How to Use Microsoft Excel for Beginners (25 Common Tasks)

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Microsoft Excel is one of the most widely used applications worldwide. It is very popular with medium and small enterprises. But this article is for beginners. We will discuss how to use Microsoft Excel for beginners in detail. The below-discussed methods are applicable to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2013, 2016, 2019, 365 and so on.


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How Beginners Will Create a Blank Microsoft Excel Workbook

First, we will show how beginners can create a new Microsoft Excel workbook. They can create a new workbook from an existing workbook or directly from the application.

Directly from Applications:

  • First off, click on the Start button from the Desktop Taskbar.
  • You see the list of installed applications.
  • Now, find out the Excel icon and click on it.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Start

From an Existing Workbook:

If you have an Excel workbook that is already opened, you can create a new one in the following process.

  • Click on the File tab.

  • After that, click on the Blank workbook option.

Keyboard Shortcut:

Just press Ctrl+N from an existing workbook and a new workbook will open.


Introduction to Excel Tabs / Ribbons: Home, Insert, Formulas, Data, Etc.

Beginners or new learners of Microsoft Excel will find Excel Tabs or Ribbons in the upper section of the worksheet in the Excel workbook.

This section contains all the operation tools of Excel.

We can customize the visibility of this section from Ribbon Display Options.

The Home Tab:

The Home tab contains all the basic features to make an Excel file. Like font, size, color, border, background color, alignment, number format, etc. It also contains cell height, width, sort, filter, find & replace, and other features.

The Insert Tab:

The Insert tab contains lots of features. Those are mainly the insertion of images, text boxes, equations, symbols, etc.

The Formulas Tab:

The Formulas tab is all about discussing different types of formulas used in Excel. One more thing formulas are made of Excel Functions. So, we will discuss different functions, Evaluate Formula and the Name Manager.

Excel Data Tab:

The Data tab discusses the features related to data customization. Like, as forming tables, group & ungroup data, data validation, consolidating, flash fill, etc.


25 Beginners Tasks to Use in Microsoft Excel

Though Microsoft Excel has many advanced functions, even the facility of coding, we will try to cover the very common tasks for beginners in this section.

1. Customize Row and Column Format of an Excel Workbook

In this section, we will customize the format of the cell to present the data in a good manner.

📌 Steps:

  • First, move the cursor to the upper leftmost corner of the dataset.
  • Then, go to the Format section from the Cells tab.
  • After that, click on the Row Height option from the Format drop-down list.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Cell

  • The Row Height window appears.
  • Now, input the Row height here and then press the OK button.

  • We can see the cell height has been changed.
  • We can also see the data of Cell B1 is not well fit. So, we need to adjust the width of this cell.
  • Place the cursor at the border of columns B and C.
  • Then, double-click the mouse left button.

  • We can see the column is now well-fitted.

  • Now, select the whole dataset by pressing Ctrl + A.
  • Then, choose the Middle option from the alignment section.

  • We will set the border of each cell. Select our dataset set first.
  • Then, go to the Borders drop-down. Select the All Borders option from the drop-down list.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Border

  • Dataset is separated from the whole sheet now.

  • Now, we will change the format of the heading of both columns.
  • Select Range A1:B1.
  • First, select B for bold from the Font section.
  • Then, click on Center from the Alignment section.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Alignment

  • After that, we will change the font and background color of those cells.

  • We will get both options from the Font section.


2. How to Apply a Number Format and Increase/Decrease Decimal Places in Excel

Microsoft Excel has different number formats for various purposes: Number, Currency, Date, Percentage, etc. Now, we will see how beginners can navigate these options in Microsoft Excel UI.

📌 Steps:

  • First, we will see a field in the Number From this section, we can select the most common format.

  • Click on the drop-down list.

We can see a list of formats here.

  • We can also add decimal points to the dataset.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Decimal Points

Two buttons are here for adding and removing decimal points.

Example:

The values showing in the Projected Revenue column must be in a certain currency with a specific decimal point. We need to format that column for that.

