Some years ago, a colleague stopped by my cubicle and asked for help with a project he was working on. John wanted to create a long list of names, categorize them, and assign a score on a scale of one to 10 for each one. He also needed to identify the top scores and create category averages.
John knew I was familiar with all kinds of desktop and online software. He asked, “Which one would you recommend for these types of tasks?”
“That’s easy,” I answered. “Enter the data into Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. You can then alphabetize the list, sort by the highest and lowest scores, and draw out category averages. You can even create neat-looking charts based on the results.” I used Excel to whip up a basic list, and emailed him the file.
John thanked me profusely, but admitted, “I have only the vaguest idea about Excel and almost no experience with spreadsheets.”
John’s situation is not unusual. Millions of people know that Excel can be used for financial tracking and number crunching. They may have even opened Excel and entered some numbers into a corporate expense worksheet.
Nevertheless, Excel suffers from an image problem. Most people assume that spreadsheet programs such as Excel are intended for accountants, analysts, financiers, scientists, mathematicians, and other geeky types. Creating a spreadsheet, sorting data, using functions, and making charts seems daunting. Many think that these are tasks best left to the nerds.
I’m here to tell you that spreadsheets are not just for nerds. Almost anyone can use Excel for work, school, personal projects and other uses. I’ve written this guide to help you quickly get up to speed on basic concepts, using plain English, step-by-step instructions, and lots of screenshots. Thirty minutes from now, you’ll know how to:
- Create a spreadsheet and enter numbers and text into cells.
- Perform addition, multiplication, and other simple mathematical functions.
- Derive values based on percentages.
- Perform timesaving tasks, such as sorting large lists and automatically applying the same formula across a range of values.
- Make great-looking charts.
- You can imagine how these techniques can help in real-world situations, from tracking household expenses to making sales projections. You can even use them to organize events, and track the office football pool.
We only have 30 minutes, so let’s get started!