Get Familiar With Microsoft Excel: Learn Excel Basics


Hi There! Today we will proceed with our tutorial and learn Excel basics. In the last post I had given you a formal introduction to Microsoft Excel (we will call it ‘Excel’ from here on). I recommend you to check it out once. 

There are a few terms in Excel which you must know before you proceed to learn Excel. They are basically different parts or components of Excel’s user interface. 


To make things simple and help you to identify each part, I will be using images in this post so that you get familiar with the terms. This will help you to relate and understand better when we move forward with the excel tutorials. 


I will be using Microsoft Excel 2007 (since I own that version and its working fine for me) for all the demonstrations. Things are more or less similar in advanced versions with minor changes here and there.


So Lets Begin to Learn Excel basics

Below I have listed the most important terms which you need to understand to learn excel basics

1. Workbook

A Workbook is nothing but an excel file that you create and store your data in. Excel files are also called Workbooks. Workbooks contain worksheets.


2. Worksheet

A Worksheet is a sheet within the workbook where you store your data and make calculations. 


If you assume your Workbook to be an exercise book, then the worksheet will be a blank page in that exercise book. 


By default a workbook contains three worksheets but you can add or reduce the number of worksheets as per your choice. 


A worksheet contains columns and rows where we store our data. You must assign different name for each worksheet for identification and reference.


3. Cells

As I said above, we store our data in worksheets. The worksheet is a grid of columns and rows. At the intersection of each column and row is a Cell where we actually put the data.


Each Cell has a unique reference which corresponds to the column reference and row reference which intersect at that cell. Please see the image below and be very sure that you grab the concept because it lays the foundation of learning excel.

Row Columns and Cell Reference

The above image is a screenshot of a worksheet. Here I have highlighted the column and row labels with red rectangles. Carefully notice that the Columns labels are alphabets A, B, C and so on and the Row labels are numbers beginning with 1.

At each intersection of a column and row is a Cell. I have highlighted a cell in the above image. Notice that the highlighted cell is at the intersection point of column B and row 3 (marked with green circles). Thus the unique reference or name or address of that cell will be B3. When you click on a cell excel shows you its reference. I have highlighted the same with a blue box.


Cells store the data and the data can be called for the calculations in excel using the reference of the cell in which it is stored.

4. Range

A Range is a collection of two or more cells. I will cover this in a separate post.


We have covered the basic terms above which are a must to learn excel. Now let me introduce you to some other components of the excel user interface.

Other Items in Excel User Interface


1. Microsoft Office Button

The Microsoft Office Button performs many of the functions that were located in the File menu of older versions of Excel. This button allows you to

  • Create
  • Open
  • Save (and Save As)
  • Print
  • Send
  • Close

an excel workbook.

Microsoft Office Button

The Office Button when clicked will look like this

Microsoft Office Button when clicked

2. Ribbon

The Ribbon is the panel at the top portion of the excel workbook. It has seven tabs by default:

  1. Home
  2. Insert
  3. Page Layout
  4. Formulas
  5. Data
  6. Review
  7. View

Each Tab is divided into groups. The groups are logical collections of features designed to perform some specific functions. This may sound a bit technical and confusing at first. You need not worry as we will cover these in detail in future posts.

Ribbon and Tabs

In the above image I have clicked on the Home tab of the Ribbon. A Ribbon’s tab is divided into some Groups. For example in the above image you can see following Groups under the Home tab:

  • Clipboard
  • Font
  • Alignment
  • Number
  • Styles
  • Cells and
  • Editing

The commonly used features are displayed on each Group in the Ribbon. To view additional features in the Group, click the arrow at the bottom right corner of each Group.

 Arrow icon in ribbon group

Below is a list of Groups on each Tab under the Ribbon

  • Insert: Tables, Illustrations, Charts, Links, Text
  • Page Layout: Themes, Page Setup, Scale to Fit, Sheet Options, Arrange
  • Formulas: Function Library, Defined Names, Formula Auditing, Calculation
  • Data: Get External Data, Connections, Sort & Filter, Data Tools, Outline
  • Review: Proofing,  Comments, Changes
  • View: Workbook Views, Show/Hide, Zoom, Window, Macros

You can customise the Ribbon and add few more tabs (ex. Developer Tab) from excel settings. I will discuss it in future when the situation demands.

3. Quick Access Toolbar

The Quick Access Toolbar is a customizable toolbar that contains commands that you may want to use frequently. You can place it above or below the ribbon. To change the location of the quick access toolbar, click on the arrow at the end of the toolbar and click “Show below the Ribbon”.

 Quick Access Toolbar

You can also add items to the Quick Access Toolbar. Right click on any item in the Office Button or the Ribbon and click “Add to Quick Access Toolbar” and a shortcut of the item will be created.

Adding to the Quick Access Toolbar

4. Mini Toolbar

Mini toolbar is a new option introduced in Office 2007. It is a floating toolbar when you select a text or right-click a text. 

 Mini Toolbar

It displays common formatting tools such as Bold, Italics, Font, Font Size and Font Colour.

5. Name Box

You will find the Name Box on the left of the Formula Bar.

name box in excel


The Name Box displays the cell reference of the selected or active cell. You can see A2 in the name box above as the cell A2 is currently selected.

When you select multiple cells by click and drag method, the name box shows you the number of rows and columns currently selected till you keep the left click button pressed.

Once you release the button it shows the cell reference of the uppermost left cell of the current selection.

You can also assign custom names for cells and cell ranges via the name box by

  • Selecting the Cell or Cell Range that you want to assign a name
  • Left-Click on Name Box to enter edit mode
  • Type the name and press enter

Tip: Open Excel now and try for yourself

6. Formula Bar

The Formula Bar shows the formula, if any, in the selected cell. If there is no formula in the cell then it shows the cell content.

Formula Bar in Excel


 In the above example, the formula bar is showing “=B2+C2” which is the formula assigned in the selected Cell D2 (notice the name of selected cell in the name box). However the value in the cell D2 is 8 which is the result of the formula in that cell.
You can also enter content or a formula into a cell from the formula bar. Just select the cell first and type the content in the formula bar. It will be automatically entered in the cell.

Lets call it a day for today

We have discussed a lot today which will definitely help you to learn excel basics.  So I am ending the post here. Hope you have liked it. Feedback and questions are welcome via comments. 

Happy Learning!



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