CIS 146 Microcomputer Applications


The VisiCalc spreadsheet program, introduced in 1979 to run on the Apple II computer, was considered to be the single most important reason why microcomputers gained acceptance in the business world. Lotus 1-2-3, developed by Mitch Kapor, was introduced in 1983  and quickly became the number one selling spreadsheet software on the IBM compatible PC platform. Within a few short years, Lotus 1-2-3 had sold over a million copies of its software package. Many people purchased computers just so that they could run Lotus 1-2-3. 

Lotus was to spreadsheets what Word Perfect was to word processing - both, the number one program in its category, and thus the standard. Just as word processing files are called documents, spreadsheet files are called worksheets. Today, the entire file in Excel is called a workbook, while each sheet is called a worksheet. Other spreadsheet programs include Quattro Pro, and Works Spreadsheet.

Spreadsheets contain a grid of rows and columns. Rows (the horizontal part of a worksheet) are numbered from 1 to 65,536 (in Excel 2000) and from 1 to 16,384 (in Works 4.5). Older versions of Lotus 1-2-3 were numbered from 1 to 8192. Actually, the earlier DOS version of Lotus went from 1 to 2048. Columns (the vertical part of a worksheet) are lettered from A to IV. After the column letters go from A, B, C, ... to Z, they use two letters, AA, AB, AC, ... to AZ, then use BA, BB, BC, BD... to BZ, and stop on the 256th column which is lettered IV.

Cell - The intersection of a row and a column. Each cell has a unique location name called a cell address. 

Cell Address - is made up of the column letter, plus the row number. For example, the top left cell in a worksheet has the cell address A1. The top right corner of the worksheet has the cell address IV1. The bottom left corner of the worksheet has the cell address A65536 and the bottom right is IV16636.

Active Cell - the cell which has focus. The cell with the bold border around it - called the cell pointer. When we type, the information is placed into the active cell.

Cell Pointer Movement Keys: Arrow Up, Arrow Down, Arrow Left, and Arrow Right move the cell pointer one cell Up, Down, Left and Right. The HOME key moves the cell pointer to column A in the current row. In Excel, the TAB key moves the cell pointer one cell to the right, while SHIFT + TAB moves the cell pointer one cell to the left. Lotus uses TAB key to move one screen to the right and the SHIFT + TAB keys to move one screen to the left. Page Up moves the cell pointer one screen up, while Page Down moves the cell pointer one screen down. After pressing the END key, you can tap any of the four arrow keys to move to the end of contiguous cells in the direction of the arrow. Note that the END key is a toggle key - it toggles on and off the END feature, indicated by the word END on the status bar.

Modes: It is important to be aware of the mode you are in when you are working with a spreadsheet program. This is because several keys act differently depending upon the mode you are in. The cell pointer movement keys listed above, assume you are in READY mode.

Before you can type information into a cell in Excel, you must be in READY mode. The mode indicator is in the lower left corner of the screen on the status bar. After you begin typing information into a cell in Excel, you change to ENTER mode. After you type information, you can press the ENTER key or press one of the four arrow keys to place your information into the active cell - which also returns you to ready mode. 

Often you will edit the contents of a cell by pressing the F2 (Edit key) or by clicking on the cell contents line (or formula bar) at the top of the screen. When you begin changing information in a cell, the spreadsheet program switches you to EDIT mode. Note the word EDIT in the status bar.

Once in EDIT mode, your left and right arrow keys act differently. The left and right arrow keys act on the edit line, just like they do in a word processing program - allowing you to move a character to the left or a character to the right. The Backspace and Delete key also act differently in EDIT mode - They erase a character to the left or right, just like they do in a word processor. In READY mode, the Backspace key erases the contents of the cell and puts you in EDIT mode. The Delete key in READY mode erases the contents of the cell and returns you to READY mode.

When editing a cell in Excel, you can tap the ESC (escape) key to cancel your changes and return to READY mode. 

Earlier versions of Lotus 1-2-3 used a menu system which started by the user pressing the slash key ( / ). For example, the user would save a file, accessing the menu mode, by pressing /FSY. These keystrokes would enter menu mode ( / ), then select File (F), the select save (S), and finally select Yes I want to save (Y). Versions of Excel, prior to Excel 97, used the slash key ( / ) for Excel help for Lotus users. Sometimes users would accidentally press the slash key ( / ) and continue to type other letters which happened to match Lotus menu item letters. To exit this menu system, and return to ready mode, the user can press the ESC (escape) key several times. Excel 2000 uses the slash key ( / ) to change focus to the menu bar (same as the ALT key) so it is quite possible that you may want to exit commands deep into the Excel 2000 menu system by using the ESC (escape) key.

POINT mode allows the user to point to cell references, rather than having to type in the cell address. To enter point mode, start a formula or function just as you normally would - and when you get ready to type a cell address, instead, use the arrow keys or Page Up/Page Down keys or HOME key, etc. to move to the cell you're about to reference in your formula or function. Once you point to the cell, press the next operator, parenthesis, comma or just press the ENTER key if you are finished with the formula. Using point mode to enter cell addresses will speed up the process of creating a spreadsheet since it will increase your accuracy. It should eliminate common errors caused by entering the wrong cell address.

Recalculation of the Worksheet: Unless you have changed the default recalculation setting, Excel recalculates your entire worksheet each time you change the contents of a cell. This means that all cells that are calculated based on the value of a changed cell, will also change.