📌 Steps:

  • Select Range B2:B13.
  • Then, press Ctrl +1.

  • Format Cells window appears.
  • Choose Accounting from the Number tab.
  • Choose the currency from the Symbol drop-down list.
  • Also, fix the Decimal places.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Format Number

  • Finally, press the OK button.


3. Use Excel Conditional Formatting to Analyse Data for Specified Criteria

In this section, we will introduce the Conditional Formatting of Excel. We can set different conditions like the highest value, lowest value, and other built-in conditions. We can also insert formulas to set criteria in conditional formatting.

The Conditional Formatting feature is available in the Home tab.

📌 Steps:

  • First, select the data using the mouse.
  • Then, click on the Conditional Formatting button.
  • Now, choose Between option from the Highlight Cells Rules.

We want to highlight the cells of the dataset between two values.

  • A dialog box appears.
  • Insert 1200 as the lowest and 1450 as the highest value.
  • We can choose the highlighting color from the drop-down list.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Conditional Formatting

Cells B6:B9 are highlighted with light red color.


4. How to Create, Design, and Use an Excel Table

In this section, we will introduce the Table format in Excel. The table has many advantages like filter, sort, etc. We can form a table from the Insert ribbon or by using a keyboard shortcut.

📌 Steps:

  • First, select the whole dataset (or a cell inside the data).
  • Then, go to the Insert tab and click on the Table option.

We can also do this by pressing Ctrl + T.

  • The Create Table dialog box is now being shown.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Table

Our selected range is shown here. We can also mark the My table has headers option.

  • Now, press OK.
  • We can see the name of the table on the upper left side.

  • We can see a drop-down symbol in each column of the table.
  • We can avail of filter and sort features here.

  • We can also avail of the sort and filter option in the Editing section of the Home tab.

  • Excel table has a dedicated tab named Table Design option in the ribbon section.

  • The Table Design has some features which make the table very attractive.
  • For example, we can get the total amount of a column by using the Total Row Just tick the Total Row option from the Table Style Options section.

After that, we can see a new addition to the dataset. This row shows the sum of that row.

  • We can also have other options in the total row feature.
  • Click on the drop-down button of this total row, and we can see more options like average, count, max, min, etc.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Table (Total row)


5. How to Copy Data and Paste in Excel

Many times while using Microsoft Excel, we may need to copy data and paste it into the desired location. In this section, we will show how to copy and paste from the Home tab.

📌 Steps:

  • Move the cursor to Cell B2.
  • Click on the drop-down list in Copy section.
  • Select the Copy options.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Copy

We can also press Ctrl + C keyboard shortcut.

  • Now, click on the Paste section.
  • We will see a list of options.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Paste

  • Look at the dataset.

Data has been copied and pasted to the dataset.


6. Apply Excel Fonts, Font Size, Font Color, Fill Color, Borders, and Others Commands

Here we will see how to customize the font section. We can choose the font type, size, style, color, background color, etc.

📌 Steps:

  • Click on the arrow in the Font section.
  • Then, we will get the Format Cells window with the Font tab.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Font, Size, Color, Style

We can also go there by keyboard shortcut Ctrl+ Shift+ F.


7. How to Insert or Delete Cells, Rows, Columns, and Sheets in Excel

Here, we will discuss how to insert and delete cells, rows, columns, and sheets from the workbook.

📌 Steps:

  • We can see the Insert and Delete options in the Cells section.

  • Click on the drop-down of the Insert.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Insert

We can see options for inserting cells, rows, columns, and sheets.

  • Similarly, we will get options in the Delete section.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Delete

  • We can also perform this from the Context Menu.
  • Click on any row, column or cell and then press the right button of the mouse.

We will get the Insert and Delete options there.

  • Another way to insert a new sheet, go to the bottom section of the dataset and click on the plus button.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Insert Sheet


8. Use Find & Select Feature in Excel

There is another interesting feature in the Home tab which is Find & Select feature.

