Excel’s Active Cell & a Grayed Out Ribbon?

An active cell is outlined by a heavy border, which allows you to easily see where the cell is that is being worked with and where data will be entered. It can also be referred to as the current cell or selected cell.

Active Cell

Why is this important to know? I have a couple of reasons to share with you.

First, it lets you know what cell you are in. When you start typing text or entering a formula, this is where that data will appear.

Second, if you are in edit mode, some commands on the Ribbon will be grayed out and you can’t use them.

“Ms. Harris, my Ribbon isn’t working,” a student says out loud in class.

By now, when I hear something to that effect, I know what they are referring to. But I go ahead and ask

“can you be more specific?”

“Nothing I click on will work, everything is grayed out,” comes the response.

Let’s take a closer look at what this student is referring to. Take a look a Figure 1 below. The cell E2 is selected, but not in edit mode. You can see the commands are available on the Home tab of the Ribbon.

Active cell not in edit mode
Figure 1 Cell Selected, but not in Edit Mode

Now let’s take a look at Figure 2 below. Cell E2 is in edit mode. You can tell from the insertion cursor in the cell. Also notice that the commands on the Home Tab of the Ribbon are grayed out.

Figure 2 The cell is in Edit Mode
Figure 2 The cell is in Edit Mode

You can edit the contents of a cell directly in the cell (you can also edit the contents of a cell by typing in the formula bar.) When Excel is in edit mode some features work differently or are unavailable. For example, you cannot change the alignment of the contents of a cell.

Also, the arrow keys behave differently. Instead of moving the cursor from cell to cell, in Edit mode, the arrow keys move the cursor around in the cell.

To exit edit mode, simply hit the Enter, Tab, or the Esc key on your keyboard. Or click another cell in the worksheet.

Number Formatting in Excel

I was in Shannon’s office, sitting in her visitor’s chair across from her desk. She had requested a one-on-one Excel training session and I was waiting for her to finish up whatever she was working on currently.

“I just need to get these last few numbers entered into our department budget,” she announced as I waited.

“No worries, I will just sit here and watch you work,” I said half-jokingly.

As I sat there her hand movement caught my attention. The index finger of her left hand was tracking the information on the paper in front of her. Her right hand was flying over the 10-key on the keyboard. I also noticed her double tap on the zero key. I realized for every number, she manually entered .00 or if there was a needed comma, she was manually entering the comma.

“Shannon, I think I know the first thing I want to cover in our training session,” I said.

Here is what we covered:

Don’t put those commas in yourself.

Number formatting is used to change the appearance of a number or value in a cell. Formatting numbers does not change the actual number that you enter, just the way it appears in the spreadsheet.

Commonly used number formats include:
percent symbols ( % ),
commas ( , ),
decimal places, and dollar signs( $ )

Number formatting can be applied to a single cell, entire columns or rows, a select range of cells, or the whole worksheet.

The default format for cells containing a value is the General style. This style has no specific format and displays values as plain numbers – no dollar signs, commas etc. Just a plain number.

To change a cell’s format, you can use one of the buttons on the Ribbon, such as comma, percent or currency which apply preset styles to the selected cells.

Another option is to click the drop down arrow next to General on the Ribbon. This will give you additional formatting options.

After Shannon applied the Currency style to her columns, all she had to do was enter the number. The dollar sign and .00 were automatically added.

Currency Style and Accounting Style – What’s the difference?

They do look similar to each other.

The Accounting style aligns the dollar sign at the left edge of the cell and displays a dash for zero values.
The Currency style places the dollar sign right next to the number.

Note: The Currency format can display negative numbers with a minus sign, in red, with parentheses, or in red with parentheses.

The Accounting format displays negative numbers in parentheses.

You can also watch the video on my YouTube channel: Number Formatting in Excel

 

Charting Progress Toward a Goal in Excel

Charts help bridge the gap between our spreadsheet data and the real world. I don’t remember where I first read that, it was years ago. But it is something I always tell my students. It is so true. At a glance, which is easier to understand?

This spreadsheet data?

Spreadsheet data showing how much money has been raised each month

Or this chart?

Thermometer style chart showing how much money has been raised for an event

A thermometer chart shows you how much of a goal has been achieved. Such as how much money has been raised for an event.

Creating a thermometer type chart is one of the best visuals to present your data in an understandable way.

This type of chart is for a single point target and it is easy to create.

Watch my YouTube video here: Charting Progress Towards Goal – Video

Download instructions here: Charting progress toward a goal