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Sections of an Excel screen

Excel consists of various features that you will use as you create your workbooks. It is important that you familiarize yourself with the Excel layout and the various features for capturing and manipulating different types of data in an Excel document.

This section helps you locate the main Excel Office icon and understand its functionalities.


Launching the Excel program

There are a few ways to launch/open Excel. If you do not have an icon on your desktop or task bar to click, you can follow these steps to launch or open the Excel software application on your computer:

1. Click on Start, >> All Programs and scroll down to find Excel in your list of programs. See Figure 1 for an Excel icon (Note that the icon may differ slightly depending on your version):

Figure1: Excel Icon


2. Now open Excel and create a new document by clicking the “Blank workbook” area (See Figure 2). You can also use an existing template or simply take a tour to get a simulated introduction to different features.

Figure 2: Creating a new document (blank document)


3. A single Excel document or file is called a workbook, and may contain one or many worksheets. Figure 3 shows a single worksheet and a typical landing page that you will get when you open a new workbook.

Figure 3: Overview of Excel screen elements


The different sections of the Excel interface are explained below.

Interface section 1: Excel Quick Access tool bar and File Button

The File tab is one of the most important tabs you will use to navigate to save and share commands for your files. The Quick access tool bar and file buttons indicated in the image by 2 and 1 respectively are described in detail in Table 1.

                 Figure 4: Excel Quick access tool bar and File tab


Table 1: Excel Quick access tool bar and File button





File tab

 The file tab opens and provides options of saving, printing and sharing your document files.


Quick Access Toolbar

Keeps commonly used and favourite commands visible when the ribbon is hidden e.g. open file, save and format painter. This toolbar is discussed in detail in a later reading.


Interface section 2: The Excel ribbons

The Excel ribbon consists of commands you will use to carry out various tasks and functionalities in Excel. Ribbon features are described in Table 2.

                                                                              Figure 5: Parts of Excel Ribbon

Table 2: Parts of Excel Ribbon





Ribbon display options

Clicking on gives you options to hide or show commands on the ribbon.

Tabs will appear on the ribbon to interact with various commands when you need them e.g. charts



Main location for Excel commands. Each ribbon tab has groups and set of related commands that you can use to manipulate data.


Open a dialog box

The launcher  shows more options for a group, e. g. formats of numbers, dates, etc. can be changed by clicking on  in Number group.


Interface section 3: The worksheet itself

Each worksheet (also referred to as a spreadsheet) is made up of rows, columns and active cell. Table 3 describes basic features of a spreadsheet.

                                                                               Figure 6: Parts of the Excel worksheet


Table 3: Parts of Excel worksheet





Active cell

The current active cell (A1) indicates the selected cell is in

Column A, Row 1


Name box

Displays the active address or name of selected cell, cell range or objects e.g. A1.


Formula bar

Displays information or formulas entered


Column letters

Represents columns in a worksheet. Letters range from A to XFD. To select an entire column, click on the column letter e.g. A to select column A.


Row Numbers

Represents rows ranging from 1 to 1,048,576 rows in a worksheet. To select a row, click on the row number e.g. 6 to select Row 6


Tables 1 to 3 provide an overview of the Excel interface features. Read through the various screen parts and practice on your computer to interact and locate these features on the ribbon.