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What is an Excel workbook?

A workbook is an Excel file that contains one or several spreadsheets (or worksheets, as they are called in Excel). It stores all the data that the user entered while working with Excel, as well as formatting, formulas and – if relevant – macros.

What does an Excel workbook look like?

Any time you open an Excel workbook, you can see several essential elements of the Excel window right away. Five of them would be crucial for your everyday work in Excel (Figure 1):

  1. Quick Access Toolbar (QAT): A panel that includes a number of most frequently used commands
  2. Ribbon: A panel with almost all different commands that you might need while working with Microsoft Excel
  3. Formula Bar: While individual cells display values by default, formula bar will always show the formula that is written in a cell
  4. Worksheet: The actual spreadsheet where most work in Excel is being done
  5. Tabs: Toggles between different worksheets in a workbook
excel workbook

Figure 1. Excel workbook

Quick examples

Sample tasks

The first step while learning MS Excel is to understand how you can perform basic operations with Excel workbooks: creating a workbook, saving it, and opening a previously saved one.

How to create a new workbook

To create a new Excel workbook:

  1. Open Excel from Start menu or from any other shortcut on your PC
  2. You will see the Excel opening screen (see Figure 2)
  3. On the right-hand side of the screen, select a template you want to use. Until you get familiar with existing templates, we would recommend just selecting a “Blank workbook” template

    excel workbook opening screen

    Figure 2. Excel opening screen

Alternatively, you can also press Ctrl + N from another open Excel workbook. This would create a new workbook, opening it in a new window.

How to save a workbook

There are several ways to save an Excel workbook for the first time:

  1. Click Ctrl + S on your keyboard
  2. Click on the Save button in Quick Access Toolbar at the top of Excel window (see Figure 3)

    save excel workbook button

    Figure 3. Save workbook button

  3. In Excel menu, go to File >> Save

The “Save As” screen will appear, where you can two options to select destination folder and type a file name (Figure 4):

  1. On the left-hand side of the window: Double-click This PC or single-click Browse. Then, you will be prompted to choose a folder where you want to save the file, as well as type in file’s name
  2. On the right-hand side of the window:
    • Click on Documents at the top of the window to select a different folder – or leave Documents selected if want to save there
    • Type the file name in Enter file name field
    • Click Save

You only have to provide destination folder and file name once; this step is omitted when you save the workbook again later.

save excel workbook menu

Figure 4. Save As menu

To save a workbook under a different name or in a different location:

  1. Click Ctrl + Shift + S on your keyboard
  2. In Excel menu, go to File >> Save As and either double-click This PC or click Browse

How to open Excel workbook

There are several ways to open a previously saved Excel workbook.

  1. If you already have another Excel file open, you can do any of the following:
    • Press Ctrl + O
    • In Excel menu, go to File >> Open

After that, an “Open” screen will appear (see Figure 5), where you can either pick one of the recently opened files or click Browse to select another file from your hard drive.

open an excel workbook from Excel

Figure 5. Opening a new workbook from Excel

  1. You can also just open a workbook directly from your file manager (e.g., Windows Explorer) as you usually do with any other file
  2. Finally, you can also start Excel from Start menu or from any other shortcut on your PC and open a workbook from Excel opening screen (see Figure 2 above)
Test yourself...

Excel Workbook Quiz

Take a quick quiz to test how well you understand Excel workbooks:

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