Course: Step-by-step Spreadsheets for Absolute Beginners

Step-by-step Spreadsheets for Absolute Beginners

  • Life Time Access
  • Certificate on Completion
  • Access on Android and iOS App
  • Self-Paced
About this Course

Are you mystified by Microsoft Excel? Feeling intimidated by spreadsheets? Want to save time and effort by learning how to use spreadsheets the RIGHT way?

  • Spreadsheet programs such as Microsoft Excel have replaced paper-based systems throughout the business world. Initially developed for accounting and bookkeeping tasks, they're also used extensively to organize and store tabular lists.

In this fun and friendly course suitable for absolute beginners, we'll use a practical, real-world example to learn all about spreadsheet navigation, data entry tips and tricks, calculations, formulas, and more!


My name is Kathleen, and I've been teaching technology to beginners under the moniker Robobunnyattack! since 2009. I believe that with the right approach, anyone can learn anything.

  • My goal in this course is to help you develop an intuitive understanding of how to use ANY spreadsheet software.

In this course, we'll build and edit a practical, real-world example. As we work together, I'll explain WHY and HOW things work in spreadsheets, so you can learn more quickly and with more confidence.

As we build our spreadsheet, we'll cover:

  • How spreadsheets work, and why they're so useful
  • Data entry tips and tricks to save time and effort
  • Thinking ahead so you can build useful and flexible templates
  • Putting your spreadsheet to work with simple formulas and functions
  • Using spreadsheets to find solutions to real-world problems
  • How to choose the RIGHT file format for your spreadsheet
  • BONUS: FREE alternatives to Microsoft Excel!

I'll demonstrate each step using LibreOffice, a FREE and easy-to-use office productivity suite. You can apply these skills in your preferred spreadsheet software program, such as Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, or Google Spreadsheets.

By the end of this course, you'll be able to use Microsoft Excel or any other spreadsheet software application with confidence!

Here's just a sample of what my (awesome!) students have to say about this course:

"Really great introductory course. It helped me to really sort out the formulas and lecture 17 on the file endings was a big eye opener as well." —Joan B.

"I came into this course having no clue how to operate a spreadsheet, after working through Kathleen's lessons I now have a solid understanding on how to setup and operate spreadsheets." —Tim C.

"Much quicker than using a book." —James H.


  • This course includes lifetime access to over 2 hours of step-by-step videos.
  • You'll also get supplementary text lectures, free downloads, and links to helpful resources.
  • Short quizzes at the end of each section will help you gauge your own understanding and check your progress along the way.


  • This completely depends on your availability and learning preference. You can work through all the video lectures in one afternoon, or pace yourself over several days or weeks — it's up to you!

I'm confident you'll LOVE this course, and I'm excited to help you learn. Enroll now and you can start using spreadsheets with confidence today!

Kathleen Farley (aka Robobunnyattack!)

Who this course is for:

  • Beginner-level users with little or no experience using Microsoft Excel (or any spreadsheet software)
  • Students seeking to strengthen their data management skills
  • Learners of all ages who want to REALLY understand how to use spreadsheets –– not just memorize a series of steps!
Basic knowledge
  • A computer (Windows, Mac, or Linux)
  • Rudimentary computer skills (using a mouse, opening and saving files)
  • Any spreadsheet software, such as Microsoft Excel, LibreOffice, or OpenOffice
  • Basic grade-school level math comprehension
  • A desire to learn!
What you will learn
  • In this course, we'll use a real-world example to practice spreadsheet navigation, data entry tips and tricks, calculations, formulas, and more
  • We'll focus on WHY and HOW things work in spreadsheets –– so you can develop an intuitive understanding of how to use ANY spreadsheet software
  • By the end of this course, you'll be able to use spreadsheet software with confidence!
Number of Lectures: 19
Total Duration: 02:02:09
  • Welcome!  

    Welcome to Step-by-step Spreadsheets for Absolute Beginners!

    This course truly is for ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS - so if you've never touched a spreadsheet before in your life, you're in the right place!

    If you're tried to use spreadsheets in the past, only to find yourself utterly mystified and confused - don't worry, you're still in the right place. (If, on the other hand, you're already comfortable and confident using spreadsheets, this is probably not the right course for you!)

    My goal is to help you feel confident using spreadsheets, no matter what your background is. I think spreadsheets are super cool and exceptionally useful - and by the end of this course, I hope you do too!

    Let's get started!

    PS If you have any questions while we go through this course, please ask! Either post your question as a new discussion in the course dashboard, or contact me!

  • Why are spreadsheets so awesome?  

    Why so I think spreadsheets are so awesome?

    If you're dying to jump into learning about spreadsheets, and you don't want to listen to me talk about how cool and awesome spreadsheets are - feel free to skip ahead to the next lecture.

    Otherwise, here's why I think spreadsheets are the bee's knees. 

  • What you need to get started  

    What do you need to get started?

    There are five things you'll need:

    1. A computer! Either a desktop or laptop will do. Windows, Mac or Linux is fine -- and don't worry if it's an older model.

