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What is a spreadsheet?

A spreadsheet is a paper or computer file that allows you to enter data in columns and rows. Microsoft Excel is the main spreadsheet program used on Windows computers although it is not the only available. Open Office and Google Documents both offer free spreadsheet applications which offer similar functions to Excel. A spreadsheet file (workbook) consist of sheets that have numbered rows and alphabetised columns which make locations that are called cells. Having rows and columns like this allows you to plot cell references eg C2 is the third column across and second row down.

You can enter data into the cells in various formats such as number, text, date etc basically creating a data table. Formulas, such as a basic sum calculation, can also be entered into the cells to calculate new values based on data in other cells and certain criteria. When the data in the cells the formula is looking at changes, the result in the cell with the formula automatically updates. Once you are experienced in using formulas you use them to manipulate multiple worksheets and workbooks with complex nested functions.

What are spreadsheets used for?

Spreadsheets make ideal business tools as they offer an easy way of producing accounts, sales analysis, stock analysis, product lists and much more. Once you have data in a spreadsheet it can be changed to give reports in various different ways shown as either a table or in a graph. Spreadsheets can be used to easily alter data files from one business system into a format readable by a different system. Data from different systems can also be easily reconciled against using each other with the use of formulas to check for errors, especially useful if you are migrating to a new system.

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