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Starting out with Excel 2010 spreadsheets

Excel 2010 allows you to work easily with numbers, quickly organising and calculating data. When amounts change, Excel will automatically recalculate the totals, percentages, and any other results.

In this article, we look at the basics of a spreadsheet and how to make Excel perform simple calculations. We have assumed you know how to use Microsoft Office 2010 Ribbons and how to save and print documents via the File tab.

When you first launch Excel, you'll see a grid with numbers down the left-hand side, and letters across the top. Each individual box is called a Cell. Cells are referred to by their number and letter co-ordinates; for example B4. The vertical line of cells, which all begin with the same letter, is called a column. The horizontal line of cells, which all begin with the same number, is called a row.

To start entering data, click your mouse on the cell and type in the information. You can type words, numbers or dates, as required. It's a good idea to put each small piece of information into a separate cell, because Excel treats each cell as a separate unit. Finish entering data into a cell either by pressing Enter, or by moving to one of the cells next to it using the keyboard arrow keys or your mouse.

Tip: If your column is the wrong size, hover your mouse on one of the borders between two letters. This will cause a black cursor with two arrows to appear. Click and drag the border to make that column bigger (or smaller). You can also use this method to change the size of your rows, in this case, hover your mouse on the border between two numbers to cause the black cursor with two arrows to appear.

Using Formulas

Excel can automatically do calculations for you, using Formulas. Using our example sales spreadsheet, we can write a short formula to find the value of each order. The correct answer will always be produced, even if the price or number of units sold change. In this example, the order value is the number of units sold, multiplied by the selling cost. Typing the "=" symbol tells Excel we want to perform a calculation. Then type the name of the first cell you want to multiply, followed by "*" and then the name of the second cell you want to multiply. For our example, to calculate the order value for Amanda, click on cell F5 and type =C5*D5. Excel will highlight each cell you type with a different colour, to help you see which cells you're multiplying.

Press Return or Enter, then cell F5 will contain the answer to the calculation, "contents of cell C5 multiplied by the contents of cell D5". In our example, the answer is £680. If Amanda sells another two units, we can change the contents of cell C5 to 7, and Excel will automatically recalculate the new order value (£952).

Tip: Addition, subtraction and division can also be calculated using the same format

  • Addition =C5+D5
  • Subtraction =C5-D5
  • Division =C5/D5

Excel 2010 is extremely useful for working with numbers, calculations, databases or any large volume of data. When data changes, update your spreadsheet and Excel will redo the calculations automatically.