What and why of excel?

Excel is a spreadsheet program from Microsoft and is undoubtedly the most popular spreadsheet program around. It is also one of the most powerful and cutting edge spreadsheet program, with high degree of user friendly features as well as greater extendability. Most of us know excel as a data entry/management tool which is usually used when we need to deal with a lot of numbers, while it is true, people have used excel in ways that go well beyond these more common usage fields.

So what is a spreadsheet? spreadsheet is nothing but (almost) unlimited spread of cells(lets say boxes) that follow a set structure as shown below:

OK, so what?, the great thing about this structure is that most often we can easily relate to such tabular form of data. See the example below, here a factory in-charge is keeping a record of money outlay on labor costs, he makes up the following entries in his excel files:

(Just see the overall purpose, actual data entry, summation etc we'll cover later)

So far so good, but what is so great about "Spreadsheet"? Actually your data can spread whichever way it likes, you can keep on adding day-wise records for months & years and keep this record. Or you may also add further expense headers as a separate column like this:

So spreadsheet is this tabular form of data keeping tool. Spreadsheet programs(like excel) provide computation facility(So if labor's daily wage is $30, you can use a formula to multiply number of labors X daily wage to calculate the amount directly in the spreadsheet(so it works as an extended calculator ..& much more) There are various formatting options, data analysis options, scenario planning & limited optimizations are also possible out of excel. People have built extensive dashboards, calendars, Menus, Inventory keeping tools & library tools among the numerous possibilities that excel provides. To get a glimpse of what excel can do, a good idea is to look at the templates that come with excel(or are downloadable). To do so, please go to 'File' (Top Left) & then click on 'New' Click on some of these templates & you'll appreciate the things that excel can do & its powers as a good data analysis as well as presentation tool.


So take a dip in this ocean, we have series of tutorials on this site to help you in this journey.