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Utilise Spreadsheets

Use spreadsheets

The University of York has two spreadsheet applications available to organise, store and manipulate data. These are Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. The short video: Introducing Spreadsheets offers a good overview of the basics of spreadsheets and is a good starting point to understanding how they work. You can find additional information and exercises on the Spreadsheets and Databases page of the Skills Guide.

Using Spreadsheets at UoY

SpreadsheetsMicrosoft Excel icon Google Sheets icon

Some useful spreadsheet features

  • To have some control over what users are allowed to input into your spreadsheet you can validate your data. Data validation allows you to specify the type of data that you want in particular, cells, columns or rows. For example you can restrict values to those in a pre-defined list or to values that fulfil certain criteria. i.e.only whole numbers less than 10. This can be set up in Excel and Sheets. Allowed
  • To use data in a cell/range in other parts of your spreadsheet, you can refer to it/them using Named Ranges. Not only does this make formulas easier to read, it also means that should you need to change the layout of your spreadsheet you can move the position of the Named Range in the spreadsheet without affecting any of the formula that refer to it. For more on named ranges in Excel see Define and Use name range in formula and in Sheets see Name a range of cells.
  • Learn how to display tabular data in colourful charts and graphs. Create a chart in Excel or Add & edit a chart or graph in Google Sheets. There are some examples of Data visualisation in Google Sheets on our Essential Spreadsheets site.
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Introducing Spreadsheets

Play this tutorial in full screen

Anatomy of a spreadsheet

Take an introductory tour of the spreadsheet workspace and get an idea of how it works:

Follow the arrow below to learn more about spreadsheets:

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An example spreadsheet with dates in the second column

What is the cell reference for the date
when the large coffee was bought?

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Choosing the right tool

Excel or Google Sheets? Google Sheets or Excel? How do you decide which tool you should use?

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Copying and pasting

Cells or ranges can be moved using Cut/Copy & Paste as with other applications, but spreadsheets behave slightly differently:

A copied selection

After choosing either cut or copy, the selected range is surrounded by a dotted line - cut data stays where it is until pasted elsewhere.

When pasting a range, select only the top left cell of the new area before choosing paste:

A pasted selection

In Excel, copied content only remains on the clipboard for as long as the dotted line is displayed.

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Data formats

Data can be formatted in different ways in order to do different things...

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Dragging selected data

Cells or ranges can be dragged to a different location. Positioning the cursor at the cell border will change to the move cursor at which point the cell or range can be dragged.

Selecting the cell border allows you to drag
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Columns, rows, and sheets

Get to grips with the workspace and its arrangement.

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Auto Fill

A series of values (e.g. 1 to 10, Mon-Fri) can be entered quickly using Auto Fill.

Both Excel and Google have an auto fill function to save time.

Auto fill is carried out using the fill handle.

The fill handle is a small box on the bottom right-hand corner of the border surrounding a selected cell.
The fill handle is a small box on the bottom right-hand corner of the border surrounding a selected cell.

To use auto fill, enter the start of the sequence, then drag the fill handle in the direction you wish to fill.

The sequence will be continued until the point you release the fill handle.

You can also double-click the fill handle to auto-fill to the same length as a neighbouring column.

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