The Layout of an Excel Workbook

Following on in the series of beginners posts in which we have looked at what Excel is and the basic structure of an Excel Workbook we can now start to look at the Excel Workbook itself and review some of the key points you will need to understand going forward…

Excel Workbooks have a few key areas that every user needs to know in order to start using Excel and navigating around the Workbook.

The Basics

When you open a new Excel Workbook the Workbook name can be found at the very top, by default this will be “Book 1” until you save the Workbook and give it a name.

In the far left corner is the File Tab, left-clicking on this will reveal a variety of options to Open a New Workbook, Print the Existing Workbook, Save the Existing Workbook or view Recent Documents that you have worked with. It also contains information on the File Properties such as the size in memory terms of the Workbook and it allows you to access Excel Options where you can customise your Excel when you get more familiar with it:

00079_Layout of Excel Workbook 01

The Worksheet Area

The next important part of the Workbook is your Worksheet area, this is your canvas for data entry, tables and charts. You will always have at least one Worksheet in a Workbook and by default three blank Worksheets are created in every new file labelled “Sheet 1”, “Sheet 2” and “Sheet 3”.

The Worksheet that is active, or in other words the one you are working on, will be highlighted and the others greyed out so in the below image you can see that the active Worksheet is “Sheet 1”:

00079_Layout of Excel Workbook 02

Navigating around the Excel Worksheet

Excel Worksheets are full of Cells in which data values or Functions can be entered. The Active Cell is identified by a black border around the Cell but you can also see the Active Cell reference (shown in the next image).

To navigate around the Excel Worksheet you can use the arrow keys (Up, Down, Left and Right) on your Keyboard or there are also directional scroll bars to allow you to navigate around the Worksheet:

00079_Layout of Excel Workbook 03

The Function Bar

Another important part of the Excel Workbook is the Function Bar, this is where you will be able to see what Function has been entered into the Active Cell or create a new Function by either directly entering the Function into the bar or using the Function Wizard.

Functions are calculations that tell Excel to do something with specific cells, for example the SUM Function will total a range of Cells.

00079_Layout of Excel Workbook 04

If no Function is in the Active Cell then it will display the value within the Cell, if the Cell is empty then the Function Bar will also be empty.

If you enter a value of 50 into Cell A1 and ensure that Cell A1 is active by clicking on the Cell then the Function Bar will show 50:

00079_Layout of Excel Workbook 05

If you add another value in Cell A2 (75 for example) and then in Cell A3 you use a SUM Function to total Cells A1 and A2 the Function Bar will show the SUM Function rather than the value:

00079_Layout of Excel Workbook 06

Tip: Data Values will show exactly as they are entered in the Function Bar but you can identify a Function as they always start with the equals sign.

Functions can be entered to Excel in three ways:

  • Directly into a cell by starting the Function with the equals sign, for example = SUM(A1:A2)
  • Directly into the Function Bar. Again you must always start with the equals sign but you can type your Function directly into the Function Bar and it will place it within the Active Cell.
  • By using the Function Wizard, this will also place the created Function into the Active Cell.

The Excel Ribbon

The Excel Ribbon was introduced in Version 2007 onwards and replaces the old style drop-down menu system where you click a Command to reveal the Sub-Commands in a new menu. The Excel Ribbon makes things a lot easier by grouping key commands into Tabs and displaying them all at the same time.

The Excel Ribbon is located across the whole of your Workbook at the very top, above the Worksheet and above Function Bar:

00079_Layout of Excel Workbook 07

The Excel Ribbon is fully customisable but by default it will contain all the common commands that 95% of Excel users will use frequently. When you open a new Workbook the Ribbon will be on the “Home” tab:

00079_Layout of Excel Workbook 08

Within each of the Tabs are Icons that represent the Sub-Commands for that Category. You can hover the mouse cursor over each Icon to get a description of what it does:

00079_Layout of Excel Workbook 09

To switch to a different tab you simply left-click the mouse cursor on top of the Tab Name and the Ribbon will Switch Views, for example if you left-click on the Insert tab the Ribbon will change:

00079_Layout of Excel Workbook 10

There are numerous commands within each Tab on the Excel Ribbon and I will get into the most useful ones in a later post but for now I encourage you to click around the Ribbon to familiarise yourself with some of the various commands available to you.


That covers some basics on the Layout of the Workbook, I appreciate that this post is scratching the surface of many parts but it is important to understand the fundamentals without getting too immersed and overwhelmed with overly technical details. When you have the basics mastered it makes understanding some of the more advanced aspects of Excel a lot easier.

As with all new Software I would encourage you to open an Excel Workbook and start clicking around to see for yourself what some of the buttons and options do.

In future posts I will look at the basic commands every Excel user should learn and take a look at the Excel Ribbon in more detail; before you know it you will be creating some great Excel Workbooks to impress your friends and colleagues!


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Keep Excelling,

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  1. Pingback: Guide to the Excel Ribbon – Home Tab | Dedicated Excel

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