What is Excel? Excel Definition/Meaning, Functions, and Important Features


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In this article, we will discuss what is excel and its definition, functions, and important features.

Microsoft Excel is a program many people use in their daily work. It can help in a lot of ways when it comes to processing and managing data. Understanding further about the program and its capabilities can give valuable insights and enable us to optimize the program more.

So, without further ado, let’s start to learn much more about this excel program!

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What is Excel?

Excel definition/meaning is a program/application which contains spreadsheets that we can use to manage and/or process our data. Excel stores the data individually in entities called cells and those cells are divided into worksheets with rows and columns.

Here is an interface example of an excel program with its worksheets, rows, columns, and cells.

What is Excel? Excel Definition/Meaning, Functions, and Important Features - Screenshot of the Excel Interface Example



Excel Advantages and Disadvantages

As a program, excel has its advantages and disadvantages. From what we have experienced while using it, the main advantages of using excel are:

Quite easy to get the hang of its basic operations such as inputting and doing basic data processing
  • Many features to process data from basic to complex. We have things like formulas, sort & filter, data validation, pivot table, etc in excel which can help us to do that
  • Handy data visualization features with its conditional formatting, sparklines, chart & graphs, pivot, etc
  • Many add-ins available which can empower our excel program further
  • A very flexible program that can be developed into many great things with its many features and VBA. Some creative people can even create games using only excel
  • Many people, especially office workers, use excel nowadays. This makes it much easier for us to collaborate with other people to do our work in the program

While it has many great advantages, it surely has disadvantages as well. Things such as:
  • If you handle complex data with hundred of thousands of rows, excel can easily become a slow program to operate
  • We cannot use excel in a multi-user and online mode (unless you have access to Microsoft Office 365, of course)
  • Many of its great features like formula, pivot, macro, etc aren’t that intuitive to use. Some people can get frustrated in their effort to master them to help finishing their work
  • It can be hard to troubleshoot when we get errors from our data processing
  • Some people perceive it as a program with a lack of security because of limited data protection features in it

So, what do you think yourself of the excel program? However, its advantages seem to beat its disadvantages comprehensively according to many people. After all, it is still one of the most used software in the world!



Excel Functions

Here is a list of functions that excel can perform to help us with our work.
  • Divide and organize your data neatly with its worksheets, rows, columns, and cells entities
  • Calculate your numbers fast and accurately
  • Retrieve data from external programs/online and put it into spreadsheets
  • Restrict the inputs and revisions to the database you store in it
  • Visualize your data
  • Sort and filter your data
  • Automate your data processing process



Excel Important Features

Excel has many features you can use to manage and process your data in it. However, there are some you may more often utilizing as they are the most useful ones in supporting your work.

Each person’s case can be different when it comes to the excel features they find the most useful (depending on the job description they do daily with excel). Nevertheless, generally, here are some features you will find the most important when it comes to work in excel more optimally.

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  • Formulas/functions

    Without a doubt, this is the most important feature you have to master when you want to process data in excel. Formulas are the backbone of excel when you want to get your desired output from the data that you have.

    There are many kinds of formulas you can use in excel. Some of them are more popular than others like IF, SUM, and VLOOKUP. Nevertheless, you should see the work you often do in excel and master the appropriate formulas for it.


  • Sort & filter

    When we have some form of table which contains much data in excel, we sometimes need to organize its content. We maybe need to sort the data alphabetically or see only some particular sections of the table. If that is what you need, then the sort & filter feature in excel can be the solution you need.

    You can sort and filter your data table in the way you prefer by using this feature. When you need to analyze the data you have, this is surely a handy function to utilize.


  • Charts & graphs

    Data visualization is important when it comes to showing your data to other people. Doing it the right way can make people understand what you want to convey with your data much easier.

    Talking about data visualization, one of the best methods to do it is by displaying charts and graphics. Excel has many choices of them that you can use to make your data much more digestible. Thus, if you need to show your work in excel excellently, then you should master this excel charts & graphs feature!


  • Pivot table

    Need to extract information from your way-to-large data table?

    Your excel data table can have many rows and columns and that makes it hard when you want to do analysis. You have to skim through all parts of your data table and that will take a lot of time to accomplish.

    That is when a pivot table can come to your rescue! It can help to reformat and analyze your data so you can understand it in a much more practical way. Mastering it should help you in doing your excel work more productively!


  • Conditional formatting

    This is another data visualization feature you can use in excel. When you have much data in excel, you may want to compare their values and give some kinds of marks accordingly.

    And that is just what conditional formatting can do for you! It can give colors or symbols to your cells that make the comparison results much clearer for anyone to see. Understanding its usage will give you a great option to display your data in a way that is more understandable.


  • Macro & VBA

    This is quite advanced stuff in excel. However, we think we should include it considering it can help people in maximizing excel potential much more. Macro & VBA helps excel becomes a much more flexible program and it can make your data processing much more automatic.

    If you want to make your work much easier to do in excel, then you should try to learn this feature. Doing that can enable you to create a program that will help you work in a much more productive fashion.



Excel Versions Development

Curious about the progress of the excel versions since the first time people begin to use excel? Here is a tables summary of major excel program development for Windows and Mac until the time we write this article.

Excel for Windows OS
YearVersionName
19872.0Excel 2
19903.0Excel 3
19924.0Excel 4
19935.0Excel 5
19957.0Excel 95
19978.0Excel 97
20009.0Excel 2000
200210.0Excel 2002
200311.0Excel 2003
200712.0Excel 2007
201014.0Excel 2010
201315.0Excel 2013
201616.0Excel 2016
201916.0Excel 2019


Excel for Mac OS
YearVersionName
19851.0Excel 1
19881.5Excel 1.5
19892.2Excel 2
19903.0Excel 3
19924.0Excel 4
19935.0Excel 5
19988.0Excel 98
20009.0Excel 2000
200110.0Excel 2001
200411.0Excel 2004
200812.0Excel 2008
201114.0Excel 2011
201616.0Excel 2016
201916.0Excel 2019



Additional Note

  • Before excel, the standard spreadsheet program people use is Lotus 1-2-3. Excel gradually replaced Lotus 1-2-3 position after its release
  • Excel was first released in Mac in 1985
  • Before Excel becomes the name, this program was originally named Multiplan


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