Learn to love the Ribbon
At first, the Ribbon may be offputting. But the truth is, once you learn to use it, you'll find that it's far easier to use than the old Excel interface. It does take some getting used to, though.
The Ribbon, by default, is divided into seven tabs, with an optional eighth one (Developer) that you can display by clicking the Office button and choosing Excel Options > Popular > Show Developer tab in the Ribbon.
Here's a rundown of the tabs and what each one does:
Home: This contains commonly used Excel features, such as inserting formulas, formatting tables, rows, cells and text, and sorting and filtering.
Insert: As you might guess, this one handles anything you might want to insert into a document, such as charts, pivot tables, tables, pictures, clip art, text, WordArt ... well, you get the idea.
Page layout: Here's where you'll change margins, page size and orientation, define your print area, set page breaks, specify which rows and columns will print on each page and so on.
Formulas: If you're a spreadsheet jockey, you'll be spending a lot of time on this tab. As the name says, it's where you'll go to insert and work with formulas. It organizes all of Excel's formulas into categories, such as Financial, Logical, Math & Trig, and so on, so they're all within easy reach. And it also gives you quick access to useful formula-checking features, such as error-checking and the ability to trace precedents and dependents.
Data: Whatever you need to do with data, you'll find it here. For example, you can use this tab to import data from a wide variety of sources, including the Web, Access, SQL Server and so on. You'll also be able to filter and sort data, validate your data, group and ungroup data, and perform data analysis, among other features.
Review: Need to check spelling and grammar, look up a word in a thesaurus, work in markup mode, review other people's markups or compare documents? This is the tab for you. It also lets you protect worksheets and workbooks, and share workbooks.
View: Here's where to go when you want to change the view in any way, including displaying or turning off gridlines and the formula bar, zooming in and out, splitting and hiding panes, and so on.
Developer: If you write code or create forms and applications for Excel, this is your tab. It also includes macro handling, so power users might also want to visit here every once in a while.
Each tab along the Ribbon is organized to make it easy to get your work done. As you can see below, each tab is organized into a series of groups that contain related commands for getting something done -- in our example, handling fonts.
Inside each group is a set of what Microsoft calls command buttons, which carry out commands, display menus and so on. In the example, the featured command button changes the font size.
There's also a small diagonal arrow in the bottom right corner of some groups that Microsoft calls a dialog box launcher. Click it to display more options related to the group.
All that seems simple enough ... so it's time to throw a curveball at you. The Ribbon is context-sensitive, changing according to what you're doing. Depending on the task you're engaged in, it sometimes adds more tabs and subtabs.
For example, when you insert and highlight a chart, several entirely new tabs appear: Design, Layout and Format, with a Chart Tools supertitle on top, as you can see in the image to the left.
Other "now you see them, now you don't" tabs include Picture Tools, Table Tools and SmartArt Tools -- all of which appear in response to various actions you take in Excel.
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