Simple Excel Crash Course Introduction

Simple Crash Course in Excel Spreadsheets, Formulas, Pivot Tables

They didn’t teach me Excel in school!

Excel wasn’t taught in my school but it turns out that Excel is actually one of the most important tools at the workplace.  From my experience, it is something where all of us should have some basic knowledge. 

Excel is the new calculator

Excel is now regularly used in all sizes of business as well as in the home.  The number of reports and data in organisations is growing at a tremendous pace, and it is very likely that you will find some of this in Excel. You might also use it to manage your personal budget by recording your expenses.  In a nutshell, Excel is the new calculator.

Simple Crash Course in Excel to get you off your feet

So, if you are just out of school and starting work, getting back to the workforce after a long break or trying not to look incompetent when the boss is asking you to lookup an Excel file, here some free and paid online courses that will provide you with a simple crash course in Excel. I’ve selected paid courses that will provide you with a crash course introduction to Excel. If you are looking to learn for free, I’ve also chosen a playlist of youtube videos which i think will guide you through key Excel topics.

Simple crash course in Excel
Screenshot of Excel. Many many empty cells!

What can Excel do?

You can store data in each cell. Some of the data you can store are:

  • Numbers
  • Text
  • Dates

You reference each cell by their column names and row numbers

Stuff i bought last week, recorded in Excel
  • In the example above, i have stored various text and numbers to record what i bought last week. The label “Quantity” is stored in cell, C2. My item “Apples” is stored in cell B3 and the quantity of apples (a number)  is stored in cell C3.
  • In the circled sections, you can see where your data for cell B3 is stored and if you modify it directly, you will change the value.

With different cells, you can perform calculations like a calculator

Now here is where you unleash the power of Excel. By referencing the various cells, you can perform various calculations. One of the ways to do this is by using formulas. You type in formulas into formula window, for example :

  • You select cell C6
  • You type in the following formula in the cell and press Enter
= C3 + C4 + C5

And you get the answer below. 

The basic symbols for add, minus, multiply and divide are:

+ , -,  * , /

That’s how simple it is. Now, let’s take a look at some of the available courses online that can help you get started. The courses that are listed are focused on helping beginners get up to speed quickly with the basics.

One of the biggest advantages of PAID online courses is that you get a proper learning program that covers the different key parts of Excel. Some provide quizzes to test your understanding and you have the opportunity to interact with the course instructor.

Udemy – Excel Essentials for the Real World

In this course, you will learn all the essential functions that will help you address any issues in Excel in the office. The course has high ratings on Udemy. The course instructor speaks well, is easy to understand.  The curricular that she has prepared covers the essentials required for someone who is in a job where Excel use is prevalent. It covers the following areas:

  • data input methods 
  • data manipulation 
  • tips and tricks to save time when dealing with data
  • navigation within Excel and copying and pasting of information
  • important Excel functions like COUNT, COUNTA, COUNTBLANK, COUNTIFS, MAX, MIN, SUM, AVERAGE
  • formatting of output
Excel Essentials for the Real World (Complete Excel Course)

Excel with Business – Microsoft Excel Course has an Excel course at the cost of <$100  per year. It covers the essentials of Excel to get you to an intermediate level.

It covers areas like:

  • how Excel works and how to design a spreadsheet (if you design your spreadsheet well, you will find that you are more productive)
  • popular Excel formulas (formulas that you will regularly use for deriving statistics, manipulating data and looking up values)
  • PivotTables, PivotCharts – this is a tool in Excel that helps you easily summarise your data without having to type formulas
  • create beautiful charts and graphs – another important function to learn. Most people prefer looking at charts than numbers on a spreadsheet. Learning to do this will impress!

It includes 100+ videos and downloadable exercises

Excel Skills for Business  Specialisation with Coursera

If you are looking to not only learn the essentials but also master it and adding it to your skills portfolio, this course is a good option. It is hosted on Coursera and offered by Macquarie University. The course will teach you not only the basics but advanced skills to apply Excel in business. This includes creating sophisticated spreadsheets, complex calculations and models for forecasting.

There will also be a hands-on project and you earn a certificate at the end of the course.

Free Lessons on YouTube

Youtube is a good source of learning as well. It is not as structured as paid online courses and they don’t offer projects or quizzes to test you, but with a bit of searching, you can pick and choose the right videos to get you up to speed. 

Here is my selection of Youtube videos to help you:

What is Excel?

This video provides an introduction of the key elements within Excel. The video will help you answer the following:

  • What is a cell?
  • What is a column and row?
  • What is a range?
  • How to insert values
  • How to delete
  • How to copy / paste / cut and edit data
  • How to insert and edit comments 

How to enter and create formulas

Using a payroll example, you will learn how to enter and create formulas. It covers the most used formulas to calculate Maximum, Minimum, Average and Total over a range of values.

Now that you know about formulas, here is a video teaching you of the most common

Simple explanation of the commonly used powerful formula VLOOKUP

VLOOKUP is a commonly used formula. If you find that you are struggling to understand the formula, here is a video that provides a simple explanation

Format your cells to make them visually appealing

Excel can be really plain and hard to read if you don’t format your cells. Here it is a quick video teaching you how to format your cells to make them look better.

Easily summarise your data with Pivot Tables

Pivot tables are really powerful and help you summarise your data. Here is a really good video that provides a step-by-step Pivot Tables tutorial.

And there you have it, all the videos you need to get a Simple Crash Course in Excel. If you prefer more structure and an end to end program, you can check out the paid online courses.

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