1. Getting to Know the User Interface


Take a tour of Excel's user interface so that you can understand how to access commands in the ribbon, change the view setting in the footer and much more.

To explore more Kubicle data literacy subjects, please refer to our full library.


  1. The Ribbon (00:27)

    The ribbon is found at the top of the page. It contains several tabs which contain almost all of the commands that you can perform in Excel. You can minimize or restore the ribbon by double clicking on any tab.

    The File tab is of particular interest, containing commands to print, open or save workbooks, or create new ones.

  2. Quick Access Toolbar (01:16)

    The Quick Access Toolbar is a toolbar that can be added above or below the ribbon. It contains commands that are always visible, regardless of which ribbon tab is selected. We can customize which actions appear in this toolbar. Using the Quick Access toolbar is slower than just using keyboard shortcuts, so we avoid it in our courses for this reason.

  3. The Formula Bar (02:08)

    The formula bar displays the formula you enter in a specific cell. The cell itself contains the result of the formula. This is particularly useful when you create complicated formula, for example in a financial model.

  4. Understanding Workbooks and Worksheets (02:34)

    Excel calls each spreadsheet a worksheet. An Excel file is called a workbook. By default, each workbook contains three worksheets, but you can add more if you need to.

    A worksheet contains 16,384 columns and 1,048,576 rows. Rows are identified by numbers, and columns are identified by letters. These letters move from A to Z, then AA to ZZ, then AAA to XFD, which is the final column.

  5. Using the Footer (03:40)

    The footer is found below the worksheet, and provides various commands for changing the view of the sheet. We can zoom in or out, or look at a print view of the document.


In this, our first lesson on Excel, we're going to take an in-depth look at the program's user interface, which can be a little intimidating, given the sheer number of commands and options at your disposal.

After opening Excel for the first time, you'll be greeted with a blank document, such as this. Across the top of the page, we have the ribbon. Which is common to Excel, PowerPoint, and Microsoft Word.

The ribbon contains almost all of the commands you can perform in Excel. Everything from data formatting, to inserting mathematical functions, and using data analysis tools. To minimize the ribbon at any stage, you can just double click on any tab. To bring back the ribbon, double click on the tab again. On the far left hand side is a special tab called file.

If we want to print, open, save, or create new workbooks, this is the tab to use. Let's now return to our spreadsheet, by pressing this arrow.

If we click the arrow in the bottom right of the ribbon, we see an option to show the quick access toolbar. If we select this, a new toolbar appears below the ribbon.

Depending on your Excel version, this toolbar may be visible by default, and it may appear above, or below the ribbon.

The quick access toolbar contains commands that are always visible, regardless of which ribbon tab is selected.

We can customize the actions that appear here by selecting the dropdown to the left of the toolbar, and choosing the actions to add.

We won't use the quick access toolbar, as it's much quicker to select actions using keyboard shortcuts. So I'll select the arrow in the bottom right of the ribbon, and hide this toolbar again.

Underneath the ribbon is the formula bar, which displays the formula of the selected cell. For example, if we add five plus seven, and then press return, we can see that the cell contains the answer, which is 12, but the formula bar contains the formula, five plus seven.

The formula bar becomes especially useful when we have more complicated formulas in our financial models, or when conducting data analysis. The cell in which we entered this formula is part of a spreadsheet, which Excel calls a worksheet.

Each worksheet contains 16,384 columns.

And these are identified by letters, across the top of the page. The lettering format moves from Z to AA, to ZZ, to triple A, until it reaches the final column, XFD.

Each worksheet also contains 1,048,576 rows, identified by numbers down the left hand side of the page. As a result, it's very unlikely that you'll run out of space for most of your projects.

Below the worksheet is the footer, which contains a number of commands for changing our view. The first of these is a slider, which allows us to change the zoom of our worksheet by simply dragging the marker to the left, or to the right. Next to the slider are a number of different view options that I normally use before I print my Excel document, and I want to check what the output will look like. When using Excel, we'll typically have the view set to normal, and we'll have the ribbon tab set to home.

Although I've used the mouse to show you around the Excel interface in this lesson, keyboard shortcuts are a much better way of navigating Excel. To learn how to use keyboard shortcuts effectively, check out my next lesson on the topic.