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Introduction to Spreadsheets

Favorite ability:  Graphs

Once 5 numbers have been typed in (500,333,200,400,450), Microsoft Excel can create the following graph with less than five clicks:

Sample graph styles

If you want a different style of graph, all you have to do is click one of the following options.  This isn't even half the options that are offered.

Bar graphs: Pie graphs: Area graphs:

What a spreadsheet program does

Spreadsheets replace calculators, adding machines and ledger sheets (and graph paper!)

Today's spreadsheets also make it very easy to do mail merge and graphs.

Spreadsheet terminology

Row: Rows go from left to right

Column: Columns go up and down

Cell: The box at the intersection of a Row and a Column.

Cell contents

A cell can contain any one of the following:
     Text (usually called a "label" by spreadsheet programs) - see all of Row 1
     Numbers - for example, see the contents of A2 and B2
     Formulas - as in C2

Cell C2 displays the number "150", but it actually contains the formula "B2*A2" (the current cell ("C2") is shown at the top of the picture above, above the Column letters, and what it actually contains is shown to the right of that (="B2*A2")).

How formulas work

The formula in Cell C2 ("B2 * A2") translates to:
     Take whatever is in Cell B2,
     Then multiply it by whatever is in Cell A2,
     Then display the result in this cell (i.e., in Cell C2)

Look what happens when you change the number in A2 from 2 (2 hours) to 1 (1 hour). The formula in Cell C2 hasn't changed (it still says B2*A2), but it now displays the result of 1*75, or 75.

Starting out After changing 2 hours to 1 hour

An example of a "total" formula

Starting out After changing the value in A1 from 1 to 5

Look at the formula in Cell A7 (shown above the column letters): "SUM(A1:A5)"
This means: Add all the numbers between A1 and A5, and display the total here (in Cell A7).

The only thing that was changed between the two examples above was the number in Cell A1, which was changed from a 1 to a 5.  The formula in Cell A7 remains unchanged, and it automatically displays the new total.

Why spreadsheets are better than calculators

If you were using a calculator and one of the numbers you needed to add changed, then you'd have to re-add the entire column. Using a spreadsheet, you put in the formula just once and if any of the numbers change it automatically recalculates the total for you.

Spreadsheet abilities

Using some of the built-in functions, spreadsheets can store and perform very complicated operations. Here are some of the major categories and examples:

Math Add, subtract, multiply, divide; sum; average
Date and Time Calculate the number of days between two dates (used in Aged Accounts Receivable, for example)
Text Change case, separate text into parts (for example, to separate the area code from a phone number
Financial Calculate principal, interest, etc.
Logical Things like "IF x is TRUE then…" to construct very complicated (and powerful) formulas

Typical uses

Financial: Track expenses and income

: Store names, addresses, phone numbers - works well with word processing program to personalize form letters

Real estate/investments
: Create an amortization table


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