Introduction to Excel

Excel is a spreadsheet. It allows you to display information in an organized manner. Not only does Excel display information, but it can also make calculations and display mathematical information in graphical form. These properties will be very helpful in understanding the calculations covered in this course.

Excel icon

Getting started

To run Excel, double click on the Excel icon on the desktop. If the excel icon is not on the desk top, click on in the lower left corner of the screen. Drag your cursor up to Run and release the left mouse button.

In the Run window that appears type "excel" as shown above. Click on OK or press Enter to start Excel. This is a sure-fire way to start Excel if you can't find the Excel icon.

The Excel Worksheet

The Excel worksheet is shown in Figure 1. It contains control menus and buttons at the top of the screen, but most of the window is an array of rectangular boxes called cells.

Figure 1
Every cell is unique. It belongs to a vertical column and a horizontal row. The columns are labeled with letters and the rows are labeled using numbers. In Figure 1 cell B5 has been selected. It has a dark outline.

Column Width

Sometimes the cells are not wide enough to contain the information we wish to display. You can change the width of a column.

  • Move the cursor across the column label at the top of the column. The cursor changes shape when it reaches the edge of the column.
  • When the cursor changes shape, click and drag the column edge to change the width of the column.
  • Entering data

    We want to setup an Excel spreadsheet to calculate grades in a course. Enter the student names and grades given in the table below into the Excel worksheet. Put each grade in a separate cell. To enter data into a cell, first select the cell by clicking on it, then just type the data. You can move to another cell by clicking, using the arrow keys or by pressing the Tab key. Duplicate the table below on the worksheet.

     Exam 1  Exam2   Problems   Lab   Average   Grade
    Smith, Mary
    Jones, Sara
    Johnson, Martha
    Wise, Joan
    Swift, Bernadette


    We wish to have Excel determine the grades. Exam 1 and 2 are each 30% of the grade. Problems and Lab are each worth 20%. A student's average in the course is calculated using the formula,

    Average = 0.3*Exam1 + 0.3*Exam1 + 0.2*10*Problems + 0.2*10*Lab
    The problems and Lab grades are out of 10. Therefore they have to be multiplied by 10 to make them "out of 100". That is, if we multiply the Lab grade by 10 the maximum lab grade changed from 10 to 100. We then take 20% of this number, since the lab counts as 20% of the average.

    To make Excel do this calculation,

  • Select the cell where you want the result of the calculation to appear. In Figure 2 this was cell G5.
  • Click on the equal sign just to the left of the formula bar. This gets Excel ready to accept a formula.
  • Type the formula into the formula bar, as shown in Figure 2. Note you do not type data values into the formula, but rather the address of the cell containing the value. For example, Mary Smith's grade on Exam 1 is in cell C5. The term C5*0.3 credits 30% of her average to what she got on Exam 1.
  • Press Enter when the formula is complete.

  • Figure 2   You may have entered data into different cells, no problem.

    You don't have to type the formula to repeat the calculation for the other students.

  • Select cell G5 (Mary Smith's average)
  • Move the cursor to the lower right corner of cell G5.
  • When the cursor changes from a white cross to a solid black cross, click and drag it down the column to calculate the averages of the other students. The formula is duplicated with the cell addresses changed, as shown in Figure 3.

  • Figure 3