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Excel:  Entering Data


Data comes in many forms—text, numbers, dates, times, formulas.  There are three basic categories—labels, values, and formulas.  Excel refers to text data as a label.  Excel cannot perform calculations on entries that are labels.  Excel refers to numerical data as a value.  Excel can calculate values—numbers, dates, and times.  The third type, formula, is an entry that tells Excel to perform calculations on the values in a cell or group of cells.  Excel usually knows which data category you’re using and guesses what you’re going to do with it.  Excel displays the data differently—text is lined up to the left of the cell it is in; numbers always line up to the right of the cell.

Formula for active cell Formula bar


Active Cell

Number Data


 The  result of the calculation is displayed in the active cell.

Entering Data

To enter data, first select a cell.  A bold line appears around the cell to indicate that it is active.  When you start typing data into a selected cell, the data immediately appears in that cell and also in the Formula bar above the worksheet window.                                               

The cell reference tells the address of the selected cell.

Three new buttons appear on the Formula bar

q      The left button is the Cancel button (red X).

q      The middle button is the Enter button (green check)

q      The third button is the Enter Formula button (=)

When you finish typing in data, press Enter or click the Enter button on the Formula bar.  You can also click in the next cell in which you want to enter data. 

Entering Numbers

Text data is very straightforward.  Numeric data is more complicated.  Remember they are dealt with as values in Excel and you have to know the difference between valid and invalid numbers.  Here are the rules

Valid numbers include the numeric characters 0-9 and any of these special characters: + - (), $ %

Invalid numbers would be any other characters not mentioned as valid numbers.  So the letter Z would not be considered a valid number because it’s a letter

Special characters are recognized as numeric data because they are used to write mathematical problems. Equations, formulas, etc.  When you enter numeric values, you can include commas, decimal points, dollar signs, percentage signs, and parentheses.


Numbers as Text

Sometimes you will want your numbers treated as text.  If you were using numbers for a ZIP code you would not want to enter them as numbers but rather as text.  To do this you proceed your entry with a single quotation mark example ‘23322.  The single quotation mark is an alignment prefix that tells Excel to treat the following characters as text and left-align them in the cell.


Numbers as Dates and Times

Dates and times are values because you can perform calculations on them.  To use any date or time values in your spreadsheet, type them in the format you want them to appear.  When you enter a date in a valid format, Excel converts the date into a number that represents how many days it falls after January 1, 1900.  Excel will display a normal date on the screen.

You can enter either dashes or slashes with your dates.  You don’t have to worry about capitalization; Excel ignores it when it comes to dates.


Valid Formats for Dates and Times




9/9/97 OR 09/09/97










6:45 PM




7:15:25 AM


11/24/97 12:15


12:15 11/24/97

Month Date, Year

February 5, 1998


Editing Data 

q      Click the cell containing the data you want to change.

q      Enter the Edit mode, position the insertion point in the Formula bar entry with a click of your mouse.

q      Make necessary editing changes.

q      When finished, press Enter or click the enter button on the Formula bar.


Shortcuts for Entering Data

To copy existing data into several surrounding cells, use the Fill feature.

Ø     Select the cell whose contents and formatting you want to copy.

Ø     Position the mouse pointer over the cell, press the left mouse button and drag the mouse pointer over all the cells into which you want to copy the cell entry.  After the cells are highlighted, release the mouse button.

Ø     Open the Edit menu and select Fill.  The Fill submenu appears.

Ø     Select the direction in which you want to copy the entry.  Once you select the direction, the cell data appears in the selected cells.

You can do this between worksheets.  To copy the formatting of cells from one worksheet to another, select the worksheet where the cells are located.  Highlight the cells you want to copy.  Open the Edit menu, select Fill, and select Across Worksheets.  The Fill Across worksheets dialog box appears.  Select All (to copy the cells’ contents and formatting), Contents or Formulas, and then OK.


Another way to use the Fill Feature

 Ø     Move your mouse pointer on the lower right corner of the cell selector (fill handle).  This corner looks like a tiny square dot on the selected cell.  The mouse pointer becomes a solid plus sign shape when positioned over this corner of the cell.   

Ø     Press the left mouse button and drag the mouse to highlight the cells anywhere around the selected cell into which you want to copy the entry.

Ø     When you release the mouse button, the contents and formatting of the original cell appear in the selected cells.



AutoFill copies logic.  If you want to enter the days of the week into your worksheet, you simply enter the first day (Sunday) and AutoFill inserts the other entries for you. 

Ø     Type Monday into a cell.

Ø     Drag the fill handle up, down, left, or right to select six more cells.

Ø     Release the mouse button and Excel will insert the other entries for you.

Excel has a series of data stored as AutoFill entries.  Data that appears in a logical sequence like the days of the week is considered series data.  Excel has days of the week and months of the year stored as series data.  You can create your own list of series data to use with the AutoFill feature.


Creating AutoFill

v    Open the Tools menu and select Options

v    When the Options dialog box appears, click the Custom Lists tab

v    Click the Add button.  An insertion point appears in the List Entries text box where you can type the entries you want to use for your AutoFill entries.  Press Enter.

v    When finished, click OK.

If you have already typed the entries in a spreadsheet, highlight the text and choose Options from the Tools menu.  Click the Custom Lists tab and select Import.  Excel copies the selected text from your worksheet and places them in the List Entries text box.  Click OK.


Repetitive data or the same labels are frequently typed multiple times in worksheets.  Excel offers a new way to speed up the process—AutoComplete.  Excel keeps track of your column entries for each cell.  Instead of retyping, you can right-click the next cell and display a list of words you have already used in previous cells.  Choose from the list, which is faster than retyping.

v    Type the labels in the first cells column

v    When ready to enter a duplicate label, right-click the empty cell to open a shortcut menu

v    Select Pick from list… 

v    Choose the word you want from the list and it is automatically inserted.


Cell Tips

If you like to include notes in your spreadsheet that explain what is happening to the data, use Cell Tips (also called Cell Notes).  The notes will not affect the data and will not be printed unless to instruct that they be printed.  When your mouse pointer passes over the cell, the notes pop up.

v    Click your mouse in the cell where you want the note

v    Open the Insert menu and choose Note.  The Cell Note dialog box appears.

v    Type in your note in the Text Note box.

v    Click OK



You can create a linked area of cells in your worksheet.  These are known as a range and are a rectangular group of connected cells that are connected in a column, a row, or a combination of columns and rows.  They always have to be contiguous and they must form a rectangle. 

Why use a range?  You might select a range and format a group of cells with one single step.  You can use a range to print only a selected group of cells.  Ranges are also useful with formulas.  Ranges are referred to by anchor points; the top left corner and the lower right corner.  A range would be written as C3: E5.  A range with more than one cell uses a colon to separate the anchor points.


A range is any combination

of cells that forms a


To select a range

v    Move your mouse pointer to the upper left corner of a range you want to select

v    Press and hold the left mouse button, and drag the mouse to the lower right corner of the cell range you are selecting

v    Let go of the mouse button and the range is selected.

You can now name the range incase you want to use it later in other worksheets.  This makes it easier to cut, copy, and move blocks of cells.

¨     Select the range of cells, and click inside the cell name box

¨     Type the range name (Valid names can include letters, numbers, periods, underlines; spaces not allowed)

¨     Press enter



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This page was updated on:  04/10/02