How to Improve at Excel: Tips and Tricks for Mastering Spreadsheets

Microsoft Excel is a powerful tool that can be used for a variety of tasks, from simple calculations to complex data analysis. However, many people struggle to use Excel effectively, often because they lack the necessary skills and knowledge. Fortunately, there are several ways to improve your Excel skills and become more proficient in using this valuable tool.

One of the most important things you can do to improve your Excel skills is to learn the various features and functions that Excel has to offer. This includes learning how to use formulas and functions, as well as how to format and manipulate data. Additionally, it’s important to understand how to use Excel’s various tools and features, such as charts and graphs, to present and analyse data effectively.

Another key factor in improving your Excel skills is practice. The more you use Excel, the more comfortable you will become with its various features and functions. This can involve working on real-world projects, such as creating budgets or analysing sales data, or simply practicing with sample data sets to hone your skills. By dedicating time to learning and practicing Excel, you can become more proficient in using this powerful tool and unlock its full potential.

Basic Excel Terminology

Excel is a powerful tool that can help you organise, analyse, and manipulate data. But before you can start using it effectively, it’s important to understand some basic terminology. Here are a few key terms you should know:

Term Definition
Workbook A file that contains one or more worksheets.
Worksheet A single spreadsheet within a workbook.
Cell The intersection of a row and a column in a worksheet.
Range A group of cells that are selected together.
Formula An equation that performs a calculation on data in a worksheet.
Common Excel jargon

Understanding these terms is essential to working with Excel effectively. Once you have a solid grasp of the basic terminology, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the program and start using its powerful features.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts can help you work more efficiently in Excel. Instead of using the mouse to navigate through menus and click buttons, you can use keyboard shortcuts to quickly perform common tasks. Here are a few useful keyboard shortcuts:

Shortcut Action
Ctrl + C Copy selected cells
Ctrl + K Cut selected cells
Ctrl + V Paste copied cells
Ctrl + Z Undo last action
Ctrl + F Find text in worksheet
Ctrl + Home Go to first cell in worksheet
Ctrl + End Go to last cell in worksheet
F4 Make cell absolute
Common keyboard shortcuts

Using keyboard shortcuts can save you a lot of time when working in Excel. If you find yourself using a particular command frequently, try to learn the keyboard shortcut for it. You can also create your own keyboard shortcuts for custom commands.

Keep in mind that some keyboard shortcuts may vary depending on your version of Excel or your operating system. Refer to the Excel help documentation for a complete list of keyboard shortcuts.

Data Entry Techniques

Efficient data entry is one of the essential skills required in Excel. It involves entering data accurately and quickly into a spreadsheet. In this section, we will discuss some tips to help you improve your data entry skills.

Here are some techniques to help you become more efficient at data entry:

  • Use shortcut keys: Excel has several keyboard shortcuts that can help you save time. For example, you can use Ctrl+; to insert the current date, and Ctrl+Shift+: to insert the current time. For Mac users this is Ctrl+: or Ctrl+; to insert the current date and Cmd+Shift+: or Cmd+Shirt+; to insert the current time.
  • Use data validation: Data validation ensures that the data entered into a cell meets specific criteria. For example, you can use data validation to ensure that a cell contains a number between 1 and 100.
  • Use auto-fill: Auto-fill is a feature that allows you to quickly fill a series of cells with a pattern. For example, you can use auto-fill to fill a column with a series of dates or numbers.

Using these techniques can help you improve your data entry skills and save time when working in Excel.

Formulas and Functions

Excel is a powerful tool that can perform complex calculations with ease. Formulas and functions are the backbone of Excel, allowing you to manipulate data and perform calculations quickly and accurately. Here are a few tips to help you improve your skills with formulas and functions:

  • Use absolute references: When creating a formula, you can use absolute references to ensure that a certain cell or range of cells is always included in the calculation. This can be especially useful when copying formulas to other cells.
  • Learn commonly used functions: Excel has a wide range of built-in functions that can help you perform calculations quickly and easily. Some commonly used functions include SUM, AVERAGE, MAX, MIN, and COUNT .
  • Combine functions: You can also combine functions to perform more complex calculations. For example, you could use the IF function to test a condition and then use the SUM function to calculate a result based on the outcome of the test.

By mastering formulas and functions, you can become much more efficient with Excel and save time on repetitive tasks. Take the time to learn the basics and experiment with different functions to see what works best for you.

Data Analysis Tools

Excel includes a variety of powerful data analysis tools that can help you make sense of large datasets. These tools can help you identify trends, outliers, and other patterns in your data, and they can help you make informed decisions based on your findings.

