Overview of Basic Tasks and the Excel Ribbon

In this article:

Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet application that offers an extensive suite of features, including tools for data storage, calculation, and Visual Basic programming. As a versatile, feature-rich application, Excel provides a variety of tools and features that are specifically beneficial for academic purposes. The list of tips and tricks below provides solutions to common data storage, calculation and formatting challenges that you may encounter when using Excel.

For more tips and tricks on Excel, read the Working with Cells, Columns and Rows and Working with Formulas in Excel articles.

Basic tasks in Excel

Excel is designed to allow you to collect, calculate and analyze vast data sets with the use of workbooks. The core elements of the workbooks are the cells within the workbook grid. Data is entered into cells and then grouped in rows and columns. Once data has been entered and grouped, it can be used for a variety of calculations and analyses.

To effectively utilize the tools in Excel, it is you must become familiar with performing some basic tasks in Excel, including how to:


Get to know the Ribbon

Most commands in Excel can be executed from the Ribbon, which is located above the Excel workbook. The Ribbon contains multiple tabs that house the various commands available for use when working with a workbook. The default Ribbon arrangement contains the following tabs:

Home tab

While helpful, the Ribbon takes up a significant amount of space above the workbook, which may prove distracting. An open, or expanded, Ribbon can collapsed by double-clicking any of the tabs. It can be expanded by double-clicking any of the tabs on a collapsed Ribbon. 


Customize the quick access toolbar

The Quick Access Toolbar is a valuable resource that can enhance the efficiency of your Excel experience. This customizable toolbar is located above the Ribbon, which contains tabs that house all Excel commands. A select number of commands from the Ribbon can be added to the Quick Access Toolbar, allowing for easier access to the selected commands. Commands added to the Quick Access toolbar are available regardless of the currently-selected tab in the ribbon.

To learn how to customize the Quick Access Toolbar, view the Customize the Quick Access Toolbar article at the Microsoft Support Center.

Quick Access Toolbar


Excel shortcuts

Excel is a dense application with numerous useful functions that make it easy to store, calculate and analyze data. These varied functions can be accessed through many of the on-screen icons presented in the Ribbon, but they can also be accessed through keyboard shortcuts and function keys.

To learn about the extensive range of Excel keyboard shortcuts, view the Excel shortcut and function keys article in the Microsoft Support Center.