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For Seniors: How to Explore Microsoft Excel’s Unique Features

Excel has many elements in common with the Microsoft Office interface, but the number-crunching program also has the features that are unique. For starters, sheets (which are equivalent to a page in a Word document) are also called worksheets. A workbook is the entire data file, containing one or more worksheets.

These unique Excel features include items such as row numbering, a Formula bar, and worksheet tabs:

  • Row numbers: Each row has a unique number. To select an entire row, click its number.

  • Column letters: Each column has a unique letter. To select an entire column, select its letter.

  • Cells: At the intersection of each row and column is a cell. You enter content into a cell by clicking the cell and then typing.

  • Active cell indicator (a.k.a. the cell cursor): This thick outline indicates which cell is the active cell — where your cursor is located at the moment. Whatever you type next appears in the active cell, and whatever commands you issue apply to that cell.

  • Name box: The active cell’s name appears here. For example, if the selected cell is at the intersection of column A and row 1, A1 appears in the Name box.

  • Formula bar: The contents of the selected cell appears here. If the content is text, that text shows here as in the cell itself. If the content is a formula, the formula appears here, and the result of the formula appears in the cell. For example, if the cell contains the formula =2+1, the formula bar shows =2+1 and the cell itself shows 3.

  • A formula is a math expression, beginning with an equals sign, such as =2+1. Formulas can also contain cell references. For example, =A2+B2 adds the amount found in cell A2 to the amount found in B2.

  • Worksheet tabs: By default, each workbook file has three sheets. They’re like pages in a notebook. Each sheet is shown as a tab; click a tab to switch to that sheet.

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