Understand the Basic Excel 2010 Screen Elements

Know the parts of Excel so you can work more productively

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If you are new to Microsoft Excel, its terminology can be a little challenging. Learn more about Excel's interface and how each part is used to help you get work done. Much of this information is also applicable to later versions of Excel, but you can find dedicated guides for Excel 2007 and 2013.

The Excel 2010 Interface

Parts of the Excel 2010 Screen
Parts of the Excel 2010 Screen.

Active Cell

When you click on a cell in Excel, the active cell is identified by its black outline. You enter data into the active cell. To move to another cell and make it active, click on it with the mouse or use the arrow keys on the keyboard.

File Tab

The File tab is new to Excel 2010; it is a replacement for the Office Button in Excel 2007. Like the old file menu, the File tab options are mostly related to file management such as opening new or existing worksheet files, saving, printing, and a new feature introduced in this version: saving and sending Excel files in PDF format.

Formula Bar

The formula bar is located above the worksheet; this area displays the contents of the active cell. The formula bar can also be used for entering or editing data and formulas.

Name Box

Located next to the formula bar, the Name Box displays the cell reference or the name of the currently active cell.

Column and Rows

Columns run vertically on a worksheet, and each one is identified by a letter in the column heading.

Rows run horizontally in a worksheet and are identified by a number in the row heading.

Together a column letter and a row number create a cell reference. Each cell in the worksheet can be identified by this combination of letters and numbers such as A1, F456, or AA34.

Sheet Tabs

The ​sheet tab at the bottom of a worksheet tells you the name of the current worksheet, such as Sheet1. By default, there are three worksheets in an Excel file, although there can be more.

Switch between worksheets by clicking on the tab of the sheet you want to access.​ Renaming a worksheet or changing the tab color can make it easier to keep track of data in large spreadsheet files.

Quick Access Toolbar

The Quick Access Toolbar can be customized to hold frequently used commands. Click on the down arrow at the end of the toolbar to display the toolbar's options.


The Ribbon is the strip of buttons and icons located above the work area. The Ribbon is organized into a series of tabs such as File, Home, and Formulas. Each tab contains a number of related features and options. Introduced in Excel 2007, the Ribbon replaced the menus and toolbars found in Excel 2003 and earlier versions.