Understanding the Excel screen components

Posted: June 7, 2018


When you first start using Excel the screen can be a little overwhelming.

Once you have an understanding of each of the components you can quickly locate and use them with confidence.

Identifying the screen components

In the example below each of the screen component names are introduced.

The functionality of each component is detailed below.

Parts of Excel spreadsheet 1


Quick Access toolbar

The Quick Access toolbar (QAT) by default displays buttons for Save, Undo and Redo. However you can customise the toolbar to suit your needs by clicking the arrows at the end of the toolbar and add your own buttons or by right-clicking any button on any tab and selecting Add to Quick Access toolbar. To remove a button from your  QAT toolbar just right-click it and select Remove from Quick Access toolbar.


Command buttons are organised into tabs. For example, the commands that are used for saving, printing and sharing files are all located on the File tab. The Home tab houses the most commonly used command buttons for modifying and formatting your worksheet.


The Ribbon is the area on each tab that houses all of the command buttons. You may not need all of the commands on a Ribbon. You will come to find that you use only what you need. And if you like you can add these to the QAT toolbar too.

Tip: if you find you just aren’t getting enough screen space follow the steps below to hide the Ribbon and gain more screen area.

  • Double-click the active tab name.  The Ribbon will be hidden.  Now click any tab once and the Ribbon will drop-down.  When you click away the Ribbon will once again be hidden.
  • In Office 2013 and 2016 you can click the Ribbon Display Options button on the top right of the screen.  From here select the option that will best suit.
  • If you are using a touch screen, from the Quick Access Toolbar try clicking the Touch/Mouse mode button.  If you are using a mouse be sure to select this mode and you will suddenly have a more compact screen.

Note: to display the Ribbon again just double-click any tab.

Column headings, row numbers and cell addresses

The Column header bar identifies each column with a letter of the alphabet.  Down the left side of the screen is the Row number bar, which identifies each row with a number. The intersection of a column and a row is known as a cell. For example, row 1 in column A is known as cell A1. Row 3 in column B is known as cell B3. And so on.

Cell selector

The cell selector is the heavy outlined rectangle that indicates the current working position. The cell pointer can be moved by clicking a cell with the left mouse button or by using the arrow keys.  The cell pointer can be extended to cover multiple cells by clicking and dragging the mouse pointer across the selection. You will notice the row number and column letter “light up” to indicate the current position of the cell pointer. To learn more about selecting cells see my post Selecting cells and moving around an Excel worksheet.

Formula bar

The formula bar displays the content of the selected cell. If the cell holds a calculation the formula bar will show the formula while the actual cell in the grid area will show the result. You can click into the formula bar to update the cell content.

Sheet tabs

Sheet tabs (a.k.a. worksheets) are used to organise and categorise your data.  For example, you could have individual worksheets for each month of the year, or each employee.  When you create a new workbook (file) in Excel 2007 and 2010 you will be given Sheet 1, Sheet 2 and Sheet 3. However in Excel 2013 and 2016 you will be given just the one worksheet. You can easily add to these by clicking the Insert worksheet button.

Components of Excel 2

Inserting a new worksheet in Excel 2013 or 2016

Parts of Excel screen 3

Inserting a new worksheet in Excel 2010

To rename the worksheet tab right-click the tab and then select Rename.  Type the new name and then press ENTER. You can also double-click a sheet tab name to rename it.

As you add more worksheets to the workbook you will need to use the navigation buttons (arrows at the bottom left of the screen, just to the left of the first worksheet) to view the available worksheets.  This will only be effective if more sheets exist than tabs can fit across the bottom area of the screen, i.e. the tabs are hidden behind the horizontal scroll bar.

Tip: right-click the arrows to see a list of all available (unhidden) worksheets. Click a worksheet name to move to it.

Status bar

The Status bar displays information depending on what you are currently doing in the worksheet. For example, if you have selected over a number of cells that hold values, the Status bar will show you the Total, Average and number of cells selected. You can learn more about this in my post Find the Average, Count and Sum of a range without having to write a formula.

Document view and Zoom control

Use the Document view buttons and the Zoom control settings to change the layout and magnification of your screen. BTW, if you are playing around with the view buttons always head back to the Normal view to get back to Excel’s default view.

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