5 Ways To Get Started Using Microsoft Excel


Spreadsheets aren’t just for business owners and data analysts—here are some easy ways to integrate Microsoft Excel into your life.

Key Facts

Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet program that provides tools for people to organize and analyze data.

Excel isn’t just for business owners and data analysts—it can make everyday life easier by helping keep track of money, personal projects and health goals.

1. Make A Budget

Once you enter your financial information into a blank spreadsheet, you can tell Excel to perform calculations and analysis using formulas. A formula always starts with an equal sign and includes different symbols, or operators, depending on the action you want to take. For instance, you can add cells together by typing an equal sign, selecting a cell, typing a plus sign (+), selecting the cell you want to add and hitting enter. If making your own budget seems daunting, try using one of the several budget templates preloaded under the File tab. When you enter your financial information, the template will automatically perform calculations like adding together your income. You can see what formula is in a cell by double clicking on it. Here’s a complete list of Excel operators but here are some good ones to know for budgets:

  • Subtract cells using a dash or minus sign (-)
  • Multiply cells an asterisk (*)
  • Divide cells using a slash (/)

2. Track Your Health

Excel can help you track calories, exercise and health goals. Once you’ve entered your chosen data, you can manipulate it using formulas and functions. Functions are commands that perform calculations and analysis for you—instead of adding calories together using a formula with a plus sign, you could use the SUM function to add calories for you. Like with budgets, Excel comes with health templates preloaded with formulas, functions and graphics to make tracking easier. Here’s Microsoft’s complete list of all Excel functions, but here are some common ones to get you started:

  • =AVERAGE to find the average of a group of cells
  • =MAX to find the biggest number in a group of cells
  • =MIN to find the smallest number in a group of cells
  • =COUNT to count how many cells contain numbers in a range of cells.

3. Track Your Investments

You can track how your investments are doing using Stocks data under the Data tab. Start by typing in a company name and changing it to Stocks data—if Excel recognizes the company, it links, uploads and updates information in real time about the company’s stock market price and price change. If you want to add data about the historical performance of a stock, use the STOCKHISTORY function—detailed instructions can be found here.

4. Make Lists

Excel contains useful tools to organize, visualize and keep track of changes in lists and projects. If you make your own list or tracker, consider creating and customizing a graph or chart to illustrate trends or breakdowns—just select the appropriate information and click the graphic option you want under the Insert tab. You can use a template to create lists and organizers, too—look for ones with built in charts if you want help visualizing your data.

5. Useful Excel Tricks

Filtering cells allows you to identify data that matches a specific criteria by hiding entries that don’t apply. Sorting, on the other hand, doesn’t hide data but allows you to order a list in different ways—like alphabetically or from largest to smallest. You can ask Excel to filter or sort data by clicking on the Filter funnel under the Data tab. If you want to filter data by more than one criteria, choose the Advanced Filter option. Keyboard shortcuts can also make the creative process much faster, but they differ depending on the operating system you use. Here are all shortcuts for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Web apps. Here are some common shortcuts for Windows and macOS to practice with:


  • Copy: Ctrl+C
  • Paste: Ctrl+V
  • Cut: Ctrl+X
  • Undo: Ctrl+Z
  • Insert Hyperlink: Ctrl+K
  • Insert Cell: Ctrl+Shift+Plus sign


  • Copy: Cmd (butterfly key)+C
  • Paste: Cmd+ V
  • Cut: Cmd+X
  • Undo: Cmd+Z
  • Insert Hyperlink: Cmnd+K
  • Insert Cell: Control+Shift+Equal Sign

Further Reading

Excel Help and Learning (Microsoft)

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