Data Entry: Getting Started in Excel 2010

But now that we’ve learned how to get where we want to go on the worksheet, let’s learn the things we can do once we arrive. here are a few billion cells out there craving our attention, and we want to fill at least some of them with data. Here’s how.

Unlike typing in Microsoft Word, data entry in Excel is a two-step, but still elementary, affair. Type the number 48 in Word, for  example, and you’re done. But enter 48 in a worksheet cell and you need to complete the process by installing the value in the  cell. And that second step is carried out either by any navigational move away from the cell (e.g., pressing Enter or Page Down, or  clicking a different cell) in which you’ve just typed, or by entering the value and then clicking the check box alongside the  formula bar, as shown in Figure 2–16:

Figure 2 16. Click the check to place the value in its cell.

Here’s the simplest-case scenario. Type 48 in cell A3 and then press Enter. You’ve just done two things: 1) installed the  number 48 in A3, and 2) moved down a row into cell A4. Remember you need to execute two steps in order to enter data:  Type the value, and then finalize the entry with some navigational move (including Ctrl-Enter, which actually leaves you in the  cell), or by clicking the check mark.

But if you have second thoughts about entering that value, you need only press the Esc key before you install it in the cell, or  click the X you see above alongside the check mark. Do either of these things and the value simply won’t make its way in the  cell. Note also you’ll only see the X and the check mark on screen when you start to type in a cell.

(Note that for our purposes, we’ll always tell you to press Enter in order to enter data in their cells simply as a matter of  explanatory convenience. But remember that you can use the other options, too, unless I state otherwise.) It’s rather easy, and it should be—so don’t wait for the other shoe to drop. There are no hidden complexities here. Still, a number of classic data  entry features and issues need to be explained, just the same.

Entering Text: Trespassing Allowed

For one thing, note that when you enter a number it’s pushed by default to the cell’s right border, or aligned right, as they say  in the trade. That’s because our number system is Arabic, and proceeds from right to left. Enter text, however—and text are  data, too—and the results align left, as per our left-toright, Roman alphabet.

Now if I type something a bit more extensive—say, the phrase “Microsoft Excel”—in A3, the result looks like Figure 2–17:

Figure 2–17. Run out of space?
thereby raising an ancient spreadsheet question. You’ll note that our phrase appears to overrun cell A3 and invade the neighboring B3, implying in turn that the text occupies two different cells—but that isn’t the case. In fact the entire phrase is still positioned in A3, appearances notwithstanding; but apart from the fact that I’ve done this a few thousand times, how do I  know that? I know it because I can direct my attention to that long strip to the right of the name box, called the formula bar  (and again, we’ll need to explain that name). Click cell A3 again and check out the formula bar—you’ll see Figure 2–18:


Figure 2–18. The Formula Bar: recording the actual contents of a cell Note the visual relationship in force here. I’ve clicked  on cell A3. The formula bar records what I’ve typed there, confirming that the phrase in A3 indeed occupies that cell, and only  that cell. If you need additional proof, click cell B3 and turn to the formula bar—which now shows…nothing.

Yeah, this is another have-to-know, actually a few of them. First, we’ve learned that whatever you type in a cell is wholly  confined to that cell, no matter what optical illusions are perpetrated on the worksheet. Second, we’ve learned that the  formula bar tells you exactly what’s going on in the cell you click, a point that will acquire additional importance as we  proceed.

But there’s more to this. If I go ahead and actually type something in cell B3—say, “Thursday”—the worksheet reports what  you see in Figure 2–19:

Figure 2–19. The case of the disappearing word Now, Houston, we have a problem—a rather obvious one. We have seen that  as long as the adjoining cells to the right remain empty, it’s perfectly permissible to enter a lengthy phrase (at least one comprising text—more on this soon) in a cell, even if its contents encroach on the nearby cells. But type anything—even one  character—in one of the adjoining, empty-till-now cells, and the cell reclaims its own turf, barring any excess text from other  cells to its left. As a result, you’ll have two obvious questions: Has the clipped text in cell A3 been somehow deleted, and,  whatever the answer to that question, what do we do next?

The answer to the first question is: No. Click back on cell A3 and scan the formula bar. You’ll see that the phrase “Microsoft  Excel” is intact. None of it has been deleted, but rather some of it—that segment which had spilled into B3—has been obscured  by the text entered in that latter cell. And that’s what happens to text if it exceeds its column boundary: it continues untouched across empty, adjoining cells—until one of those cells is empty no longer. It’s then visually restricted to its own column.

And as for question two: If we delete the entry in cell B3, then all the text in A3 reappears on screen. But if we want to keep  “Thursday” in its place, we need to widen the column in which “Microsoft Excel” resides—in this case—the column A. Doing so  should make room for all the text in both cells.