📌 Steps:

  • We will get this in the Editing section of the worksheet.

  • Click on the Find & Select drop-down and will get a list.
  • From this list, we can select the Find or Replace options.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Find & Replace

The advantage of the Replace option is that by this we can search for any item and replace that item as well.

  • Click on Find or Replace any of the options and this below window will appear.

We will input anything in the Find what box for searching. We can also press Ctrl + F as the keyboard shortcut for Find and Replace. (To go to Replace directly, press Ctrl+H)


9. How to Easily Create a Chart in Microsoft Excel

Here, we will show how to create a chart in Excel.

📌 Steps:

  • Select the dataset without the total row.
  • Then, click on the Insert tab.
  • Now, click on the arrow button in the Charts section.

  • The Insert Chart window appears.
  • Go to All Charts. After that, select our desired type of chart.

  • Finally, press the OK button.
  • We can see a chart with the dataset.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Chart

There is a dedicated tab named Chart Design added in the ribbon for the chart. We can customize the chart using this tab.


10. Adding Images or Shapes Using the Illustration Feature of Insert Tab

From the Illustration section, we can insert images, shapes, screenshots, etc.

📌 Steps:

  • Go to Insert >> Illustration.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Illustrations

We get different options from the Illustration section.

  • Click on the Picture drop-down to insert a picture.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Picture

We can see different source references to insert the image.

  • After that, click on the Shapes drop-down to insert any shape.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Shape

We get different types of shapes like lines, rectangles, etc from here.

There are also other options, but those are the most commonly used elements.


11. How to Add Text Boxes in Excel Sheet

Now, we will discuss the Text box feature of the Insert tab. To add a text box, just do the following.

📌 Steps:

  • Go to Insert >> Text.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Insert

  • Click on the drop-down symbol.

We get a list with different options.

  • Just click on the Text Box field and a rectangular box will appear.
  • Place that box anywhere you like.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Text Box

We can also resize this rectangular box.

  • Another feature is Header & Footer. Footer is usually used to present the page number at the bottom of each page. On the other hand, a Header is used to present any common text to all the pages.
  • To avail of this feature, just click on the Header & Footer section.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Header & Footer


12. Inserting Equations and Symbols in Microsoft Excel

Here, we will discuss the Equation and Symbol features which are sub-sections of the Symbols field.

📌 Steps:

  • Go to Insert >> Symbols.

  • Now, click on the Equation drop-down.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Equation

We get a set of equations.

To insert a symbol-

  • Click on the Symbol section.
  • We get a new window named Symbol.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Symbol

We can select our desired symbols from this window.


13. Some of the Most Commonly Used Excel Functions

Well, Excel functions are most probably the most useful features of this awesome software. Here, we will see some most commonly used functions of Excel.

  • SUM – It is the total of a series or a range of numbers.
  • AVERAGE – It is the average of a series.
  • IF – It is a conditional function. If the condition is fulfilled reply True otherwise, False.
  • MIN -It determines the smallest number of a range.
  • MAX -It determines the largest number of a range.
  • COUNT -It counts the number of cells that contain data from the selection.
  • COUNTA – This function counts all the cells from a selection with error and blank texts.
  • COUNTBLANK  – This function counts all the blank cells from the selection.
  • LEN– The LEN function is used to count the number of characters of a cell.
  • TRIM – The TRIM function is used to remove unnecessary space between the words.
  • PRODUCT -This function is used to multiply numbers.

Microsoft Excel 365 version has more than 450 functions. To learn all these, you can click on the following links.


14. How to Evaluate a Formula in Excel

When you use a formula in Excel collected from an external source, or you have created a formula, but it’s giving erroneous values in return, then you may want to investigate what is wrong with that formula. So, Microsoft Excel has an Evaluate Formula option in the Formula Auditing section of the Formulas tab.

It will show the steps of how a formula works. Just click on the Evaluate button repeatedly.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Formula Evaluation


15. How to Define Names for a Range and Use Them in a Formula

A bit advanced level use of Microsoft Excel for beginners it is! But it’s really useful to define a name for a range of cells and use the name instead in a formula every time you refer to that specific range.

