Microsoft Excel XP Tutorial

Section Learning Goals

In this section, you will learn:

  • The Excel interface
  • Menu options
  • Toolbars
  • The formula bar
  • The status bar

Getting Started in Excel

Exploring the Excel Interface

When you first open Microsoft Excel, the window displays a new, blank worksheet, in which you can enter, format, and analyze data using the various commands available in the menu bar. Toolbars provide easy access to common commands, as do shortcut menus, which you access by right-clicking the cells in the worksheet.

You enter formulas into the formula bar, which is located below the toolbars. The formula bar also provides access to all the functions available in Excel; these functions let you perform a variety of simple and complex calculations on the data contained in your worksheets.

The horizontal and vertical scroll bars at the right and bottom of the Microsoft Excel window let you navigate to parts of the worksheet outside the visible area.

Menu Options

The Microsoft Excel menu bar contains all the commands required to create, work with, print, and save workbooks. To access these commands, click the name of the menu to open it, and then click the command you want to access.

Each menu groups together related commands, sometimes using submenus to further group commands:

  • File – Create, open, save, print, and close workbooks.
  • Edit – Perform editing functions on your workbook, including copying, cutting, and pasting data and objects, moving to various locations in a workbook, and undoing and redoing actions.
  • View – Change the workbook’s display size and style.
  • Insert – Insert new worksheets, or additional space, such as new cells, columns, or rows; also insert charts, comments, functions, hyperlinks and other objects into your workbooks.
  • Format – Apply formatting to worksheets and their contents.
  • Tools – Use Excel’s tools, such as the spell and grammar checker, macro recorder, and protection and collaboration features, and set your Microsoft Excel preferences.
  • Data – Sort, filter, and otherwise arrange the data on your worksheets.
  • Window – Switch between open workbook windows, or split the window of the current workbook.
  • Help – Access Microsoft Excel’s online help.

Important Excel TipNote:

Additional menus may appear when you install a program that includes a Microsoft Excel plug-in.

To access a menu command, click the main menu to open it, and then select (click) the command. Excel hides those commands you don’t use frequently, so if you don’t see a command, click the double arrows at the bottom of the menu to expand it. Excel then displays all the available commands. Once you select a command, Excel includes it with the others you commonly use.


The Microsoft Excel toolbars group together shortcuts to common commands; these shortcuts take the form of buttons. You can click a toolbar button to quickly apply formatting, save or print a workbook, copy or paste data, or accomplish another of a variety of tasks.

To show or hide a toolbar, open the View menu, select Toolbars, and then select the toolbar you want to show or hide. You can also access the toolbar menu by right-clicking anywhere on a visible toolbar.

The most frequently used toolbars are the Standard toolbar and the Formatting toolbar.

The Standard toolbar contains buttons for opening, saving, printing, and editing workbooks.

The Formatting toolbar contains drop-down menus and buttons for applying formatting to worksheets.

By default, these two toolbars appear next to each other, just below the menu bar.

Other toolbars available in Excel are:

  • Chart – Create and work with charts.
  • Clipboard – View and select the contents of the clipboard.
  • Control Toolbox – Insert ActiveX controls into a form.
  • Drawing – Insert and format drawing objects.
  • External Data – Work with data imported from external sources.
  • Forms – Insert form objects.
  • Picture – Insert and format pictures.
  • Pivot Table – Create and
    work with pivot tables, interactive tables for large amounts of data.
  • Reviewing – Insert, edit, and delete comments for or by reviewers.
  • Visual Basic – Record and run macros, and work with Microsoft Word Visual Basic code.
  • Web – Navigate a Web document.
  • WordArt – Insert and format WordArt.

You can customize any of these toolbars by adding and removing buttons, or you can create your own toolbars to group your favorite commands: Just right-click one of the visible toolbars, select Customize from the menu that appears, and, in the Customize dialog, select the Commands tab to add or remove commands.

Each of Excel’s toolbars can be moved simply by clicking and dragging the title bar (if the toolbar is floating) or the move handle (if the toolbar is docked).

The move handle is located at the left edge of the toolbar. When you move the mouse over it, the pointer changes to horizontal and vertical arrows, indicating you can drag the toolbar.

  1. Drag the toolbar off the row. The toolbar changes from docked to floating.

  1. Click the title bar and drag the toolbar back into place.

If you drag a toolbar to a full row, the surrounding toolbars will shrink to make room for it. To access a button that’s no longer visible, click the chevrons at the right edge of the toolbar.

Important Excel TipTip:

To quickly remove buttons you don’t use, or add new buttons, select Add or Remove Buttons. In the menu, uncheck the buttons you don’t need, or select new buttons to add. Select Customize to choose from all the available commands.

Formula Bar

The formula bar displays the contents of the active, or selected, cell. If the cell contains a formula, the formula will appear in the formula bar, while the value resulting from the formula is displayed in the cell itself.

You also use the formula to enter formulas. Clicking the Edit Formula button next to the formula bar opens the Formula Palette, which helps you select and construct functions. Functions are formulas that are built into Microsoft Excel, and allow you to perform a variety of calculations.

The name box to the left of the formula bar displays the current location of your cursor. If a cell is selected, the cell is displayed here. If you’re in the process of selecting a range of cells, the name box displays the range (for example, A1 X C9), and changes as the selection changes.

Status Bar

The status bar at the bottom of the Microsoft Excel window displays the current status of operations being performed on the open workbook, such as the progress as the workbook is saved.

It also includes the AutoCalculate feature, which displays a selected calculation for any range (or set) of cells you select, automatically. By default, it displays the sum of the values found in the cells.

You can select a different type of calculation by right-clicking the AutoCalculate feature in the status bar and selecting a different type of calculation from the menu.

Section Review

In this section, you learned:

  • The Excel interface
  • Menu options
  • Toolbars
  • The formula bar
  • The status bar

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