Value vs. Label: You can enter values or labels into a cell. A value is  a number which has numerical value - one that can be calculated such as added, subtracted, multiplied, or divided. Values can be a number, a formula, or a function. Labels are any words such as headings, descriptions, addresses, notes, etc. Labels cannot be added, subtracted, multiplied or divided. Excel automatically treats entries as labels if you type a letter to begin the entry in the cell. If you begin an entry in a cell with a number, then type a space or other letter after the number, Excel treats your entry as a label. 

If you type a formula into a cell (such as A1+B1), Excel treats your entry as a label since you started your entry with the letter A. This is not what you wanted. To force Excel to treat your formula as a value, you must start the entry with the equal sign (=) or a plus sign (+). Instead, in order to get Excel to treat your formula as a value, you would enter this formula as =A1+B1 or +A1+B1.

Formula - a user created calculation to define cells in relation to other cells in a worksheet. Formulas calculate values in a specific order. A formula in Microsoft Excel always begins with an equal sign (=). The equal sign tells Excel that the succeeding characters constitute a formula. You can also start a formula with the plus sign (+), as you do in Lotus 1-2-3. Excel will automatically add the equal sign (=) in front of your formula. Following the equal sign are the elements to be calculated (the operands), which are separated by calculation operators. Excel calculates the formula from left to right, according to a specific order for each operator in the formula. You can change the order of operations by using parentheses.

Order of Operations and Operators: Excel is programmed to follow the same math rules we learned to follow when it encounters a formula with several operations. For this reason, we must understand the math rule so that we'll know how Excel will calculate a formula.

Easy to Remember Operation Operator
Please Parentheses ( ) parenthesis
Excuse Exponents ^ caret
My Dear Multiplication and Division * multiplication
/ division (forward /)
Aunt Sally Addition and Subtraction + addition
- subtraction
Example #1: If we typed +100*.05+4/2 into a cell, what value would be displayed - would it be  7 or 4.5? 
Example #2: If we typed +200+50/5*4-20 into a cell, what value would be displayed - would it be  180 or 220?
(answers at the bottom of this page)

Keep in mind that the arithmetic operators for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are located on the numeric keypad on the right side of the keyboard. Knowing this could help you on an exam if you were trying to remember if the arithmetic operator for division was a back slash or a forward slash. Also, note that the caret (^ - is a shift and the number 6 key) is used to raise a number to a power. To enter 53 we would simply type +5^3 in a cell.

Range - a group of cells in the shape of a rectangle, identified by two opposite corners. In Excel we define a range by including the cell addresses of two opposite corners with a colon in between. For example, to describe the range of cells including A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, and B3, we would use A1:B3. We could also describe the same range with B3:A1, or B1:A3, or A3:B1. Other spreadsheet programs are similar. Lotus 1-2-3 uses two periods between cell addresses in the same way; A1..B3, etc.

Functions - built in computations such as mathematical, financial, statistical, logical, etc. Excel 2000 has over 200 built in functions. Functions are predefined formulas that perform calculations by using specific values, called arguments, in a particular order, or structure.

Arguments - values that you give functions.

For example, the SUM function adds values or ranges of cells, and the PMT function calculates the loan payments based on an interest rate, the length of the loan, and the principal amount of the loan.

The SUM, MAX, MIN, AVERAGE functions are similar in that they require only one argument - the range. The syntax is =SUM(range). We enter the function exactly as =SUM(A1:B3) to add to total of all values in the range A1:B3. The MAX function displays the highest number in the range. The MIN function displays the lowest value in the range. And, the AVERAGE function returns the average of the numbers in the specified range.

The syntax of the payment function is =PMT(interest, term, principal). This function has three arguments. Arguments are separated by commas and must be in the exact order required by the function. Also, we must enter all arguments in the same form - ie: if we are computing a monthly payment, we must enter the interest rate as a monthly interest rate and we must enter the term of the loan in months. 

The syntax of the IF function is =IF(condition, true, false). Enter the condition you want to test as the first argument. Then, enter the value (or formula) you want displayed if the condition is true, and another for the false condition. This is a great formula for payroll applications. It is often used to test for overtime - testing for hours over 40. You can use nested IF statements (IF statements inside other IF statements) to calculate federal income taxes based on the withholding allowances and income tax brackets.

Once you learn to use these few functions, you will know how to use the rest of the more than 200 built in functions. In order to use any of the other functions, take a quick look at the help feature to learn the exact syntax. They all work the same way.

As in other Windows applications, the F1 key is the help key.

Three Mouse Pointers in Excel:

  1. Fat Cross - used to select a cell or a range of cells. To get the mouse pointer to change into the Fat Cross, position the mouse pointer anywhere in the active cell that is not on the bottom right corner or on the exact edge of the active cell.
  2. Thin Cross - used to copy or fill a range of cells. To get the mouse pointer to change into the Thin Cross, position the mouse pointer on the bottom right edge of the active cell or a selected range. 
  3. Arrow - used to move a cell or a range of cells.
    Since the introduction of Office XP, Excel 2002 now displays a Four Headed Arrow to move a cell or range of cells.
    To get the mouse pointer to change into the Arrow, position the mouse pointer on the exact edge of the active cell or selected range - but not in the bottom right corner. 

Answer to Example #1 is 7 since we must perform multiplication and division, before we add and subtract. Must divide 4/2 before we add it to the product of 100*.05 to get 5 + 2 = 7 as our answer.
Answer to Example #2 is 220 since we must first take 50/5 and get 10, then multiply it by 4 to get 40. All this must be calculated BEFORE we add it all together with 200 + 40 - 20 to get 220 as the answer.
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