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What Is a Spreadsheet?

A spreadsheet is a useful tool for recording, comparing and computing financial or numerical data. A spreadsheet is also called a worksheet. It is composed of rows and columns.

A spreadsheet is essential in fields that work with numbers. This includes accounting and sales, but is also essential in financial analysis, economic or sales forecasting, and any budgeting activity. Scientists will also use a spreadsheet in research work.

Prior to the invention of computers, a spreadsheet was done by hand (and a calculator) and written on paper. Today, there are software programs that not only allow you to type the information in neat and organized rows and columns, but allow you to input “formulas” that automatically compute values (ex: sums, averages, etc.) and convert these into graphs. The software also allows you to print out the spreadsheet, or edit it over time.

Computer software identifies the rows by numbers (1,2,3 etc.) and the columns by letters (A,B,C etc.) The intersection of the row and column is called a cell, with each cell bearing the unique code of row number and column letter (ex. A1 is column 1, row 1).

The convenience of a computerized spreadsheet is immense. For example, if you change one number, the values are automatically recomputed based on the formula you chose. The spreadsheet software has basic commands for sums or averages, but you can also input your own formula. This is very helpful if you are trying to figure out forecasts or are working out hypothetical scenarios.

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