom layout to your table. In this way, the “table design” contextual tab will appear. 

What is a formula in Excel? 

A formula is a mathematical or logical expression used to perform calculations or manipulate data in a spreadsheet. Excel formulas always begin with the equals symbol (=) and can contain mathematical operators, cell references, predefined functions, and constants.

What is a function in Excel? 

A function in Excel is a predefined algorithm that performs specific calculations and operations. These functions allow you to perform various tasks, such as performing mathematical calculations, manipulating text, looking up data, counting values, and much more. 

Each function has a name, and they require defined parameters or a user can select the parameter they need. 

What is the difference between formula and function? 

A formula is when we enter a specific mathematical operation. This is one of the essential ways on how to use Excel. For example, we write in the cell the following:

=2+2 ( press Enter ) and you will find the result.

Meanwhile, a function is when you give instructions to Excel, such as when you do the following: 

=SUM(A4:15) [ press enter ] and you will find the result. 

It may interest you: 16 Tips to save time in Excel

How to use functions in Excel?

To use a function in Excel, you must follow the following steps:

For example, to add the values ​​in cells A1 to A5, you can use the SUM function like this: “=SUM(A1:A5)”.

By mastering the use of functions in Excel, you will be able to perform complex calculations and data analysis efficiently and accurately.

When you enter a function in a cell, you will be able to see a list of various functions depending on what you need.

14 Most Essential Excel Functions 

Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet that will allow you to do your most basic calculations in the fastest and most effective way. Here we present you how to use the essential Excel functions that everyone should know to excel at work.

basic math functions 

  1. SUM: It is used to add the values ​​of a range of cells. For example, if you have a list of numbers in cells B1 through B5, you can use the formula “=SUM(B1:B5)” to get the sum of those numbers.
  2. ROUND: The ROUND function is used to round a number to a specified number of decimal digits. For example, “=ROUND(3.14159, 2)” will round the number π to 2 decimal places, resulting in 3.14.

Basic statistical functions 

logical functions

  1. AND/ORThe AND and OR functions are logical operators used to evaluate multiple conditions in a formula. The AND function returns TRUE if all conditions are true, and returns FALSE if at least one of the conditions is false. The OR function returns TRUE if at least one of the conditions is true, and returns FALSE if all the conditions are false.

Conditional math functions

Frequent questions 

How to use the Excel program?

To use the Excel program, you must do the following:

What is the basic thing to know about Excel?

The basics you need to know to use Excel is that it consists of the following: 

  1. Spreadsheets: Allows you to organize data in a grid of rows and columns, where each cell can contain a value or a formula.
  2. Formulas and Functions – Excel offers a wide range of built-in functions that make complex mathematical and logical calculations easy. Formulas are used to perform custom calculations using cell references and operators.
  3. Charts and Data Visualization – Excel allows you to create charts and pivot tables to effectively visualize data, making it easier to analyze and present information.
  4. Data analysis – Excel provides tools for performing data analysis, such as filters, sorts, data tables, and what-if analysis.
  5. Automation and macros: Allows you to automate repetitive tasks through the use of macros, which are scripts that perform specific actions.

How to make a spreadsheet in Excel step by step?

To make a spreadsheet you must do the following:

What are the most important functions of Excel?

The 10 most important functions of Excel are: 

1.-SUM

2.-SUM.IF

3.-SUM.IF.SET

4.-COUNT

5.-COUNT

6.-COUNTIF

7.-OFFSET

8.-MATCH

9.-INDEX

10.- VLOOKUP