Some of the most useful data analysis tools in Excel include:

  • PivotTables: These allow you to summarise large amounts of data quickly and easily, and can help you identify trends and outliers.
  • Conditional formatting: This allows you to highlight cells that meet certain criteria, making it easier to identify patterns in your data.
  • Data validation: This allows you to set rules for the data that can be entered into a particular cell or range of cells.
  • What-if analysis: This allows you to explore different scenarios based on different inputs, and can help you make informed decisions based on your findings.

By using these tools, you can gain a deeper understanding of your data and make more informed decisions based on your findings.

Data Visualization Techniques

Excel is not just a tool for crunching numbers and storing data. It can also be used to create visually appealing and informative data visualizations. Here are some techniques you can use to create effective visualizations:

  • Use charts and graphs: Charts and graphs can be used to quickly and easily convey complex data. Excel has a variety of chart types to choose from, including bar charts, line charts, pie charts, and more. Choose the chart type that best fits your data and the message you want to convey.
  • Colour code: Colours can be used to highlight important data points or to differentiate between different data sets. Use contrasting colours to make your visualizations stand out.
  • Use conditional formatting: Conditional formatting can be used to highlight data that meets certain criteria. For example, you can use conditional formatting to highlight cells that contain values above or below a certain threshold.

When creating visualizations, it’s important to keep your audience in mind. Make sure your visualizations are easy to understand and that the message you’re trying to convey is clear. Don’t overload your visualizations with too much information, as this can make them confusing and difficult to read.

By using these data visualization techniques, you can create visualizations that are both informative and visually appealing. With practice, you can become a master at using Excel to create effective visualizations.

Tips for Formatting and Printing

Excel is a powerful tool for organizing and analyzing data, but it can also be used to create professional-looking reports and documents. Here are some tips for formatting and printing your Excel spreadsheets:

  • Use cell borders and shading to make your data easier to read.
  • Use font styles and sizes to highlight important information.
  • Use conditional formatting to automatically highlight cells that meet certain criteria.
  • Use headers and footers to add page numbers, dates, and other information to your printed sheets.

When printing your spreadsheets, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Preview your sheet before printing to make sure everything looks the way you want it to.
  • Use the “Fit to Page” option to ensure that your sheet fits on one page.
  • Consider using landscape orientation for wide sheets.
  • Print in black and white to save ink and toner.

By following these tips, you can create professional-looking reports and documents that are easy to read and understand.

Excel Add-Ins and Plugins

Excel is a powerful tool on its own, but there are many add-ins and plugins available that can enhance its functionality and make it even more useful. These add-ins and plugins can help you automate repetitive tasks, add new features, and improve your workflow. Here are a few of the most popular Excel add-ins and plugins:

  • Power Query: This add-in allows you to easily transform and manipulate data from a variety of sources, including databases, web pages, and CSV files. With Power Query, you can quickly clean and reshape your data before importing it into Excel.
  • Power Pivot: This plugin allows you to create powerful data models and perform complex analysis using large datasets. With Power Pivot, you can create relationships between tables, calculate custom measures, and visualize your data using pivot charts and tables.
  • Solver: This add-in allows you to solve complex optimization problems, such as finding the optimal production schedule or maximizing profits. With Solver, you can set constraints and variables, and let Excel find the best solution for you.
  • Data Analysis Toolpak: This add-in provides a variety of statistical and financial functions that are not included in Excel by default. With Data Analysis Toolpak, you can perform regression analysis, calculate moving averages, and more.

These are just a few examples of the many Excel add-ins and plugins available. By using these tools, you can save time, automate tasks, and make better decisions based on your data. However, it’s important to be careful when installing add-ins and plugins, as some may contain malware or other security risks. Always download add-ins and plugins from trusted sources, and be sure to read reviews and check for compatibility with your version of Excel.


Excel is a powerful tool that can help you organise and analyse data in many ways. By following the tips and tricks we’ve outlined in this article, you can improve your skills and become more efficient with Excel.

Remember to take advantage of keyboard shortcuts and Excel’s built-in functions to save time and reduce errors. Use conditional formatting to highlight important data and make it easier to read. And don’t forget to format your worksheets to make them visually appealing and easy to understand.

Another important aspect of improving your Excel skills is to practice regularly. The more you use Excel, the more comfortable you’ll become with its features and functions. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things, and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you get stuck.

Finally, keep in mind that Excel is just one tool in your toolbox. While it’s a valuable tool for organising and analysing data, it’s not the only tool available. Be sure to explore other options and find the tools that work best for your needs.