Types of Spreadsheets

Although most spreadsheets have the same format, when you consider functionality, many different types of spreadsheets are commonly used. They are commonplace in business settings, but there are both personal and professional uses for most of the types of spreadsheets. While most spreadsheet variety comes from the different uses, there are also different spreadsheet types in terms of format. Considering both of these gives you a full picture of the variety of spreadsheets you may encounter.

Image Credit: flukyfluky/iStock/GettyImages

Types of Spreadsheet: Financial Tracking

One of the most common business uses of spreadsheets is to track financial data. Programs such as Microsoft Excel, Lotus 1-2-3 and Google Sheets are well-suited for this type of work. For example, they allow the clear presentation of expenditures and incomes related to different departments and can be set up to display negative numbers in red. Templates for budget spreadsheets are included with spreadsheet programs to reduce the amount of setup work required.

Data Analysis and Statistics

Researchers and data analysts often use spreadsheet programs to perform statistical calculations or other analyses on a set of data. The functions on spreadsheets make it easy to perform many calculations quickly. For example, applying a formula to hundreds of data points would be a tedious, time-consuming process without some form of automation, and programs like Microsoft Excel offer just this capability. Many programs also have simple statistical calculations built-in. You can find the standard deviation of a set of data using one function, rather than working it out using the formula, for example. This type of spreadsheet primarily shows numbers, like most spreadsheets, but many cells contain formulas that determine the outputs.

Graphing and Presenting Data

Spreadsheet programs are valuable tools when you're looking to present data in the form of graphs or tables. The spreadsheet itself contains the data to be included on the graph, and spreadsheet programs have many types of graphs built in. These types of spreadsheets are similar to those for data analysis and statistics, but in many cases, people use a separate sheet for data they want to turn into graphs. There also may be special formatting requirements to produce a specific type of graph, so the spreadsheet itself needs to be created with this in mind.

Different Spreadsheet Formats

Distinct types of spreadsheets are defined by their format. For example, Microsoft Excel has three options for spreadsheet format: simple tables, Excel tables and pivot tables. Simple spreadsheets are the most commonly used type, and you have to make most changes manually. For example, if you set up a simple table and want to refer to the table as a whole in a formula or instruction, you need to define border columns and rows and make sure any additional data is added between those cells. From Excel 2007 onward, the Excel table takes away this need by updating the size of your table automatically when you add new data.

The most distinct type of spreadsheet, though, is the pivot table. This looks similar to a normal table, but each column has a drop-down menu you can use to filter or sort the results to suit your needs. For example, if you have a spreadsheet table listing sales volumes by product, you can easily sort the table from most sales to least. You can also filter results so that you only see one type of product – say, cell phones – by checking a box beside each eligible product.

references