Spreadsheets offer a range of advantages, particularly to business users. Popular spreadsheet programs such as Microsoft Excel provide the tools to analyze and visualize data sets in accessible ways. If you have a set of data related to numerical, financial, statistical or other information, you can use a spreadsheet not only to store this data but also to manage it, perform analytical processing on it and present it. Spreadsheets provide complex processing in ways that even people with little technical experience can access.


When you build a spreadsheet, you enter data into a worksheet. Each data item is stored within a single cell. Cells can also contain formulas, either written by yourself or chosen from a predefined set designed for common tasks. For example, you could have a cell in a spreadsheet that performs a calculation using the values from other cells. If you then update the values in these other cells, the result in the formula cell updates as well. For this reason, spreadsheets offer a way to carry out continual analyses and calculations on your data sets automatically.


The ability to enter mathematical formulas is key to the usefulness of spreadsheets. The following example formula carries out a calculation on a numerical data item:


This cell will multiply the value in the cell B9 by two. Formulas can express a variety of processes on sets of data. Common processes include looking up values within a specified range, testing whether values meet certain conditions, carrying out arithmetic operations, counting and transforming data items.

Preset Functions

Formulas are among the most useful aspects of a spreadsheet, but one of the reasons for their success is that you do not need to enter every formula manually. Spreadsheet programs provide a range of preset functions that encapsulate common formulas, allowing users to apply functions without having to type them in manually. Preset functions are accessible via buttons in spreadsheet program user interfaces. Common functions include sorting and filtering data as well as carrying out calculations such as sums and percentages.

Graphical Displays of Data

Spreadsheet programs can transform data sets into various types of graphical displays. In Excel, the Charts section provides the ability to present a data set within a chart or graph. This allows users to visualize and communicate their data sets within presentations, for example using pie or bar charts. Visualizing data in this way can help you understand the data and inform future planning decisions.