How to Navigate the Excel 2016 User Interface On Windows

How to Navigate the Excel 2016 for Windows UI Twitter

In this blog post, I’ll provide you with a brief introduction to the Excel 2016 User Interface. Once you’re done, you’ll be able to hit the ground running and navigate the Excel User Interface without wasting too much time.

For Mac users, please click here to see a version of this blog post specifically for Excel 2016 for Mac.

Let’s start with what we mean by the User Interface? Well, this is the part of the software (in this case Excel) that is displayed on the screen of whatever device you are using (laptop, desktop, tablet, phone, you get the idea).

Usually, the User Interface displays all the menus and buttons you click to interact with the functions and features of the software your using. Microsoft refers to these functions and features as Commands, so, from this point forwards so will we.

The User Interface also generally updates and displays the changes that come about as a result of your interactions with the software (Excel). The User Interface can also display messages to the User (you), that might be important.

We’ll refer to the User Interface as the UI from now on.

If you’ve ever used any Microsoft Office software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc) over the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that the UI’s look similar. Let’s take a closer look at the Excel 2016 UI.

Excel 2016 UI


The Excel UI is broken down into the following regions, Quick Access Toolbar, Ribbon including Ribbon Tabs, Formula Bar, Worksheet Grid, Worksheet Tabs and Status Bar.

In the following sections, I will provide you with a brief introduction to each of these regions.

Quick Access Toolbar

Excel 2016 Quick Access Toolbar

Ok, let’s start at the top with the Quick Access Toolbar. In this area of the UI, you’ll find some frequently used Commands that can be accessed at almost anytime when using Excel. The Quick Access Toolbar can be customized to add almost any Excel Command.

I’ll cover how to customize the Excel UI in a later post.

You’ll also find the Filename, OneDrive account setting (and SharePoint account setting) and File Display commands icons such as Minimize, Maximize and Close.

Ribbon and Ribbon Tabs

Ribbon and Ribbon Tabs


The Ribbon is where most of the Commands of Excel can be accessed. The Excel Commands are grouped together and can be accessed by clicking the Ribbon Tabs. The Ribbon Tabs are named such as Home, Insert, Page Layout, etc. The Tab names give an indication of the Commands that can be accessed when that particular Tab is clicked.

Formula Bar

Formula Bar

OK, now for the Formula Bar. The Formula Bar has one main purpose, the editing (adding, deleting and updating) of Cell Content. Editing Cell Content can be done by selecting a Cell in the Worksheet Grid and then typing into the Cell Content section of the right-hand side of the Formula Bar.

On the left-hand side of the Formula Bar, you’ll see information about the currently selected Cell(s). Generally, when you type into the Formula Bar, it is the currently active Cell that the content will be entered into. However, this can vary, if you drag select a range of cells, then this area will display the number of Rows and Columns in the range that has been selected.

Between the Cell Reference information on the left-hand side of the Formula Bar, and the cell contents on the right-hand side of the Formula Bar, you will see three Command buttons.

Formula Commands

The Tick and Cross are enabled when there is Cell Content. You click the Tick to accept the Cell Content, or, click the Cross to delete it. The Third Command button, function (fx) is used to enter formulas.

Worksheet Grid

Worksheet Grid

The Worksheet Grid is the largest part of the Excel UI. It is made up of Cells, arranged in Rows and Columns. The Worksheet Grid is usually where most of the action is. Displaying the data and information in cells that make up the Worksheet.

The Rows are identified using numbers on the left-hand side. Starting at the top of the page and moving downwards using whole numbers, 1, 2, 3, etc. The Columns are identified using letters of the Alphabet across the top of the page, starting at the left-hand side and moving across to the right, A, B, C, etc.

Because we can have more Columns than there are letters of the Alphabet, Excel adds an additional letter to the beginning of the Column when we run out of letters of the Alphabet. For example, Column names could look like X, Y, Z, AA, AB, AC and so on.

Every Cell in the Worksheet Grid is identified by a Cell Reference. The Cell Reference is a combination of the Column and Row identifiers. For example, cell O11, C3, D7, AA14, etc.

The currently active and selected Cell is highlighted by a border around it. Also, the Row and Column headings that make up the Cell Reference of the active cell will be a slightly different color to the other Row and Column headings.

Worksheet Tabs

Worksheet Tabs

The Worksheet Tabs region is a fairly straight forward region. An Excel file, sometimes referred to as a Workbook, can be made up of several Worksheets. To navigate between the Worksheets just click the relevant Worksheet Tab, and that Worksheet is displayed in the Worksheet Grid area.

A couple of points worth noting about the Worksheet Tabs region. Firstly, the Worksheet that is currently being displayed is highlighted by a bolder Worksheet Tab than the other Worksheet Tabs. Secondly, a new Worksheet can be added by clicking the Tab with the plus (+) symbol.

Status Bar

Status Bar

Finally, the Status Bar. The Status Bar is often overlooked which is a shame because it can be very useful. The Status Bar displays information telling you what Excel is currently doing and displays information about the currently selected Cells.

In the image above you might have noticed the following text in the Status Bar, ‘Average: $18.80 Count: 5 Sum: $94.00’. This information relates to a range of Cells containing numbers that have been selected in the Worksheet Grid. This information can change depending on the type of data in the Cell(s) that have been selected.

It also allows you to access a few Excel Commands, such as adjusting the Zoom Level of the Worksheet Grid, and selecting different View types.

OK, that’s it, your ready to navigate the Excel UI, next I suggest checking out my basic Excel formatting blog post by clicking here.

If you want an excellent, handy guide to the most commonly used Excel’s features, I suggest checking out ‘Excel 2016 All-in-One for Dummies’ by Greg Harvey.

Click here to read my full book review.

Click here to visit your local Amazon store and purchase a copy of Excel 2016 All-in-One For Dummies


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