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Understanding Cell Basics

Cells are the bricks that build your worksheets and workbooks, each playing an integral part in the storage and manipulation of your text and numeric data. You can think of each cell as an individual container capable of storing text, numbers, and so on. The following is a list of basic information about cells—things that you should know to improve your use and understanding of Excel:

  • A cell can hold up to 65,000 characters, which can consist of text, numbers, formulas, graphics, or any combination of these. The amount of text you can view in a cell depends on the width of the column the cell is in and the formatting applied to the cell and its contents.

  • Text, numbers, and formulas you type in a cell are immediately displayed in the Formula bar.

  • Whenever a worksheet is active, at least one cell is also active (called the active cell). The active cell is designated by a heavy border around the cell, usually black. If the Excel window is the active application, and the workbook window is active within it, that one cell's content—or lack thereof in the case of an empty cell—will appear in the Formula bar. The address of the cell (or name, if you've named it) will appear in the Name box (see Figure 2.1).

  • After you type data into a cell, press Enter to accept the entry and move down one cell, press the Tab key to accept the entry and move one cell to the right, or press an arrow key to accept the entry and move one cell in the direction of the arrow (pressing the up-arrow key, for instance, moves one cell up). During the time a cell's entry is unfinished (designated by a cursor blinking inside the cell or on the Formula bar), many of Excel's commands cannot be executed.

  • If you change your mind about an entry prior to finishing it, press Esc or click the Cancel button (the red X on the formula bar) to nullify the entry and start over (see Figure 2.2).

    Figure 2.1. Notice the address and content of the active cell. The active cell can be seen clearly here with its black border. The column letter and row number of the active cell are bold and appear as raised buttons to aid the eye in referencing the cell's location.

    Figure 2.2. Change your mind? Click the Cancel button or press Esc to delete the entry.

  • If you've already pressed Enter after completing an entry, you can reselect the cell and press Delete to quickly remove the entry.



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