Monday, September 24, 2012

A Few Basic Tricks for Excel

Excel is an excellent program for more than analyzing numbers. It can be used to track information in many different ways; for example, you can use it for attendance purposes, as a grading system, to track steps in a process, etc. But many of us have no more than a rudimentary knowledge of how it works and what it can do. Here are some basic maneuvers the program uses.

Freezing Panes or Top Row or Columns: you know that there are times when you have a long list of information in a spreadsheet, and as you begin to move to the lower parts of that sheet, you lose the column headings identifying what kind of information is in each column. You can “freeze” the top row so that it is always present. This is easy to do. Go the “View” tab in the top ribbon bar. When you click that tab, you will see a menu selection titled “Freeze Panes.” Click that and it opens a drop-down menu with 3 choices: Freeze Pane, Freeze Top Row, or Freeze First Column. If you click on “Freeze Top Row.” That top row will now have a dark line under it and will remain present as you scroll up and down the information in your spreadsheet. Similarly, if you click on “Freeze First Column,” that will remain present as you move back and forth across many columns of data.

Wrapping Text: Sometimes you need to enter a lot of verbal information into a cell on Excel, but when you do the text either cannot be seen in the text box (because the box is likely too small to display it and you have not formatted it to wrap the text) or it extends well beyond and outside the text box. This is easily fixed. Once you enter the text, click on the text box into which that text was entered. You can now “wrap the text,” that is present it so that you can easily read it, by either going to the “Home” tab and clicking the box entitled “Wrap Text,” or by right clicking the box, select “Format Cells” from the drop-down menu that appears, click the “Alignment” tab, and then clicking “Wrap Text.” Either way will do the trick.

A Border for a Cell: Say that you have a spreadsheet in which you have entered a significant amount of information and every now and again there is one cell in particular that catches your eye, because it has some finding that you feel is interesting or worth returning to. But you have information in hundreds of cells. How can easily identify the ones that you wish to return to? There are several ways to do this. One is quite simple: highlight the cell in color. To do that, be on the “Home” tab and in that tab look for the “font” panel. In it you will see a small graphic of a pallet, which is next the “A” insignia used for changing the color of text. If you click on that button, you will be able to choose a color in which to highlight that cell. If later you need to remove the color, simply return to the button and choose the “no fill” command. You could also put a border around the cell> The Border control button looks like a small box and is situated in the “font” panel next to the fill command. When you click it, you will get a drop-down menu offering you many choices of how to place a border around that cell. You can play with the options to see how they display. Other options are to change text color for the cell or to alter the font in some way (i.e. boldface, italic, etc.).

These are a few basic Excel tricks which can help you organize information. Microsoft offers many additional tricks on its website, which can be a useful reference for you.

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