What is a spreadsheet?

A spreadsheet is a sheet of paper that shows accounting or other data in rows and columns; a spreadsheet is also a computer application program that simulates a physical spreadsheet by capturing, displaying, and manipulating data arranged in rows and columns.  The spreadsheet is one of the most popular uses of the personal computer.

In a spreadsheet, spaces that hold items of data are called cells.  Each cell is labelled according to its placement (for example, A1, A2, A3…) and may have an absolute or relative reference to the cells around it.

  • A spreadsheet is generally designed to hold numerical data and short text strings.
  • Spreadsheets usually provide the ability to portray data relationships graphically.
  • Spreadsheets generally do not offer the ability to structure and label data items as fully as a database and usually do not offer the ability to query the database.  In general, a spreadsheet is a much simpler program than a database program.

How is a spreadsheet used?

The three most common general uses for spreadsheet software are

  • to create budgets
  • to produce graphs and charts
  • to store and sort data.

Within business, spreadsheet software is used to forecast future performance, calculate tax, complete basic payroll, produce charts and calculate revenues.


There are many spreadsheet programs available, including tablet/phone apps. By far the most popular is Microsoft Excel. I have some indicative examples:

1 – Finance
2 – Data


Excel courses are widely available and cost up to hundreds of pounds, and may take considerable time. Fortunately there is an online training guide available at: 


How to create mailing labels from Beacon data using an Excel spreadsheet