The PROs Guide to Mastering Microsoft Excel – Part I

If you’re still relatively new to Microsoft Excel, you might be asking yourself, “How can a spreadsheet of empty boxes, never ending numbered rows, and strange formulas help my small business?” At SUPPLY.com, our team of analysts examine and dissect massive amounts of data every day, using Microsoft Excel, to help us grow. We’re confident that if Excel is a great tool for us, it should be a great tool for PROs everywhere. Our team has gathered the best Excel resources available, and a few of our analysts even weighed in to make sure that every T was crossed and that every I was dotted. You’ll learn the basics of Excel (including how to create estimates, job schedules and floor plans), gain access to a ton of free downloadable templates, and we’ll even show you how to build a replica game of Tetris!

*Note we’ll be using the 2016 version of Excel throughout. Older versions will have similar functionality but may have minor variations in how to find them. 

Getting Started

Excel allows you to store, organize and analyze information through processes and formulas. While it might look like a pretty boring or basic tool, with the right information, it can become a vital part of your business’s growth and overall efficiency.

When you first open Excel, you’ll see Book 1 centered at the top of the sheet. Excel is filed by workbooks. To change the name, click File from the menu, then Save As. Give your workbook a name and you’ll be ready to start adding information.

The grid area is filled with columns (vertically alphabetized) and rows (horizontally numbered). This grid system creates boxes, called cells, which act as coordinates for how each sheet works. When referenced, cells are identified by column, then number.

“There are 1,048,576 rows that can be used per sheet in Excel.”

Beyond the structure of cells, each workbook has a set of tabs or “sheets” across the bottom. Depending on how you choose to use Excel, using multiple sheets within the same workbook can be an easy way to stay organized. Right click to change the name of each and simply click the “+” to add more sheets to your workbook.

Like most Microsoft programs, there are a ton of formatting options you can take advantage of in Excel. Play around with the fonts. Try bolding, changing sizes, adding borders to cells, and formatting the info inside each cell to match what the contents will be (general, numbers, percentage, text, etc…). The basic functions highlighted in this Hubspot article will have you up and running in no time.


Under the ribbon (the space below the Home, Insert, and Page Layout tabs across the top), you’ll see the formula bar. If you’re stuck, look for the “fx” icon, and to the right is the formula bar. The content inside will match whatever is in the cell highlighted. This is an important tool, and where you’ll work with formulas.

Give it a quick try and type “=10*1000” into the formula bar. The cell highlighted should now show “10000.” The = signals the start of the formula, and * is used as the multiplier. This could be an example to display 10 checks deposited into your bank at $1,000 each!

To quickly add cells, let’s call back to that “fx” or insert function icon. Simply select the Sum formula from the dropdown and enter the cells you’d like to total.

Download this handy .pdf from Hubspot for more Excel basics.

These are the basics concepts to get you started. Excel is an extremely complicated tool, but understanding how it works will pave the way for the fun stuff that lies ahead. Watch this short, helpful video on getting started and setting up your first workbook from the Goodwill Community Foundation if you want to learn more!

For an all-out blitz and to basically earn a degree in Microsoft Excel, check out excelexposure.com. We’d also recommend downloading their Master Workbook right now if you’re serious about learning how to use Excel. After hours of research, this is hands down the best resource we could find and recommend it to anyone, especially PROs.

To recap, we’ve shown you the basics of using Microsoft Excel, given you an introduction to some of it’s advanced functionality, and provided a number of free downloadable templates to help you along the way. We’ve done all that and have barely scratched the surface of this incredibly powerful tool.

Don’t think we forgot about that Tetris clone we told you about at the beginning of this article. Here you can download a free template and learn how to create your own clone, plus a few more fun gems. If you weren’t having fun with Excel before, you’re about to.

Keep Going

Explore the second part of our PROs Guide to Microsoft Excel for an in-depth look at how to create estimates, manage your job schedule and design floor plans.