Excel Training: 5 Ways to Improve Microsoft Excel Skills
Every day, millions of files around the world are created, opened, and edited in Microsoft Excel. As an original member of the Microsoft Office Suite, the cross-platform spreadsheet software has evolved over the decades to meet the demands of engineers, database programmers, accountants, administrators, educators, publishers, and other professionals. Because it’s natural for regular users to establish consistent work patterns, it’s possible that some of the software’s features, new and old, aren’t being used to their potential. A quick refresher might be in order to stay up-to-date with the program. Here are five Microsoft Excel training tips that could increase speed and efficiency.
1. Flash Fill
Use the fill handle to quickly populate the spreadsheet with sequential values (like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or 4,5,6). This newer feature, called Flash Fill, can guess the type of data the user is planning to enter. For example, if an existing column lists email addresses that are stored in the user’s Outlook contacts, a new column of “first names” can guess the names using the email addresses already inside the sheet. Similar to auto fill, the flash fill fields will appear in gray until the user approves them with the enter key.
2. Calculate Three Different Ways
Some users aren’t aware there are three ways to tabulate numbers:
- Select all the cells to be added, and the total appears in the bottom right as SUM
- Write a formula. In a blank cell type =sum( , select the cells to be added up, type a closed parenthesis) and hit enter. The total will appear in the cell.
- Write a formula. In a blank cell type =sum( , select one of the cells to be added, type a plus sign +, select another cell, type the plus sign, and so on. After selecting cells, type the closed parenthesis) and hit enter. The total will appear in the cell.
3. Select Multiple Cells
Working inside a spreadsheet often requires the selection of multiple cells, but some users have trouble learning how to do this without accidentally deleting data. Here’s how it works: Use the Ctrl key and Shift key to select more than one cell at a time. Holding down the Ctrl key allows selection of multiple individual cells. Holding down the Shift key allows selection of a continuous range of cells, but it’s a little tricky. First select the top of the range to be selected. Then hold the Shift key and, with the Shift key held down, select the bottom of the range to be selected.
4. Adjust Column Width
Some users find it frustrating when data exceeds column width and the field entry is partially hidden, but there is an easy way around this problem. When the data typed into the fields exceeds the width of the column, hover the mouse at the divider line between columns. When the crosshairs appears, double click and Excel will change the column width to the widest entry in that column.
5. Experiment with Graphs
Sometimes it’s confusing to graph the information that’s already been typed into the spreadsheet. Excel can interpret the data and show you recommended charts. First, select the data to be graphed (it’s OK to select whole columns or whole rows). Next, click on Insert then Recommended Charts. Excel will present three charts of the data to pick from. It’s possible to view each of the three before making a final decision.
With these Excel Training Tips, working in a spreadsheet becomes more productive, easier, and can result in a more attractive and useful final product. Also don’t forget that handy keyboard shortcuts, the same as in other Windows programs, speed up routine tasks. Get in the habit of using Ctrl-X, Ctrl-C, and Ctrl-V to cut, copy, and paste.
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