Excel: Not just for geeks

 Guest writer Divya Bahl is a blogger for Her Campus, a popular site which offers a guide to life for college women.

Excel Not Just for GeeksUgh. Excel. It’s not as intuitive as a Word doc, and not as aesthetically pleasing as a PowerPoint presentation. If you’re more creative than analytical, you might feel as though it’s dry and boring and filled with numbers you’d rather not look at. I feel ya – I was a Communication major and thought Excel was intimidating as well.

However, I can tell you that after you familiarize yourself with it, it is the best tool Microsoft Office has – and extremely easy to use! So while I know you’d probably rather be on Pinterest than reading about Excel, I promise if you get through this blog and play around in Excel for a while, you’ll be glad you did.

What would I use Excel for?

Everything! It’s not just for math majors and science projects. It’s great for anything you want to make a list for. When I moved to NYC, a friend of mine made a “Restaurant Recommendation List.” There is one tab for restaurants and one for bars and fun stuff. The best part – it’s categorized by name, neighborhood, cuisine, location, phone number and notes. Whenever we want to go to a restaurant, we open up her Excel doc and filter by neighborhood. It’s less overwhelming than searching online on Yelp or MenuPages and much more personalized!


Excel spreadsheet restaurant guide 

Tons of restaurants with all the info we need! I highlight the restaurants I’ve been to in yellow!

Excel restaurant guide filtered by neighborhood

Filtered by neighborhood! Though, we could have gone further and also filtered by cuisine… (I.e. Pizza in the East Village)

Why would I use Excel?

…when I can keep my budgets and lists in a Word doc or OneNote notebook? Because Excel is the most efficient! Microsoft Office even has Excel Mobile, which you can access on your Windows Phone so you can access it on the go! Therefore, if you keep your monthly budget in Excel, you can check it whenever you need to. Not sure if you should buy that those jeans on sale? Enter it into your budget before you buy it to see if you can afford it! (See example below). It’s also great when planning big trips, like calculating how much it would cost to go abroad, budgeting for Spring Break. It’ll keep you super organized and you’ll feel totally responsible and on top of your finances and budgets.

The automatic formula you input will immediately tell you how much you have left. It’s like one big calculator!

…But I have no idea what all the formulas are!

True, they can be tricky to master and no one wants to go through and read all the formulas. But for someone who is not doing too many complicated functions, there are only a few you need to know. Here’s a quick “cheat sheet:”

  • Adding stuff up – Type in =sum( and then click the cells you want to add up. Once you’ve got them all, close the formula with a )
  •                                       Excel spreadsheet Spring Break Budget

  • Subtracting – Type in = and click cell A – cell B


                                      Excel spreadsheet spring break budget remaining

  • Filtering – Highlight your categories, and in the “Home” tab, click the “Sort & Filter” drop down, and then click Filter. You can now easily filter, say for example, listing restaurants in alphabetical order or prices for blue jeans from lowest to highest.


  • Merging – Highlight the cells and then within the “Home” tab, click “Merge & Center”


  • Other Quick Clicks The $, %, and comma in the “Home” tab all save you time. With a click, you can make any number a percentage, or put the commas into a long number, or make it a dollar amount. For example, if you want a round number for the price of the meal, you can turn $5,830.98 into $5,831 by clicking the Decrease Decimal button.


Whether you need to seriously budget your income or plan a vacation, or even just organize your favorite nail polish colors, Excel is the best Microsoft Office product to do that. It’s literally a big calculator, and with its easy way to filter, all it takes to organize your favorite restaurants and boutiques is a click.

Do you use Excel? Are you going to try now? How does Excel make your life easier? If you haven’t had a chance to explore Excel or other Office 2010 applications, try it now for free with the Office Web Apps.

Till next time,