Excel Formulas

The Tutorials

Chapter 1

What You Should Already Know

This chapter explains several basic Excel concepts that you should know before you start writing formulas. If you're already familiar with the Excel window and you know how to move around the grid, you can skip to the following chapter. Otherwise, complete the exercises below to get some practice!

Exercise #1: Find the cell

Here's an exercise that helps you get comfortable with Excel cell references. It leads you on an Excel hunt that jumps around the worksheet grid, from one cell to another.

  1. Begin by opening the Find the cell.xlsx workbook.

    Click the link above to download the workbook file to your computer, then open it. Excel will start in protected view, because it doesn't know whether it should trust your file. To accept the file and switch out of protected view, click Enable Editing in the yellow bar at the top of the Excel window.

  2. Now start the hunt. The instructions are written at the top of the worksheet grid, telling you which cell to start with. Each time you find a cell, write down the letter that's inside it on a piece of paper. Then follow the instruction that tells you which cell to find next.

    Remember, all cells in Excel are identified by a letter and a number. The letter (like B) tells you what column to look in. The number (like 2) tells you the row. You always put the letter first, so B2 and B20 are real cell references, but 2B and 20B don't make sense to Excel.

    If you scroll to the right past the first 26 columns, you'll find columns that use more than one letter, like AA and AB. But most spreadsheets aren't that wide, so you won't see double (or tripled) column letters very often.

  3. At the end of your hunt, you'll have the letters to spell something.

    You should get L E C X E -- that's Excel backwards.

Exercise #2: Make this look like that

This exercise runs through some simple examples of number formatting, which lets you change the way Excel displays the numbers and dates on your worksheet.

  1. Open the Make this look like that.xlsx workbook.

  2. Your challenge is to make each number in the B column look like the corresponding formatted value in the E column. Start by moving to the cell B2 (which contains the number 43).

  3. Find the part of the ribbon that lets you change number formats.

    It's the Home►Number section of the ribbon. There you'll see a box with a list of number formats. (Initially the format is set to General, which means there is no special formatting applied to the cell.)

  4. Now format B2 (the number 43) so that it looks like cell E2 (the formatted value $43.00).

    All you need to do is pick the Currency format. Click the down-pointing arrow on the right side of the number format box to see the full list.

    Then click Currency.

  5. Now format the other cells in the B column, one at a time. You'll need to use the other buttons in the Home►Number section of the ribbon to add commas and adjust the number of decimal places.

    You probably won't get them all, but finish as many as you can. Then, check the solution worksheet, which explains the formatting of each cell. (To get to the solution worksheet, click the Solution tab at the bottom of the Excel window.)