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Microsoft Excel is one of the most powerful spreadsheet programs on the market. Using Excel, you can create automated accounting sheets that do everything from tracking income and expenses to analyzing complex financial data. And best of all, Excel executes the most complicated, monotonous chores for you, such as performing calculations and charting (graphing) your data.

But Excel’s power does you little good until you know how to navigate Excel and exploit its many features. Fortunately, this Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Microsoft Office Excel 2003 provides you with all the instructions you need in an easy-to-follow, fully illustrated format. This book begins with a general overview of Excel and of worksheets (Excel’s name for spreadsheets) and then leads you step-by-step through the most essential tasks. Here, you learn how to enter data, insert formulas and functions, create attractive charts, format your worksheets to make them look pretty, print your creations, and much more.

A Book for the True Beginner

The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Microsoft Office Excel 2003 is for novice Excel users, those who have little or no experience with Excel and who know little or nothing about worksheets. Whether you must learn Excel for work, school, or home, or would like to learn about Excel and worksheets for your own personal development, this is the book for you. With its no-frills approach, this book provides instructions on how to master the most basic tasks and then take advantage of the most powerful features that Excel has to offer.

How This Book Is Organized

The overall structure of this book is designed to feed you information as you’re ready for it. The book begins by providing a basic explanation of worksheets and instructions on how to move around in Excel and enter commands. Later chapters show you how to enter data, insert formulas and functions, format your worksheets, create charts, and insert clip art. By the time you reach Chapter 10, you should have a completed, printed worksheet. Beyond Chapter 10, you can explore some of Excel’s additional features and learn how to customize and automate Excel to work more efficiently.

In addition to progressing from the basics to more advanced techniques, this book is divided into the following five distinct parts to help you easily locate the information you need.

Part 1 Excel Worksheet Orientation Day

Consider this part to be Excel Worksheets 101, the starting point for those who have no experience with Excel worksheets. Here, you learn what a worksheet is, how it functions, and how people use worksheets in home and business applications. You also learn how to move around in Excel, enter commands, and work with Excel workbook files. (A workbook consists of one or more worksheets.)

Part 2 Creating Your First Worksheet

As soon as you understand worksheets and the basics of navigating Excel, you’re ready to create your very own worksheet. Here, you learn how to enter labels (text) and values (numbers) in the various cells (boxes) that make up a worksheet. You also learn how to control the size of the cells by adjusting the worksheet’s row heights and column widths. Finally, you learn how to enter formulas and functions that perform calculations on the numbers you entered.

Part 3 Formatting, Charting, and Printing Your Worksheet

A worksheet can appear very plain at first. In this part, you learn how to give your worksheet a makeover by changing the fonts (typestyles) and adding shading and borders to cells. Here, you also learn how to create charts (graphs), insert clip art images, and print your completed worksheets and charts.

Part 4 Going Beyond the Basics

You’ve mastered the basics and yearn for more. Welcome to Part 4, where you learn how to manage a database with Excel, customize Excel for the way you work, automate tasks with Excel’s macros, take advantage of Excel’s Web-based features, and use Excel’s speech and handwriting recognition features to streamline your data entry. By the time you finish this part, you can consider yourself an Excel power user!

Part 5 Appendixes

This is the quick reference section. Turn to Part 5 when you need to learn a quick-key combination for entering the most common commands or a definition for a term or concerpt dealing with Excel or its worksheets.

Conventions Used in This Book

This book explains the essential concepts and tasks in an easily digestible format. At the beginning of each chapter is a bulleted list of In This Chapter highlights that provides you with a framework for what you are about to learn. At the end of each chapter, under the heading The Absolute Minimum, you can review the main points covered in the chapter.

In addition, several icons appear throughout the book to direct your attention to a note that provides more detailed information, a tip that can help you perform a step more efficiently, or a caution to help you steer clear of a potential problem. Following is a brief description of each icon:


Tips provide an insider’s guide to a particular concept or task. Look for the tip icon to learn useful shortcuts that show you how to perform a task more efficiently.


Notes provide additional information about the subject matter covered in a particular section. You can safely skip these notes and still learn the basics.


Cautions point out common user errors and problem areas, so you can avoid the problems that hundreds of other users already have made. To avoid trouble and stay on the right track, read the cautions

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