Excel

These Top Excel Skills are Surprisingly Easy to Learn

Developing your Excel knowledge allows you to start analyzing data like an expert. Once you’ve covered the basics of using the software, you’ll probably want to start expanding your skillset. Luckily, many of the top Excel skills aren’t too difficult to get the hang of with a little practice!

Whether you use Excel to complete tasks at home, in the office, or both, mastering these Excel skills will make your workflow so much easier and save you time. Let’s cover some of the top skills that are surprisingly easy to learn – even if you’re not an Excel pro (yet)!

Proficiency with Excel formulas and functions.

Since formulas and functions are what make Excel so handy, being able to use them efficiently and correctly is one of the top Excel skills you’ll need no matter what kind of work you’re doing. Luckily, many of them are pretty easy to learn. 

That being said, proficiency will look a little different for every Excel user based on the work they do. Really focusing on the functions and formulas that you use on a daily basis is the easiest way to automate your work without getting overwhelmed.

If you’re unfamiliar with Excel or still in the beginning learning stages, you can take a free intro to Excel course that covers the basics. You can also check out some posts that will help give you a starting point and some practice!

  • Excel Formulas Tutorial: What are Formulas and How to Use Them
  • SUMIFS and Treasure Maps (includes free webinar)
  • FILTER vs VLOOKUP, INDEX/MATCH, XLOOKUP, SUMIFS

Making sense of spreadsheet data with PivotTables.

Is using PivotTables the easiest Excel skill to learn? Probably not, but it’s much less intimidating than you might think. All you need is a little practice and helpful guidance!

Essentially, you can use PivotTables to extract useful information from data. You’ll be able to access a variety of data sources to help you see trends and make sense of your whole spreadsheet – especially if it has a lot of information. PivotTable analysis is often considered a top Excel skill for several different careers, but especially so for anyone working in a finance-related position.

Learning how to use PivotTables is a high-reward Excel skill that won’t take you weeks to master. If you need a little practice or want to learn cool ways to use them, check out our Top 5 PivotTable posts!

Entering data quickly using dropdown lists.

A dropdown list is a set of predetermined values that can be used to quickly insert data into a cell. Creating dropdown lists can save you a lot of time entering cell values, and luckily, they’re easy to make!

You’ll just click Data Tab, Data Tools, and then Data Validation. In the Data Validation box, you’ll select the “List” option from the Allow section, and then in the Source section, you’ll input the range you’d like to reference in your list. 

Even better, Excel recently added a feature that allows AutoComplete for data validation dropdown lists to make data entry even faster!

Using conditional formatting to make spreadsheets easier to understand.

Conditional formatting allows you to change the appearance of select cells based on whether they fulfill certain criteria, making it easier to keep track of important details or search spreadsheets for specific information. 

For example, let’s say you’re working on creating a personal budget. You can format your outgoing payments to be depicted in red, indicating that the sum is negative. Incoming payments can be formatted in green to easily separate them from the outgoing. To bring more emphasis to the cells, approaching due dates can be color-coded, bolded, etc.

Check out some conditional formatting tutorials to see how useful it can be!

  • Slow to Fast 1
  • Automatically Format Rows
  • Comparing Lists with Conditional Formatting

Using Power Query to retrieve and transform data.

Power Query is one of Excel’s most useful features. You can use it to extract data from CSV files, Excel files, directories, databases, and other sources. You can use numerous transformations to help clean and prepare data once you’ve linked to a data source, which includes removing unnecessary columns or rows, splitting columns, and unpivoting data. 

Most would consider using the Power Query tool to be an advanced Excel skill, but luckily, it’s much easier to learn than others like VBA or even some of the more involved formulas and functions.

These tutorials will help you get familiar with Power Query if you aren’t already:

  • Power Query Calendar
  • Power Query from Google Drive
  • Create Calculated Columns without Writing Formulas

Once you’ve learned how to use these top Excel skills, you’ll wonder how you ever completed your spreadsheets without them! If you’re a new or intermediate Excel user looking to expand your abilities and learn some more advanced skills, the ones mentioned on this list are a great place to start.

Are there any Excel skills that ended up being surprisingly easy for you to learn? Let us know in the comments!

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