Now that you’ve created a basic worksheet, and you’re acquainted with Excel and its sometimes-quirky interface, it’s time to get down and dirty adding data. Whether you want to plan your household budget, build a sales invoice, or graph your soaring (or plunging) net worth, you first need to understand how Excel interprets the information you put in your worksheet.
Depending on what kind of data you type into a cell, Excel classifies it as a date, a number, or a piece of text. In this chapter, you’ll learn how Excel makes up its mind, and how you can make sure it makes the right decision. You’ll also see how to create a sample worksheet and learn how to use Excel’s best timesavers, including the indispensable Undo feature.
One of Excel’s most important features is its ability to distinguish between different types of information. A typical worksheet contains both text and numbers. There isn’t a lot that you can do in Excel with ordinary text (other than alphabetize a list, perform a simple spell check, and apply some basic formatting). On the other hand, Excel gives you a wide range of options for numeric data. For example, you can string your numbers together into complex calculations and formulas, or you can graph them on a chart. Programs that don’t try to separate text and numbers—like Microsoft Word, for example—can’t provide these features.
Most of the time, when you enter information in Excel, you don’t ...