Excel for Beginners: 7 Essential Practices to Know When Using Excel

Are you about to use Microsoft Excel for the first time?

Seeing different icons can be overwhelming on your Excel spreadsheet. Nevertheless, it can do wonders for your data management and reporting.

They are also the reason why over 750 million people continue to use Excel worldwide. However, you can only maximize the program’s benefits if you master Excel for beginners.

Continue reading below for seven of the most important Excel skills to learn today.

1. Opening Your First Spreadsheet

After downloading Excel on a desktop or laptop, start performing your first task. Open Excel either from the Start menu or by double-clicking its icon. Once done, the application will first ask what you want to do.

To start with a blank spreadsheet, click on the “Blank workbook” option.

In case you’re working on an existing spreadsheet, hit “Open Other Workbooks.” You can find this option in the lower-left corner. Hit “Browse” on the left side of the window.

These may seem like basic tasks. However, mastering these steps helps make your Excel-related tasks easy and efficient.

Additionally, learn the difference between a workbook and a spreadsheet. The former is an Excel file. Moreover, it comes with a file extension of either XLS or XLSX, depending on the Excel version you’re using.

On the flip side, a spreadsheet refers to a single sheet within a workbook. Access the sheet using the tabs at the bottom of the Excel screen.

2. Sorting Data

Another vital skill is to sort your data. For example, you are preparing a guest list for an upcoming alumni homecoming in school. You’re expecting about 400 guests and you need to arrange them alphabetically.

With Excel, you can do so in a matter of seconds. Highlight the area of the names you wish to sort. Drag the cursor over the cells you want to sort.

Alternatively, go to the upper-left part of the spreadsheet and hit the triangle icon. It will select the entire data. Select the “Data” tab and hit the “Sort” button.

From there, sort the data any way you desire. You can sort their last names, the city they live in, or any other category on your list. Click “OK” to complete the sorting process.

The key is to select the entire data set instead of a single column. Doing so will keep all the rows and details intact.

3. Using the Basic Math Functions

Aside from sorting data, Excel has math functions for spreadsheets. It’s one of the main reasons businesses use Excel. They find the program useful for creating numbers and formulas.

Because of this feature, you don’t need to have a separate calculator. Let Excel do all the calculations after a few clicks.

To add, pick a blank cell that will display the sum. Type “=SUM” and pick the cells you wish to add. Hit “Enter” to add them together.

To subtract, do the same process. This time, type “=” in the blank cell. Thereafter, select the cell you wish to subtract from and type “-”. Pick the cell you want to subtract and hit “Enter.”

Do the same steps to multiply or divide. However, replace “-” with “*” or “/”, respectively.

4. Adding Frequent Actions

As you begin to use Excel regularly, you’ll use certain actions more frequently. To increase your efficiency, add your frequent actions to your quick access toolbar (QAT).

For example, if you often sort and arrange data, add the “Sort & Filter” function to your QAT.

Also, rearrange your shortcuts depending on usage frequency. Put the actions that you often use on top and arrange the rest in descending order.

5. Removing Duplicates

If you’re working on large data, you will sometimes notice duplicate entries. Since the integrity of your data is paramount, getting rid of them is essential.

Instead of manually searching and deleting duplicates, let Excel do it for you. Select the entire data set then click on the “Data” tab. From there, hit the “Remove Duplicates” button.

Pick the specific columns to scan. Hit “OK” and let the program find and delete them in a matter of seconds.

6. Pasting Special Settings

Excel works the same way as the Word program in terms of using the copy-paste function. However, aside from using the basic Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V method, Excel takes these functions to the next level.

Excel lets you copy and paste items without covering all elements such as the format or number. You can do this by using its Paste Special settings.

For example, use the “Formulas” option to retain the formula without including the formatting. Moreover, select “Values” if you only paste the text without changing the format.

7. Protecting Your Sheets

Learning about Excel for beginners is incomplete without mentioning sheet protection. A key feature of Excel is sharing the sheets and workbooks you’re working on. As you share your data, you may want to protect it from other users’ alterations.

Clicking the “Review” tab in the ribbon section at the top. Select “Protect Sheet” to open a pop-up box. Inside the box, add a password and the specific functions you wish to preserve.

Hit “OK” and confirm your password to enable the protection. Without the password, other users can’t alter your sheets and workbooks. It allows you to control the people with editing privileges on your records.

Additionally, learn how to recover an Excel file. Visit to know about recovering lost Excel files, especially on Mac. It’s a great backup in case the workbook’s integrity gets compromised.

Go Beyond Learning Excel for Beginners

Learning how to use Excel for beginners takes time. However, once you master these essentials, you can maximize Excel’s capabilities. Consider taking your skills to the next level after becoming a regular Excel user.

Check out our other articles where we discuss advanced Excel skills. We also tackle other applications that will help you become more productive at work.


Shanto is a professional blogger. He love to write about all latest topics. He is working as an seo expert from last 8 years.

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