Advantages of Spreadsheet Programs

By Carol Luther

A spreadsheet allows users to enter and calculate numerical data. Using a spreadsheet greatly increases productivity for anyone who needs to manage receipts, create budgets, generate financial reports or even keep track of inventories and similar lists. A spreadsheet combines the features of a general ledger with the flexibility of powerful data analysis and reporting functions.

Entering Data

A spreadsheet allows you to enter text, numerical values and formulas into an electronic worksheet. The worksheet's rows and columns can contain numerical data or labels that identify information. Every row is automatically numbered and every column has an alphabetical identifier. The intersection of a row and column creates a cell. Every cell's name or placeholder is unique. Putting information into a spreadsheet is much simpler than using a paper system like a general ledger. Users can choose whether to place labels in columns or in rows, according to their needs. The majority of popular spreadsheet programs have more than 200 columns and thousands of rows. This makes them ideal for storing and reporting large amounts of numerical data.

Editing

Typing data into a spreadsheet is more efficient than using an adding machine. If you make a mistake in a spreadsheet, you can correct it by entering a new number or text into that cell of your worksheet. Most spreadsheets also have an undo command that allows you to remove one or more entries that you no longer want. Since spreadsheets are electronic, you can copy and paste data to avoid repeatedly typing the same values. With spreadsheets, it simple to save your work, update data as it changes and compare estimates or forecasts to actual data.

Calculations

A spreadsheet makes calculating numerical data much more efficient than adding machines. Unlike adding machines, an electronic worksheet allows you to change formulas and recalculate the results without reentering the values. In addition to the most common mathematical formulas, a spreadsheet provides users with the flexibility to create formulas that produce customized calculations. A spreadsheet also allows you to put cell names in formulas. Your calculations are automatically updated when you change data in cells that are part of the formula. Users can also make formulas that link one spreadsheet to values contained in another one. Formulas like these would allow you to create a quarterly financial statement using information from three separate spreadsheets for each month in the quarter.

Data Analysis

A spreadsheet is a useful tool for sorting and analyzing data. A user enters labels in rows and values in columns, then highlights the information and use menu commands to reorder the sheet's contents. You can use labels to sort information, such as dates, names or prices in ascending or descending order. The data sorting function also allows users to sort on combinations of labels. Most spreadsheets even provide ways to extract information that meets specific criteria, such as all entries containing a particular zip code, and show it a separate area of your worksheet.

Reporting

You can report data in a spreadsheet in a variety of ways. You can select a portion of the sheet for printing or the entire document. You can choose to have information and labels repeated on each page, so that large spreadsheets are easier to read. A spreadsheet can convert your labels and values into charts, tables and graphs. You can export worksheets to other office productivity software like word processors and presentation software. Updates in the spreadsheet can automatically be reflected in the destination document.