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Jan's Working with Numbers

   Before you start...

These lessons are part of a set of tutorials, Jan's Illustrated Computer Literacy 101. The tutorials cover Windows, word processing, spreadsheets (which is the section you are in now!) using Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, or 2016, the web, presentations, and databases. [Lessons using older versions are in the Archives section.]

Who is this for?

The whole course is designed for people who are new to computers, but even old pros need a refresher from time to time. You might even learn something new, or at least be reminded of tips and tricks that you have forgotten.

Clearly, if you are reading this page in a browser, you already have some computer skills, or else you have a handy helper or instructor close by.

What's covered?

The lessons in Working with Numbers will teach you a lot about spreadsheets - entering, moving, and editing cell data; formatting data and labels; creating and editing charts; working with formulas.

The Working with Numbers lessons assume that you have some experience with the basic skills in word processing- entering text, editing text, moving and deleting text, formatting text,  printing. If you are not familiar with these tasks, you should work through at least the first project in the Working with Words tutorial before tackling spreadsheets.

The lessons do build on one another, so if you skip one, you may get confused later. Documents you create may be used again in later lessons. Fair warning!

Lesson Design

Each lesson has:

  • Topics -  info for you to read
  • Step-by-Step directions - for things to do at the computer.
  • Quiz - multiple choice questions
  • Exercises- to give you practice and to take you further.

Warning You must actually follow the directions while at the computer!!

You cannot just read about a technique and expect to be able to do it yourself later. It is different when you are doing it yourself!

printer icon Print directions: You might want to print the steps out if your monitor or resolution is small. It can be hard to read directions on the screen while you are trying to follow the directions!

Tip Printing a selection: You may can print just the parts you want. Select the part to print and either right click or go to the File menu and then the Print... command. There may be a choice in the dialog to print just the "Selection", depending on which browser and operating system you are using. This choice might be buried in Advanced settings.

Tip Switching between windows: If you want to work with directions on the screen, you can switch between the directions in the browser and the application window where you are working by clicking on the Taskbar icon or with the ALT + TAB key combination. Or if you are using a high resolution, perhaps you can size your windows so that you can see both at the same time.

(These techniques are taught in the Working with Windows lessons.)

What you see may not match!

What you actually see on your computer may vary from what is shown and described here. Things change quickly in the world of computers. Don't let it fluster you!

  • New version or update - Each software revision has changes, some minor and some quite noticeable. Your software may be older or more recent than mine. My illustrations are not all from the same version either! When I revise, I usually use a screen shot from my current version but I may not change an illustration unless there is an important difference.
  • Customized - Everyone likes to arrange things to suit themselves. So your computer may not have the default settings any more, and, therefore, not behave as the lessons describe. This, too, is part of the world of computers!

The Step-by-Step sections will explain how to set the features that will affect how your computer responds to the directions. If your computer still does not behave as you expected, look in the Help for the program or ask your instructor or network administrator (or a even more experienced friend). That's why they are there! [Note: You may not be allowed to change some settings on classroom or network computers.]

The directions and images were prepared originally for older versions of Excel (97 - 2003) and have been updated and modified for Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. The basic skills and approach are the same, even when the details change. 

If you don't find a feature that the directions refer to, it may not have been installed. Many import/export filters are available on the installation CD but are not installed by default. Clipart may not have been copied to the hard drive, or in the case of Office 2013, is no longer included at all. You can rerun the installation program to add features that were overlooked before.

The templates will not be the same in a different brand of spreadsheet software and they also can change between versions of the same program. There may not be anything even close for some. But the techniques of how to work with a template or a wizard are the same. 

Interrupted Work

You may need to stop before finishing all of the directions in a Step-by-Step section. Pay attention to what lesson page you are on when you quit. If you are sharing a computer, write down the page's address from the browser's address bar. If you are on your own computer, you can bookmark the page in the browser. Bookmarks on a classroom computer may not be there when you get back to it unless you have your own logon!

The Step-by-Step exercises will usually have a Start with: line that tells you what the situation should be when you start the exercise. This can help when you had to stop before finishing the document. The steps build on one another to complete a document, so don't try to skip steps even if you know how to do the skill being illustrated. Perhaps you'll learn a different way to accomplish a task!

Icon: Class flash driveSaving

If you were creating a document, don't forget to save it, or you will have lots to redo when you return to the computer! The directions will tell you to save to your Class disk. You can save to your hard drive if you are working on your own computer or if your instructor has assigned you space on the classroom computer.

The Step-by-Step directions have you save your work each lesson's work with a new name. That is not what we do normally in the real world. It is a real help, however, if you find that you need to start the lesson over. You probably will want to delete the older copies from time to time as you go along.

WarningDo not delete the documents you create for the Exercises. Keep a copy around because the exercises for a later project may use what you have already done.

How detailed

The amount of detail in the directions and illustrations will decrease as you gain more experience.