By Ken Bluttman

The Formulas Ribbon sits at the top of Excel. Items on the Ribbon appear as menu headers along the top of the Excel screen, but they actually work more like tabs. Click them, and no menus appear. Instead, the Ribbon presents the items that are related to the clicked Ribbon tab.

The following figure shows the top part of the screen, in which the Ribbon displays the items that appear when you click the Formulas header. In the figure, the Ribbon is set to show formula-based methods. At the left end of the Formula Ribbon, functions are categorized. One of the categories is opened to show how you can access a particular function.

Getting to know the Ribbon.
Getting to know the Ribbon.

These categories are along the bottom of the Formulas Ribbon:

  • Function Library: This includes the Function Wizard, the AutoSum feature, and the categorized functions.

  • Defined Names: These features manage named areas.

  • Formula Auditing: These features have been through many Excel incarnations, but never before have the features been so prominent. Also here is the Watch Window, which lets you keep an eye on the values in designated cells, but within one window. In the following figure you can see that a few cells have been assigned to the Watch Window. If any values change, you can see this in the Watch Window. Note how the watched cells are on sheets that are not the current active sheet. Neat! By the way, you can move the Watch Window around the screen by clicking the title area of the window and dragging it with the mouse.

    Eyeing the Watch Window.
    Eyeing the Watch Window.
  • Calculation: This is where you manage calculation settings, such as whether calculation is automatic or manual.

Another great feature that goes hand in hand with the Ribbon is the Quick Access Toolbar. (So there is a toolbar after all!) In the first figure above, the Quick Access Toolbar sits just above the left side of the Ribbon. On it are icons that perform actions with a single click. The icons are ones you select by using the Quick Access Toolbar tab in the Excel Options dialog box. You can put the toolbar above or below the Ribbon by clicking the small drop-down arrow on the Quick Access Toolbar and choosing an option. In this area too are the other options for the Quick Access Toolbar.