Last updated on February 19th, 2024 at 02:22 am

If you are a secondary school student or work in an office, chances are you have heard the term spreadsheet, but do you know **what a spreadsheet is** or **what a spreadsheet is used for**? In this article on introduction to spreadsheets, we will seek to answer these questions as well as the ones below, which are associated with the features of a spreadsheet:

- What is a cell in a spreadsheet;
- What is a spreadsheet row;
- What is a column;
- How do the rows and columns in a spreadsheet differ;
- What are labels and values;
- What is a cell reference, and more.

Besides spreadsheets, there are other types of software covered in the CSEC syllabus. You may visit Wordprocessing to learn about font types and other processes used to format them.

## Definition of a spreadsheet

** A spreadsheet is an electronic document whose primary purpose is to make it easy for you to do accounting tasks or mathematical calculations.** It is arranged in rows and columns.

Still looking for clarity on what a spreadsheet is?

** A spreadsheet is an electronic tool arranged in a tabular format that allows you to do mathematical calculations in a very structured way.** It allows you to enter, organize, analyze, and manipulate data.

Now that you have seen several definitions of what a spreadsheet is and what it is used for, we will explore examples of spreadsheet applications.

## Workbook

The term **workbook refers to a collection of spreadsheets or worksheets**.

## Types of Spreadsheet applications

Probably the most well-known **spreadsheet applications **are:

- Microsoft Excel and
- Google sheets.

However, there are many others, and several are available completely free. Some **other spreadsheet applications are:**

- Apache OpenOffice Сalc;
- Libre Office Calc;
- WPS Office Spreadsheets; and
- Zoho sheet.

## Spreadsheet Features – Introduction to spreadsheets

Whether you are using Microsoft Excel, Google sheets, or Apache OpenOffice Calc, some common spreadsheet features are available in all spreadsheet types. In this section,** we will explore many of the standard spreadsheet features.**

### Columns in a spreadsheet

In a spreadsheet, **a column is a vertical line of cells**. Each column in a spreadsheet is labeled with a letter or multiple letters.

### Rows in a spreadsheet

In spreadsheets, a **row is a horizontal collection of cells**. Each row in a spreadsheet is labeled with a number value.

### Cell

**In a spreadsheet, a cell is the smallest component. Cells are created when rows and columns intersect.**

Another term associated with cells in a spreadsheet is cell reference. Once you start working with spreadsheets, it will not be long before you encounter this term. So *what is a cell reference*, exactly? When working with spreadsheets, we reference cells by what we refer to as their names, cell references, or addresses. These cell references are a combination of column and row names, e.g., A2.

### Active Cell

Another popular term you may come across when using a spreadsheet is the *active cell*. **The active cell in a spreadsheet is the cell you are working in presently.** The active cell usually has a darker border than the others around it.

### Labels

All **the words in a spreadsheet** that** explain the purpose of the values being entered are called labels**. When working in spreadsheets, labels are always left aligned by default.

### Values

**Values are the data in a spreadsheet that can be used in calculations. As such, all values are numbers. **However, not all numbers are values**. **Some numbers that may be found in a spreadsheet that are not used in calculations and, as a result, are not considered values are telephone and national identification numbers.** **By default, the values in a spreadsheet are right aligned.

### Formulas and Functions

Finally, we have gotten to the backbone of what spreadsheets are about. Much of what we do in spreadsheets is about using formulas and functions to perform operations on data.

**Formula**

In spreadsheets, **a formula is a specially designed statement that tells the application what operation to perform on the values in specified cells.** All formulas begin with equal signs and closely resemble everyday layouts for mathematical calculations. One of the main differences between formulas and your usual mathematical calculation performed in the classroom has to do with the fact that formulas use cell names rather than numbers or values to perform operations. An example of a formula is:

**=A2+ A3+A4**

**Functions**

**A function is a built-in, predefined formula.** A spreadsheet function is recognized by its uppercase name, criteria, and arguments laid out within parenthesis. One example of a function is:

**=SUM(A2:A4)**.

Some functions also use absolute cell reference but this will be covered in a later lesson.

To learn more about how to use formulas and functions, you may also visit our articles on introduction to spreadsheet formulas, where you will learn how to create basic formulas and what is a spreadsheet function where you will learn to work with the most used functions in Microsoft Excel. You may also surcharge your knowledge by exploring Excel conditional functions.

## Before you go

Be sure to try our end-of-lesson quiz on the introduction to spreadsheets to see how much you learned.

We do our best to be as detailed and clear as possible in the information we provide. However, if you have any questions or comments, be sure to leave them in the comment section below, and we will get back to you.