Getting Comfortable With The Basics

Introduction to Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets have a number of uses in the organization and maintenance of information.   We use them extensively as we collect and store information for future analysis or research.  They can be as simple as a means to track household expenses or as complex as finding the correlation of many independent variables.   While it is unlikely that most of our Senior Tech Group members will ever need 95 percent of the features of the spreadsheet programs that are available to us, that other five percent is very useful.

The basic concept of spreadsheets is that information is placed into Cells, which each have a unique address.  Think of the spreadsheet as a matrix of many boxes (the cells).  On the left side of the matrix, descending down the sheet, each horizontal line is identified by a number, beginning at 1 and continuing on down the matrix.    The vertical lines on the matrix, intersecting with the horizontal lines form the cells.  The boxes are identified from from left to right alphabetically beginning with A and continuing.   If the number of lines exceeds Z (26 lines), then it begins over again, with AA to AZ, then BA to BZ, etc.  So the first box on the top left of the matrix is called A1.  The next one to the right is B1.  Going down from the first box, the next one below is A2 and the one below that is A3.

The cells generally contain data or labels for the data that they contain.  For example, a cell may contain your cost of electricity for the month.  It would probably be on the same line as the name of the month, perhaps in the next cell to the right.

The cells may also contain formulas or equations that allow you to perform calculations on the data that is in other cells.  The simplest of these is the ability to sum all of the values in cells in a vertical column or cells on a horizontal row.

In our Senior Tech Group session on Spreadsheets we will create a spreadsheet to track utility expenses, month-by-month and year-by-year.  The spreadsheet will be sent to each participant so they can use it in their own computers.

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