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Monday, October 2, 2000
Learning Computers

The Mona Lisa software

Like the much-famed Mona Lisa smile, which apparently looks directed towards the viewer, Microsoft Excel (MS Excel) makes a user feel that it has been created for him, especially.

Right from a housewife to software professional it is the apple of every computer user, especially if he or she dabbles in mathematics and numbers, be it a simple household budget or a complex business query.

Like other components of MS Office, MS Excel is also user-friendly software. There is extensive help available on every aspect of this software. However, the best way to learn this software is to actually use it.


For the sake of understanding, this topic has been divided into two parts:

  1. Main features
  2. Uses and applications

Main features: MS Excel uses spreadsheet interface to store and edit data. Just as in MS Word, one works in a document, similarly in case of Excel, one uses a workbook. A workbook is a file where one can work and store data. Since each workbook may have many spreadsheets, you can organise a lot of information and data in one workbook. Spreadsheets are basically divided into cells, which is the basic unit of storing a data. Thus, whatever is entered in a workbook has to be stored in different cells.

The best part of using MS Excel is that all cells are so placed that a link between two cells can be created using simple mathematical/logical formula. For example, if cell A1 (column 1, row1) represents revenue and B1( column 2, row 1) represents cost and cell C1 ( column3, row1) has been linked to cells A1 and B1 in such a way that it gives the difference of A1-B1, i.e. profit or loss, then whenever, the value of either of these cells, (A1 or B1) would change, it will be reflected in cell C1.

Chart of data can be created. Whenever the changes take place in these cells, the chart automatically gets updated and shows the changed values. The use of Excel is not just limited to a few cells or a single worksheet (spreadsheet). One can enter and edit data on several worksheets simultaneously and perform calculations based on these from multiple worksheets. Similarly, charts can also be made from several worksheets simultaneously.

It has an extensive and non-exhaustive database of formulae. These formulae, known as functions, are available under Insert menu. On clicking Insert, a dropdown submenu opens up, which has a sub-menu called Function. It has user-friendly and self-explanatory formulae, logical test, mathematical applications and formulae and simple arithmetic formulae. The list of functions, which actually connect two or more cells, is endless. However, in order to use these functions you need not be a mathematical wizard as there is extensive help available. Moreover these functions have a user-friendly interface. So you would not require much help to work out the formulae of requirements and can yourself design own database.

Excel also has the facility of linking database/spreadsheet, either with other spreadsheets or database or even with an external source by using ODBC drivers and DDE links. Thus, if you have links with any external source, your spreadsheet automatically gets updated, whenever there is a change in the file with which the spreadsheet is linked.

For retailers, this feature could prove very useful for knowing stock or cash position at any point of time. Similarly, for maintaining accounts, the DDE links may prove useful as separate account with the main database can be linked to streamline the accounting requirements.

MS Excel (97 and higher) supports the HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). E-business is fast catching up and the Internet has become a virtual office for all major companies. In order to synchronise all activities, it is essential to have a direct link between the Web and the workstation. In order to meet the demands of the modern business, MS Excel has the HTML support in its programmes. Whatever is done in Excel, can be transformed into the HTML by saving it in that format. The Internet assistant wizard does the job of converting the data to the HTML format. If one wants to convert the data to the HTML format, the wizard converts it into a HTML Web page. This is possible in two ways:

  1. By creating an independent, ready to view HTML document that contains the formatted data from spreadsheet.
  2. Appending the converted data into an existing HTML file, which will just add the table to the existing document.

The data can then be transported to the Web site and that too in formatted form .

Excel also contains a feature that can add hyperlinks to spreadsheets. These hyperlink may relate to the Web or to computer. If you have created a hyperlink to a Web site, then it would be placed in a cell. On clicking, the desired Web site opens up. Also one can hyperlink any file in computer or spreadsheet that can later be opened up.

MS Excel has some value-added features of Word processor also, like spell check, auto correct, insertion of clip arts, maps, graphs, pictures, objects and Word art. Though, in no case, it can be used as a word processor efficiently, yet these features add a lot of value to the software.

MS Excel also has compatibility with MS Access. Create a link between the two or import Excel data in MS access and combine the power of Excel to a large database in MS Access.

MS Excel also gives the power to secure data from others and gives the option of protecting workbook/worksheet by putting in a password.

Uses and applications: Like its features, the uses and applications of MS Excel are also endless and may vary from person to person. It has its uses for a novice as well an expert. Beginners may find its use in simple or a complex calculation that could be a part of the regular accounting work or general budgeting. The Excel can also be used in making reports. For example, daily sales reports of various products and regions can be made efficiently by using Excel that may also come handy for the purpose of comparing and concluding.

Value-added feature of Excel, like charts that get updated from the data themselves can be used in such reports to give precise information about the database. One of the uses is the visual basic support in the form of Macros.

Macros are visual basic commands, which instruct a computer to perform an operation in a particular way and sequence. Thus macros can finish a job in seconds that may otherwise take hours to complete. For example if a trial balance is to be made, it can be made instantly, which is otherwise a cumbersome job.

Other use of MS Excel is in database interpretation. If one wishes to interpret from the database, MS Excel can then easily do it. Moreover, you can also sort the database by using the Sort menu on the tool bar and also find out the data using specific criteria. If at the end of the day you want to create a product report, then you can sort database by taking the keyword of product. Alternatively if you wish to filter out those products, which have fared badly during a specific period, then you can easily do so by using the filter sub-menu under the Sort menu. There could by thousands of other uses and applications looking at the versatility of this software.


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