Name Manager is one feature that is used to group several cells.

📌 Steps:

  • To avail of this feature first, select a range of cells.
  • Then, choose Name Manager from the Formulas tab.

  • The Name Manager window appears.
  • Click on the New option.

  • Now, put a name in the Name box.
  • We will see the selected range in the refers to box.
  • Finally, press the OK button.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Name Manager

  • Now, move the cursor to any cell and write ‘=mon‘. We get a list of suggestions.
  • Choose the marked Month option.

  • After that, press the Enter button.

Look at the dataset now. We get the name of all months.


16. How to Create a List with Data Validation

In this section, we will discuss Data Validation. This feature will add a drop-down list from which we can select our desired item.

📌 Steps:

We will add a drop-down list here to select the month.

  • First, add new cells for applying data validation.

In the month column, we will select the month value and the adjacent cell will show the Projected Revenue of the selected month.

  • Move the mouse to Cell E2.
  • Go to the Data Validation option from the Data tab.

  • A new window named Data Validation appears.
  • Choose List from the Allow field.

  • Select the range of months in the Source field.
  • Finally, press the OK button.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Data Validation

  • Then, put the following formula based on the VLOOKUP function to get value from the previous data collection.
=VLOOKUP(H2,A2:B13,2,FALSE)

  • Click on the drop-down symbol for selecting Month.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Drop-down list

  • Look at the dataset now.

We get the revenue for the selected month from the drop-down list.


17. How to Consolidate Data in Microsoft Excel

In this section, we will show how to combine data from different sheets or workbooks into a single sheet. We will do this by applying the Data Consolidation feature of the Data tab.

📌 Steps:

  • We have data in 2 sheets, one for 2021 and another one for 2022. And in the third sheet will combine those sheets.

One thing that needs to mention is that in both of the sheets data starts from the same location and also in the consolidation sheet data will be in the same location.

  • Now move the cursor to Cell B2 and click on the Consolidate feature of the Data Tools.
  • Then, Consolidate window will appear.

  • Choose the desired SUM operation from the Function field.

  • After that, go to the Reference field.
  • Choose the desired cells from the sheet 2021. Then press the Add button.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Consolidate

  • After that, select the range from sheet 2022.
  • Finally, click on the OK button.

  • We can see the total in the 3rd sheet.


18. How to Check Spelling and Get Workbook Data Statistics from Review Tab

After typing lots of words, it’s hard and not at all feasible to check the typing mistakes manually! Using the Spelling command, you can easily check for spelling corrections. It’s available in the Review tab.

There are several options in the Review tab. Of them, Spelling and Workbook Statistics are most commonly used.

📌 Steps:

  • The Spelling feature checks the whole worksheet. Click on the Spelling command.
  • A dialog box will appear for giving permission.
  • Choose the Yes option.

You can also avail of this feature by pressing F7.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Spelling

  • Then, another dialog box will show the status of the checking.

  • Now, we will check the Worksheet Statistics. Click on that button.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Statistics

A window appears showing the all information on the worksheet: last data cell, how many cells have data, number of tables, number of formulas used, number of sheets, etc.


19. Use of View Ribbon of Microsoft Excel

The View tab defines how the worksheet will look. We will explain the commonly used features of the View tab like Show, Zoom, and Freeze Panes.

Use of Microsoft Excel: View

  • The Show section determines how a datasheet will look.
  • We will avail of these features by putting a tick sign beside those options.
  • The Formula Bar option stands for showing the formula bar. It also shows the Name Box.
  • The Heading feature shows the row and column headings.
  • The Gridlines option shows the gridline of the dataset.

  • The Zoom feature is used for zooming in or out. Go to View >> Zoom. A dialog box appears to set the zoom level. Tick the desired zoom level, then press the OK button.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Zoom

  • Sometimes we need to see a certain number of rows or columns appear all the time in the datasheet. That time, we choose the Freeze Panes option.
  • There are three options for freezing.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Freeze Panes

  • We wanted to freeze the 1st column of the datasheet. We select the Freeze First Column option.
  • We can see the 1st column has been fixed.


