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Microsoft ExcelCodenamed Odyssey, Excel is a software program from Microsoft that is part of the Microsoft Office suite of software programs. Excel is capable of creating and editing spreadsheets that are saved with a .xls or .xlsx file extension. General uses of Excel include cell-based calculation, pivot tables, and various graphing tools. For instance, with an Excel spreadsheet, you could create a monthly budget, track business expenses, or sort and organize large amounts of data.

Unlike a word processor, such as Microsoft Word, the Excel documents consist of columns and rows of data, made up of individual cells. Each of these cells can contain either text or numerical values that can be calculated using formulas.

Excel overview

Below is an example of Microsoft Excel with each of its major sections highlighted. See the formula bar, cell, column, row, or sheet tab links for further information about each of these sections.

Microsoft Excel

Why is Microsoft Excel used to create spreadsheets?

Microsoft Excel is just one program that can be used to help create, edit, and view spreadsheets. See our spreadsheet page for a full list of examples of how spreadsheets are used to manage data and other spreadsheet programs.

What are examples of how Excel can be used?

See our spreadsheet page for a full listing of examples and uses for Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

How can Excel be formatted?

Each of the rows, columns, and cells can be modified in many ways, including the background color, number or date format, size, text font, layout, etc. In our above example, you can see that the first row (row 1) has a blue background, bold text, and each cell has its text centered.

How many rows and columns does Excel support?

Below is a list of the maximum number of rows and columns an Excel spreadsheet can have, depending on the version of Excel.

Version Rows Columns
Excel 2003 and earlier 65,536 256
Excel 2007 and later 1,048,576 16,384

Also see: Formula, Function, Lookup, Multiplan, Spreadsheet