Basic terms

There are a few things that every spreadsheet program will have, in one way or another.

  • Every spreadsheet will have cells.  (Or cels with a single L, but my spell-checker hates that, and I don’t remember where I learned it, so…)  That’s a single box that holds one piece of data.  In Excel, a cell is identified by the row and column that it is in.
  • Every spreadsheet will have rows.  That’s a horizontal line of cells.  In Excel, the rows are identified by numbers.
  • Every spreadsheet will have columns.  That a vertical line of cells.  In Excel, the columns are identified by letters (A, B,…Z, AA, AB…AZ,BA,…).
  • Every spreadsheet will have a way to view the complete contents of cells.  Most (possibly all) will have it in a long box near the top of the screen, similar to the address bar in a browser.  I’ll be calling this the formula bar.
  • The rows and columns all reside on a single page, called a worksheet.  Generally if you see several tabs near the bottom of your screen, they lead to the different worksheets.  Each worksheet  has a different name.  When you open an Excel file it will have three blank worksheets, named Sheet 1, Sheet2, and Sheet3.
  • All the worksheets in a file are collectively referred to as a workbook.

In the cells, you can put text or formulas.  Before you have flashbacks to math class and decide to flee in terror, the formulas aren’t necessarily horrible.  = 1 is a formula that tells the program that the value in that cell is equal to 1.  I’ll explore formulas more in later posts.

It you put text in a cell, it won’t do anything.  In most cases the only reason to put text in a spreadsheet is so a human viewing that spreadsheet knows what they’re looking at.  Therefore, even though it doesn’t help the spreadsheet at all, I strongly recommend adding text so that if you come back to your spreadsheet in a year or so you’ll still be able to make sense of it!