Microsoft Excel is Microsoft’s spreadsheet application. Excel enables users to perform a wide variety of functions including calculation, graphic tools, pivot tools, and macro programming language. You can create charts and graphs that help you visualize and analyze data.

It’s become one of the most popular tools for a data scientist, so it’s a good idea for you to know at least the basics. These days, Microsoft even has mobile Excel apps for Windows, Android, and iOS devices. Users can share spreadsheets with colleagues that can be accessed from the office or on the go.

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In this article, we’ll cover the main functions in the Ribbon, which is what the main menu bar in Excel is called. Items in the ribbon contain groups of icons that perform similar functions. These include:

  • File
  • Home
  • Insert
  • Page Layout
  • Formulas
  • Data
  • Review
  • View

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The File menu is the leftmost item in the Excel ribbon. The File ribbon items enable you to perform file management functions, including open, save, close, and print. You also use the File menu to import from external sources into Excel, along with options that allow you to tweak Excel itself.

Pro Tip: The File menu does not appear as a ribbon in Excel for Mac. Instead, the File menu appears in the Application Menu Bar.


The Home menu is the second menu in the Excel menu bar. The Home ribbon items include options for formatting font, color, conditional formatting, filter, number type, and more. All these functions help one in performing various effective calculations.

Pro Tip: Try the Format Painter. It allows you to copy the formatting from one cell to another, which can be a great time saver.


As the name suggests, the Insert menu helps you insert various options and items into an Excel spreadsheet. You can insert a variety of things ranging from pivot table to picture, clip art, shapes, screen shots, charts and graphs, text box, header and footer, symbols, equation, and more.

Pro Tip: You can also insert hyperlinks and even maps using the Insert menu.

Page Layout

Again, the name suggests the collection of functions on the Page Layout menu. You’ll see many options for configuring pages for viewing and printing—including page size, margins, colors and fonts, and so forth. You can also customize cell height and width on the Page Layout menu.

Pro Tip: You can add a background to a collection of cells—or even your entire spreadsheet. Just click Background and select the image you want to use.


The Formulas menu is where you find all the number-crunching options. Excel comes with lots of formulas including financial, logical, text, date & time, lookup & reference, and math & trigonometry.

Pro Tip: You can name cells or ranges of cells—this can make it easier to customize your formulas.


The Data menu also contains many important functions in Excel, including imports and connections with databases. You also access the sort, filter, remove duplicates, data validation, consolidation, group, ungroup, and subtotal functions on the Data menu.

Pro Tip: Use the Data Validation function to ensure consistency in cells.


Earlier in this article, we mentioned Excel’s ability to collaborate on spreadsheets. The Review menu is where many of those tasks take place. You can make comments in cells for your colleagues, check spelling, track changes, and even restrict permission using items in the Review menu.

Pro Tip: Use the Share Workbook link to share with your coworkers!


On the View menu, you customize the way spreadsheets appear on your screen. Options include displaying grid lines between cells, toggling the formula bar and headings, and more. This menu also gives you options to view and record macros, as well—macros let you record common steps you perform so you don’t have to repeat the same things over and over again!

Pro Tip: Use the Freeze Top Row or Freeze First Column, and they will stay put while you scroll through pages and pages of numbers.

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Excel is helpful to use, no matter whether you’re an office worker, a homemaker, or a data analyst. Knowing the basics can help you manage budgets, create what-if scenarios, and anything else you can think of that uses numbers. 

If you want to learn more about Excel, visit check out our Excel Tutorial. Not only will you learn the basic functions of Excel. You can also check out our Microsoft Excel Intermediate and Advanced Certification Training. Check out our video Introduction to Intermediate Excel to get a sample. With our online training, you can sharpen your Excel skills, even if you’re at home in pajamas!

Simplilearn also offers Data Science courses to help you master Data and start your career as a Data expert. Simplilearn's Advanced Certificate Program In Data Science will cover basics and advanced data concepts to help you get started. 


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