If I could teach a new Windows/Excel user one thing…

How would you finish that sentence?

I'm going to be teaching a beginning Excel course in the middle of September.  Because many of the users just received their first computers about a year ago, with no formal training, we're starting with some windows basics as well.  I have a list going of things that I was planning on covering, but I'm curious to hear opinions from my readers on what counts.  I'm very much open to answers from anyone on this; the gurus have much to teach, the less experienced also have the one thing they use daily that they couldn't do without.

So what do you think?  If you had the chance to teach a new user one thing about Windows (XP) or Excel (2003), what would it be?



8 thoughts on “If I could teach a new Windows/Excel user one thing…

  1. Computer lingo!!!!!

    If your users do not know the computer language, they could become lost very easily (and not tell you about it). When I try to explain something to a user, whether it be Excel or Windows in general, I find that they're not so familiar with the words I use (dialogue box, tabs, drop-down menu / combo box, fields, records, slow double-click, drag-and-drop [while holding Ctrl or Alt], etc).

    So, yeah, that would definitely be the FIRST thing I would teach 🙂

  2. Keyboard shortcuts/mouse techniques for navigating the grid. I think when a new user knows how to get around a spreadsheet efficiently, it "shrinks" the area and helps them get their head around it.

  3. Ken,


    a) Despite the name - Personal Computer (PC) - it's not Your own tool. The company owns it and provide it to You enabling You to become more productive and in the long run become more efficient in Your work.

    b) Excel is a spreadsheet software and not:
    - a database
    - a word processor
    - a tool that can calculate wrong if wrong data is used and/or due to formula errors.

    Kind regards,

  4. This may not be the first thing but it is what I show every user that askes me for advice.
    1. customize your tool bar with repeatitive comands.
    ("Set print area", "past formats", "paste values")
    2. Use "F4" to mark relative position of a cell in a formula.
    3. Be careful not to format columns and rows.
    (I recently changed jobs and could not open a file that was 350MB. When I did, I cleared out all the formating and it went down to 2MB.)

    Nice site Ken,

  5. Hello everyone,

    Ran the course yesterday, and I think I blew a couple of minds. Most of these folks were given a computer a year ago, sent out with the instructions to use it, and given no training. I was apparently the first formal training they had ever had. Fortunately they all had great senses of humour, so it went pretty well.

    We did cover terminology, keyboard and mouse shortcuts for navigation, setting print areas, F4 and a multitude of other things. Vlookup was on the list, but got tossed due to lack of time. As it turns out, the concept of nesting was a major time killer.. =if(sum(A1:B3)>3, took a long time to work through.

    All good though. They had fun and all felt like they learned things. I also left them with good notes, and ran a section on how to use web forums for help. (The latter is one of my favourite things to teach.)

    Thanks to all for the input!


  6. Might be a bit late.

    For absolute beginners to Excel, that are otherwise comfortable using windows, the most common issue I've encountered is not understanding sheets and the tabs at the bottom - seems a lot of places only use single sheets...

    For nesting, it becomes easier if they understand BODMAS from when they were at school!

    For more visual learners - dragging the coloured boxes relating to a formula to change the cell references. While most of us that frequent the various excel forums are more comfortable typing in what we want, when I show this to peeps at work they look a lot happier!

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