Cells and Ranges

Cells are the basic building blocks of your Excel work – everything you do in Excel you do in your cells.

In this tutorial I’ll teach you all the basics about cells and ranges in Excel.

Selecting a cell

To select a cell simply left-click it.

Note that cells have names that identify them. If you look at your worksheet, you see that the rows have numbers and the columns have letters assigned to them.

Because of this, each cell can be described by combining the number of the row and letter of the column. For example in the image below, I selected cell B2.

Selecting a cell in Excel
Selecting a cell in Excel

Entering data in a cell

To insert data into a cell, simply double-click it and type the data you want to input. You can input different types of data: numbers, text, and dates.

To insert a date, simply write numbers and separate them with a / or - character (like 03/20/2015).

You can insert numbers, text, and dates into cells
You can insert numbers, text, and dates into cells

Editing cells

To edit a cell that already contains data you just double-click it again and edit the data inline.

Alternatively, click it and change the value in the Formula bar just above your worksheet followed by pressing Enter.

Editing a cells content in the formula bar
Editing a cells content in the formula bar

Selecting a range

A range in Excel is a group of more than one cell. There are different ways to select multiple cells.

1) Click a cell and drag your mouse

The easiest way to select a range is to simply click you mouse and drag it. As you drag the mouse pointer, you’ll see your selection increasing.

Selecting range C2 to D5
Selecting range C2 to D5

2) Hold the CTRL key while selecting multiple nonadjacent cells

Dragging your mouse only works for selecting adjacent cells. To select cells that are not next to each other, select a cell and then hold the CTRL key before clicking other cells.

Selecting nonadjacent cells by pressing the CRTL key
Selecting nonadjacent cells by pressing the CRTL key

Filling a range

A very cool feature in Excel is that it’s easy to fill ranges with data fast without having to enter data in each individual cell. This is called filling a range.

To fill a range, select and hold a cell and move your mouse to a direction. When you release your mouse click, Excel will fill the selected range with the same value that your single cell contained.

Filling a range in Excel
Filling a range in Excel
Now your Excel range is filled
Now your Excel range is filled

Now comes the interesting part: Excel also can fill a range with a pattern. Let’s say you want to make a range with numbers counting upwards from 1.

  • Fill three adjacent cells with 1, 2, and 3.
  • Select the range and drag your mouse down
  • Release your mouse click and watch magic happen. The range will be filled automatically with the pattern you had in your initial cells.
Excel will recognize the pattern in your selection when filling the range
Excel will recognize the pattern in your selection when filling the range
Range is filled with numbers counting upwards
Range is filled with numbers counting upwards

This not only works for numbers but also for dates. Additionally, Excel doesn’t just fill patterns for immediately following numbers and dates, but will pick up on other patterns too.

For example, if you want to fill a range skipping a day, simply enter two dates with a day in between and fill the range. Excel automatically recognizes the date pattern.

Filling a range with dates works as well
Filling a range with dates works as well
Excel picked up the pattern (skipping a day) when filling the range of dates
Excel picked up the pattern (skipping a day) when filling the range of dates

Moving a range

To move a range just select it and then click the border of the cells. Then drag it to where you want it and release your mouse click.

Click the border of a range to move it
Click the border of a range to move it
Drag the range to the location you want to move it
Drag the range to the location you want to move it

Copying and Pasting a range

To copy a range, simply press right-click and then Copy. You can also press CTRL+C on your keyboard.

Right-click and press Copy
Right-click and press Copy

Then go to the cell you want to paste your range and right-click and select Paste. Or press CTRL+V on your keyboard.

Click Paste to paste your copied range
Click Paste to paste your copied range