20. How to Change Selection Direction After Pressing Enter Key

You can change the direction of the moving selection too. For that,

  • Press Alt+F+T and the Excel Options window will appear.
  • Now, go to the Advanced option and select the direction you want.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Direction


21. How to Expand Data in Column Using Fill Handle

In this step, we will show the use of the Fill Handle feature. This feature prohibits copying the same formula or a range manually in cells.

📌 Steps:

  • We will apply the Fill Handle feature on Cell A2. We want to get the rest of the month’s name in this column. We can see the Fill Handle icon at the bottom right corner of Cell A2.

  • Just drag the Fill Handle icon downwards and then look at the dataset now.

All the months’ names are showing now. This feature helps us a lot. No need to type all the month’s names one by one.


22. How to Apply a Formula for Mathematical Operation in Excel

Now, we will apply the Excel formula for mathematical calculation. We assume a 5% increment for every next month’s revenue.

📌 Steps:

  • Go to Cell B3 and put in the following formula.
B2+B2*5%

Use of Microsoft Excel: Formula

  • After that, press the Enter button.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Fill Handle

  • Now, drag the Fill Handle icon.

Look at the dataset now. Revenue based on our formula is showing.


23. How to Save & Print Excel Worksheet

How to save a file in Excel? Quite easy. Just do the following.

📌 Steps:

  • If our file is new or we want to save an existing file newly, we need to apply the Save As feature.
  • Click on the File tab.
  • Then, select the Save As option.
  • Put the name of the file in the marked section.
  • Then, press the Save button.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Save

  • Look at the top of the file.

The file was saved with a new name. After that, if we made any modification to this file, press the Ctrl + S button. After each modification saves the file.

  • Now, we will show how to print a saved excel file.
  • Go to File >> Print.
  • Or we can press Ctrl + P, a keyboard shortcut for printing files.

Use of Microsoft Excel: Print

We can see our desired file is proceeding with printing.


24. How to Use Excel AutoSave Feature

A devastating situation for beginners in Microsoft Excel is that they often forget to save the work for a long time and forget to save the file from time to time. This also happens to advanced-level users. It is a big mistake. Because if our file closes or crashes for any reason, our progress on this will be lost. Excel provides us with an autosave feature for that.

📌 Steps:

  • Go to File >> Options >> Save.
  • Set a time for Save AutoRecover information every…minutes option.

Autosave feature as the use of Microsoft Excel

We can change the time. After this period, the file will save automatically.


25. Some Common Keyboard Shortcuts to Perform Some Frequent Tasks in Microsoft Excel

In the last part, we will show some most commonly used keyboard shortcuts for beginners in Microsoft Excel.

  • Ctrl +C – Used to copy data.
  • Ctrl +X – Used to cut data.
  • Ctrl + V – Used to paste data.
  • Ctrl + 1 – Used for Cell Format.
  • F2Used to edit a cell.
  • F4– Used to change the cell reference type.
  • Ctrl + T– Used to form table.

Conclusion

In this article, we described how to use Microsoft Excel for beginners from the root level. I hope this will satisfy your needs. Please have a look at our website ExcelDemy and give your suggestions in the comment box.


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Khan Muhammad Kawser

Khan Muhammad Kawser

Hello! Welcome to my Excel blog! It took me some time to be a fan of Excel. But now I am a die-hard fan of MS Excel. I learn new ways of doing things with Excel and share them here. Not only a how-to guide on Excel, but you will get also topics on Finance, Statistics, Data Analysis, and BI. Stay tuned! You can check out my courses at Udemy: udemy.com/user/exceldemy/

2 Comments
  1. Great post Kawser.
    And thank you for mentioning my Excel Resources page.

  2. It’s my pleasure Rick. Nice to see you here and thanks for commenting!

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