How to Explain the Three Basic Functions of Microsoft Excel

By Joe Burnham

Microsoft Excel is an extremely common program for performing a number of analytical and organizational tasks. Its uses often need to be explained to a new group; to do this, you can talk about three of its main features: the capability to perform calculations, the capability to work with data to produce graphs and analytical tools and its capability to integrate with other programs, such as Microsoft Word's Mail Merge feature.

Step 1

Explain the fundamental Excel capabilities for performing calculations. If possible, create a sample Excel spreadsheet for demonstration, and enter some values into the fields. From this, you can demonstrate how otherwise empty boxes can be filled with the product of certain formulas. Explain the most common purposes that this is used for, such as calculating a person's appropriate wage based on how long he has worked, and encourage volunteers to interact with the program themselves to perform simple mathematical tasks.

Step 2

Enter in several more sample fields of data, and demonstrate how to produce a bar chart detailing the values. If time permits, enter both a Y and X axis into Excel and demonstrate how different graphs display the same data differently. Allow for volunteers to create different graphs, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of certain graph models in different situations. For example, discuss when it would be most appropriate to use a pie chart rather than a plotted line graph.

Step 3

Integrate your Excel document with other Microsoft programs, such as Microsoft Word. Create a new document in Microsoft Word and demonstrate how Mail Merge can be used to automatically take data from Excel spreadsheets and insert it into the document. Discuss when this would be useful, such as when creating a pay slip for an employee, and what information would be required for different situations.

Tips & Warnings

  • It's always useful to let people experiment with the program on their own for awhile, but make sure you're available to answer questions.