    2. Some rudimentary computer skills. You need to know how to use a mouse, as well as how to open and save files.

    3. Some basic math comprehension. You need to understand addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Just basic grade school stuff. (And don't worry, you won't have to do any of it in your head!)

    4. Some kind of spreadsheet software. You may already have Microsoft Excel, and that will do just fine. If not, you can download and install a free program called LibreOffice (available for Windows, Mac, and Linux). (I'll talk more about this in the next lecture too.)

    5. A desire to learn!

  • Choose your weapon: Free alternatives to Microsoft Excel  

    Let's talk about spreadsheet software!

    Microsoft Excel is currently the most popular spreadsheet software application around, and it's probably the software most of you are using. Excel is part of the Microsoft Office office productivity suite. It's not cheap, which is why I also want to tell you about...

    Free Alternatives to Microsoft Excel

    Yes, there are free (and legal) alternatives to Microsoft Excel! If you don't have Excel on your computer (or even if you do, and you're curious about other how programs work) here are some options to explore:

    1. LibreOffice is a free and open source software program that's available for Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. It's a great piece of software, and I've been using it for years as my main office productivity suite. You can download it for free from the LibreOffice website at:

    2. Google Drive is a suite of web applications that runs in your web browser - which means it's available to you from any computer that's connected to the Internet. Google Drive includes a powerful web-based spreadsheet program called Google Sheets you can access online. If you have a Gmail address, you already have access to Google Drive.

    3. Another web-based option is Microsoft's Office Web Apps that are free to access online. Excel Online (formerly called the Microsoft Excel Web App) is included in this suite of web applications.

    I'll be using LibreOffice for most of these lectures, but you'll be able to do everything I show you in the spreadsheet program of your choice.

    Choose your weapon: Free alternatives to Microsoft Excel

  • Project overview: 5-song CD recording budget  

    What's our project all about?

    It's a lot more fun to learn by doing, rather than try to absorb a lot of abstract concepts. So for this course, we're going to pretend that we're in a band, and we're putting together a budget to record our first CD.

    Our band is called the Robobunny All-Stars, and we're on a tight budget! So we need to keep track of all our expenses for this project. We'll also want to track all the ways we can make money from this CD.

    And hopefully, when all's said and done, we'll make a profit!

    You can copy this project, or choose another project that you're passionate about. Any project that involves budgeting income and expenses will do for the purposes of this course.

    Are you ready? Start up your spreadsheet program, and let's dive in! 

First Steps
  • Meet your spreadsheet  

    Meet your spreadsheet! Start up a new spreadsheet, and let's have look around.

    There are some important terms you need to know before we move forward:

    See the grid on your spreadsheet? You probably noticed the letters along the top, and the number along the side. Those letters identify our vertical columns, and the number identify the horizontal rows. I'll be talking about columns and rows a lot in this course, so make sure you know which is which.

    Those individual boxes in the grid are called cells. Each cell is identified by the name of the column and the name of the row. So a cell in column E and on row 5 is called "E5".

    Pretty easy, right? In fact, it's just like playing BATTLESHIP!

    One more detail...

    Each spreadsheet workbook can actually contain more than one sheet. Typically, you can switch between sheets using tabs along the bottom left hand side. You can also use these tabs to add new sheets to your workbook.

    BONUS: Check out this fun TV commercial from 1975 for the Milton Bradley game "Battleship": You Sank My Battleship!

  • FREE DOWNLOAD: Battleships!  

    Battleships (also known as Sea Battle or Battleship) is a strategic guessing game for two players. It's a game that dates from World War I. It was published by various companies as a pad-and-pencil game in the 1930s, and released as a plastic board game by Milton Bradley in 1967.

    What does this have to do with spreadsheets? Because if you know how to play Battleships, you already know how to identify cells in a spreadsheet!

    Download and play this pen-and-paper version of the game with a friend whenever you need a break from working on your spreadsheet. Think of it as "spreadsheet cell identification practice"! 

  • Data entry tips and tricks  

    Let's add some stuff to our spreadsheet!

    Since we're creating a budget, let's put an appropriate title at the top of our sheet. We won't worry about formatting for the time being.

    We'll need to list all of our EXPENSES as well as all of our INCOME, so let's add those headings too.

    Next, let's do a brain dump of every expense and income item we can think of. (Don't worry about the numbers for now.)

    Wondering how to insert a new row in a spreadsheet? Just right-click on the row number BELOW where you want to insert a row, and select the "insert row" option.

    Watch the video to learn a handy trick to quickly resize the width of a column.

    BONUS: Check out this video to find out what a theremin is!

  • Thinking ahead: Building a flexible template  

    Before you add any numbers to your spreadsheet, take a moment to think about how you might want to use this information in the future. This will help you build a better, more flexible spreadsheet.

    In our case, we might want to have the freedom to adjust quantities and item costs, and have the spreadsheet do the calculations for us. So we'll create separate columns to contain all of this information, rather than just enter final totals.

    So let's go ahead and enter the quantities and item costs for all of our expenses and income items. (Don't worry too much about accuracy - remember, this is a spreadsheet course, not a budgeting course! Go ahead and have some fun with your numbers.)

