Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
What is a spreadsheet?
Don’t worry if you don’t understand the controls or the screen layout yet. It looks
a lot more complicated than it is, and the projects in this topic will take you from
entering your fi rst data to doing some of the great stuff Excel is capable of.
The grid dominating the screen is a spreadsheet and the boxes on the spreadsheet
are called cells. As you might remember from the Introduction, spreadsheets are
ideal for organising information. They’re often used for maths projects, but in this
chapter we’ll focus on how you can organise text and how you can format it.
The fi rst spreadsheet program is usually considered to be VisiCalc. It was
created in 1979 by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston, and helped to make the
Apple II computer a success.
Much of what we’re doing in this project would also be possible in Word, so you
might wonder what’s so special about a spreadsheet. The main difference is that
there’s some intelligence to the way that Excel can manipulate your information.
For example, Excel can look in one cell to work out what should be in another
cell, so you could get it to convert your shopping bill from euros to pounds
automatically. Excel can quickly fi lter your information, too, so it could show you all
the address entries with the same surname, for example. As you work with the
program, you’ll learn lots of ways Excel can help you by processing and
organising your information.
The other major difference is that Word is mostly about creating documents to be
printed out. Excel is about organising information on screen, and this means that
the size of the printed page does not limit what you can do. At my screen
resolution, the maximum size possible for a spreadsheet extends to a width of about 376 m
and a length of about 8388 m. Obviously, nobody ever creates spreadsheets that
big (or if they do, they never live to tell the tale). You probably won’t even need to
scroll through the screen most of the time. But it’s a good illustration of the
difference between Word and Excel: Excel documents are at their most useful when
still in Excel, even though you can print them out.
Another way to think of it is that you’d use Word when your main goal is to lay
out information so it looks nice, and use Excel when the priority is to lay out
 
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