5 must-know Excel Tips for Beginners

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Updated on: March 18, 2023

Every program has its secrets and hardships, especially Microsoft Excel! At the very beginning, it's tough making some simple things. Don’t worry. While you’re learning step-by-step how to use this program, you can start improving your skills with these 5 must-know Excel Tips for Beginners:

  1. Filtering data without a Table
  2. Insert header/footers
  3. Setting print areas on sheets
  4. Create simple graphs
  5. Trace precedent and Trace dependent

Are you ready to improve your skills and knowledge? Then, keep reading, and go ahead!

Filtering data without a Table

Usually, you can filter your data by using a base table. However, there exists a method by which you can handle, rearrange and summarize information, and it’s called the “Sort &Filter function.” 

To access this tool, you must follow these steps:

  1. First, highlight all the data you want to filter. 

Note: You can also hold the Ctrl key while hitting the A on your keyboard.

  1. Go to the “Home” tab.
  2. Search the “Editing” group tools at the pane’s right.
  3. Click on the “Sort & Filter” button.
  4. Select the “filter” option with the funnel icon.
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Notice that now your data set has a dropdown arrow in each column's first cell. This means that from now on, you can filter your data by clicking on the icon and selecting the option that fits you better, just as if you had a table.

And finally, when you want to delete this formatting, you only need to click on any cell from the data set and click again on the “Sort & Filter” button to disable it.

Insert header/footers

Headers are not just the first cell of a table but also that part you can see at the top when you print something. Although headers and footers are more common in Microsoft Word, you can add those aids to your spreadsheet if you need to print or present a PDF or a physical report.

To make this possible, you must do the following:

  1. First, go to the “View” Tab.
  2. Next, look up the “Workbook views” group tools.
  3. Finally, select the “Page layout” command.
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Once you do that, you will notice the Header and the footers blanks:

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Adding Dynamic Headers & Footers

But when you have many pages you need to number or name, you can enter the dynamic texts, which will help you automatize the text for each page. Check how you can do so:

  • To add the File name: &[File]
  • To add the Sheet name: &[Tab] 
  • To add the Date: &[Date]
  • To add the Page number: &[Page]
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Setting print areas on sheets

In the same line of thought, when you want to print something specific from your spreadsheet, you can use the “Print Areas” command. This is a handy tip to save time and organize all the information in your worksheet. 

Here is how you can do so:

  1. First, highlight the range of cells you want to print.
  2. Then, go to the “Page Layout” tab.
  3. Search the “Page Setup” group tools.
  4. Click on the “Print Areas” command.
  5. Select the “Set Print Areas” option from the dropdown menu.
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Note: The “Clear the Print Area” option from the dropdown menu allows you to clear and add more cells to your printable area.

Create a simple graph.

Nowadays, you can use graphs to improve a presentation. Actually, they are great visual aids to transmit information. And even more so when they are measurable figures. Ready to insert a simple chart? Let’s see:

  1. Highlight the columns, ranges, or values you must put into the graph.
  2. Next, go to the “Insert” tab from the ribbon.
  3. Then, go to the “Charts” group tools.
  4. And select the chart you consider fits you better.
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If you're not full-convinced after selecting a type, you can always change the style by clicking on the graph and choosing a different kind from the panel.

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Note: You can edit its style in the right-side panel.

Trace precedent and Trace dependent

When you are working with a team in the same workbook in Excel, some formulas and calculations you want to update may affect the whole worksheet. Unfortunately, this problem might consume a lot of time to fix. 

Favorably for everyone, Excel offers a method by which you can review which cells depend on others called “Trace Precedents.” And for those cells that contribute to others, you can use the “Trace Dependents” option.

Warning: Both functions work one cell at a time, but when you use any of these operations, you can find the cells more efficiently. 

To access these functions, you must follow the steps below:

  1. Select the desired cell.
  2. Go to the “Formulas” tab.
  3. Search the “Formulas Auditing” group tools.
  4. Click on the option You need.
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When you use these tools, you will see some blue icons: The blue dot is the precedent, and the blue arrow is the dependent. So you can follow the directions to monitor the information and values. Check these examples where the first image is when using the Trace Precedent function, and the second one, the Trace Dependent operation:

Using the Trace Precedent function
Using the Trace Dependent function

Finally, to clear the arrows, you just need to click the “Remove arrows” option from the pane just below the function buttons.

Do you want to know more?

There you have it! Now you can show off your new abilities! But do you want to be a real expert and master Excel? Then, check out our Excel course here in Skillademia, and if you want to know more about sorting your data, you should know about Pivot Tables!

Lorena M. Rodas leverages her experience across film, writing, and production to make complex tech concepts accessible through storytelling. With a background spanning sci-fi, AI, and emerging tech, Lorena translates her depth of knowledge into engaging, educational content. She is an expert at decoding high-level topics to reach broad audiences.
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