    Watch the video to learn how to format individual numbers and columns of numbers to display as currency. 

Putting Your Spreadsheet to Work
  • Calculations: Don't do the math!  

    Let's put our spreadsheet to work now! I don't want to do any math in my head, and nor should we have to. That's what spreadsheets are for!

    Computers are great at doing calculations - the trick is know how to tell the computer what to do. When you're using a spreadsheet, you need to enter a "=" symbol first in order to tell it you want it to do a calculation. (Also, don't use any spaces!)

    Use the following symbols to write your calculation:

    to add: +

    to subtract: -

    to multiply: *

    to divide: /

    Notice the difference between what shows up in the input line vs. what shows up in the cell. The input line will display the calculation instructions you've given to the spreadsheet, and the cell will display the results of that calculation.

    Go ahead and practice! 

  • Formulas = Magic recipes!  

    Remember when we learned about how to identify cells? Those skills will come in handy now!

    Now that we know all about calculations, we can write formulas.

    Spreadsheet formulas are just calculations that use cell names instead of numbers. So when we type the following formula:


    ...we're just telling the spreadsheet to take the number inside cell B4 and multiply it by C4. Magic!

  • Tips and tricks for writing formulas  

    Let's learn about some shortcuts for writing formulas.

    You don't have to type out the name of a cell when you're writing a formula - instead, try clicking once on the cell you want. Boom!

    Watch the video to learn an awesome trick for quickly copying the same formula across several rows. 

  • Functions = Über formulas!  

    Now that we know how to write a formula, let's learn about functions!

    When adding up a column of numbers, you could write something like:


    ...but that's not a very elegant solution. What if you had hundreds of rows to add up? Not very practical!

    This is where functions come in handy.

    Functions also start with the "=" symbol, and they have a name. Some common function names are SUM, MAX, and AVERAGE. The basic syntax for functions looks like this:


    In the example above, "NAME" is just the name of the function. The ????? part might be a number, a cell name, a range of cells, or a series of values separated by commas.

    HINT: Don't put any spaces before or after the NAME part!

    A commonly used function is the SUM function. It just "sums up" all the numbers inside a range. So the following function:


    ...will add up ALL the numbers between B1 and B5 inclusive. Super handy, right?

    In fact, the SUM function is so handy that most spreadsheet programs have a shortcut button for it. Look for a button with the Σ symbol on it (this letter is called "Sigma" - it's the eighteenth letter of the Greek alphabet). 

Using Your Spreadsheet to Find Solutions
  • Subtraction in action: Are we going to break even?  

    Let's use our spreadsheet to identify problems and find solutions for us.

    First of all - are we going to break even on our project? Let's find out!

    We can use a formula to figure out our profit. Go ahead and write a formula that calculates INCOME minus EXPENSES.

    Oh no! Our project doesn't seem to break even. We're going to have to adjust some numbers to make sure we don't lose money on this project.

  • Playing with numbers: Tweaking our budget  

    Because we built a great spreadsheet, we can easily change some of the numbers to find ways to break even on our project.

    So go ahead and change a few numbers, and watch how your entire spreadsheet updates automatically for you. Cool! 

  • Bonus round: Splitting the profits  

    BONUS ROUND: Let's split the proceeds!

    In this lecture, let's figure out how much money each band member will make if we split the proceeds evenly. How would you write this formula?

    Watch the video to find out! 

File Formats
  • Choosing the right spreadsheet file format  

    How do we choose the right file format to save our spreadsheet?

    We have a few different options available to us, including the following:

    Microsoft Excel 2007/2010 XML (*.xlsx) is one of the most commonly used formats for spreadsheets. This format will allow you to share your spreadsheet with anyone else using a recent version of Microsoft Excel.

    Microsoft Excel 97/2000/XP/2003 (*.xls) is another commonly used spreadsheet format. This is an older version of the Excel format. Using this format will allow you to share your spreadsheet with someone who's using an older version of Microsoft Excel.

    ODF Spreadsheet (*.ods) is the default spreadsheet format for open-source programs like LibreOffice and If you're only using LibreOffice and you're not planning to share your spreadsheet with anyone else, it's fine to use this format. Otherwise, you'll probably want to use one of the Excel formats to make it more convenient for other people who might be using Excel.

    Text CSV (*.csv) is useful when you just want to transfer raw data from one application to another. This kind of file format doesn't save formulas or even formatting for that matter - it just save the raw numerical data in text format. If you're just a beginner, you probably won't use it very much. But it's handy to know about. "CSV" stands for "Comma Separated Values" and that's exactly what these files look like if you open them up in a plain text editor - just a list of values separated by commas.

    Portable Document Format (*.pdf) is useful if you want to share or publish a non-editable PDF version of your spreadsheet.

Wrapping Up
  • Hooked on spreadsheets: What's next?  

    Now that you know the basics of spreadsheets, what should you learn next? 

  • Bonus Lecture: Additional Resources  

    This bonus lecture provides additional resources and links to my other courses on Udemy so you can continue your learning.

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