How to Create a Basic Spreadsheet

by Amanda Kondolojy

Spreadsheets are one of the best ways to analyze data and project future data manipulations efficiently. Although spreadsheets can become complicated and contain large amounts of data with intricate formulas, it is important to start small. By following some general rules, you can learn how to create a basic spreadsheet.

Decide what data you want to show. You need to decide what exactly you want your spreadsheet to prove or project, and you have to think of it in the simplest terms possible. For example, if you are trying to analyze sales data for a car dealership, it would be a little too confusing to list specific models, the individual income of each customer who bought these models, and what referred them to the dealership. If you take a more structured approach, however, and list the mean income of customers who bought specific models, that tactic might be a better way to present your sales data more coherently.

Think about how you want to format your data. Spreadsheets are made of several axises. You need to consider how to use these to show trends in the data you are compiling. For example, if you are comparing the cost of a certain brand of peanut butter to the amount of peanuts yielded, it would make sense to take a simple, two-column approach. List the year and the average price on a horizontal axis. This format will make further data projections and manipulations easy to visualize.

Choose a program to create your spreadsheet. Although Microsoft Excel is the standard (and most widely used) spreadsheet program, there are other alternatives. Consider Open Office, a completely free alternative to the Microsoft Office suite. That spreadsheet program has many of the same features as Excel.

Enter your data. Although this may sound like the easiest step, it is important to take your time, and enter it exactly as you planned in Step 2. Make sure you keep your data in line with different data axises, and take your time to make sure that everything is entered correctly.

Apply formulas. If you have set aside a special area on your spreadsheet for future projections, averages or other data manipulations, you will want to enter them last. Simply click the space where the manipulations will go, and then write the formula in the formula bar near the top of the program. If you need help writing formulas, see the Resources section for a basic tutorial on how to create and use formulas in Excel.

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