Why use Excel?

Microsoft Office Excel is the most wide-spread computer software for cell-based spreadsheets, used in virtually all larger companies and organisations around the world.

What is a spreadsheet?

A spreadsheet was originally a paper sheet with pre-printed boxes or cells for numbers used in accounting. Each cell could be referred to by its position on the sheet, and instead of a calculation using fixed numbers, like 1.23+4.56, one could refer to the values in the named cells, CELL1 + CELL2. This way, formulas could remain fixed, while the numbers going into the formulas could be easily updated. This convenient layout of rows and columns of cells arranged into tables was moved to computers and became spreadsheet software.

What does spreadsheet software do?

Spreadsheet software, like Excel, helps users to perform calculations on cell values by using mathematical formulas for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing numbers. This allows users to create models where the cell values can be changed while the calculation formulas and functions stay the same. Spreadsheets programs therefore make it easy to create models for calculations to study the result from changes to some of the values in the cells.

With time, many additional functions have been introduced to allow for complex calculations, such as working on a set of values in several cells, and to perform actions other than pure calculations, such as manipulating text values, or to make calculations conditional, based on certain criteria, as well as numerous other computational features.

Excel has also added features and tools such as searching, sorting and filtering rows of data, tools for creating charts and diagrams, features for importing data from various sources such as other Excel files, text files and databases, in addition to more decorative measures such as colours, fonts and shapes for illustrations.

Where is Excel used?

Spreadsheets have proven useful in many fields, from accounting, finance, sales and marketing to engineering for complex calculations, and handling test data. Anything from replacing an ordinary calculator to refined calculations using many steps, keeping lists of data, projections, planning, sorting and organising.

Work in Excel can also be fully automated by the use of so-called macros. A macro allows users to record steps and input of formulas in Excel, and then have it replayed automatically by the press of a button. These macros are typically used to quickly create weekly or monthly reports and consolidation of data. For more detailed control, macros are often programmed manually, in a programming language called Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), or lately, in JavaScript/TypeScript with so-called Office Scripts.