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Spreadsheet Terms

Absolute Reference / Absolute Cell Address   
When writing a formula, the reference to a cell can be made absolute (the formula will always refer to the same cell) by prefixing the row and column with a $ character. For instance, if cell A3 has the following formula: "=A1+$A$2" the reference to cell A2 is an absolute reference. No matter what cell the formula is copied to, it will always refer to cell A2. Cell A1, since it doesn't have a $ before the column and row, is a relative reference; if the formula was copied to another cell, the A1 in the formula would change to a different cell. The distinction between absolute and relative references becomes important when writing a formula that will be copied across several cells.
When a number or a label is entered into a spreadsheet, there are several choices for how the number is displayed. Labels are usually displayed left-aligned, and numbers are right-aligned, but this default can be changed from the menu. Windows-based spreadsheets have icons to select whether the cell will be aligned on the left, center, or right: Older spreadsheets modeled after Lotus 123 use a special character as a label prefix to indicate the alignment of the cell.
The smallest unit of area on a spreadsheet. A cell is formed by the intersection of a row and column. Cell A1 for example, is the intersection of column A and row 1. A cell can contain a value (number), a formula (simple math or more complex formulas called functions), or a label (anything used to indicate what the numbers mean).
Cell Address
Each cell of a spreadsheet has an address to identify it. This address is the intersection of the column and row labels. The address of the current cell (the one the cursor is on) is displayed in the upper left of the screen. As you move the cursor, this address changes, so you always know at a glance where you are. The upper-left corner of the spreadsheet is always cell A1. As you move down, the row numbers increase, and as you go right, the column letter increases.
Think of a spreadsheet column as a single column on a ledger sheet, extending from the top of the spreadsheet to the bottom. Columns are labeled with letters, starting with the letter A. When the 26 letters of the alphabet are exhausted, they start over again; AA, AB, and so forth. Most spreadsheets end at column IV.
The marker that shows your position in the spreadsheet, showing what cell is currently selected. It is usually hi-lighted or in reverse video (on a color monitor it may be in a different color).
A set of instructions to manipulate the contents of other cells. These operations can be simple arithmetic operations, or more complex ones. An example would be: +(B1/B4) to divide the value found in cell B1 by the value found in cell B4. A more complex formula might be to calculate the interest on a certain amount of principal, the values of which are held in other cells: +B1*(B4/100) The cell B1 holds the principal balance and B4 holds the interest rate. The formula takes the interest rate and divides it by 100 to get it in decimal form. Then the principal is multiplied by the interest rate. The cell that contains this formula displays the amount of interest. More complex formulas use functions.
A function is a pre-written formula that makes complex formulas easier to write. They are distinguished from regular formulas by the name of the function. For example the formula=SUM(B1:B4) would add each value in the column B from row 1 to row 4. You could get the same answer by using this formula: (B1+B2+B3+B4), but say that you decide to insert a row inside that range. If you used the formula in the second example, you would have to rewrite the formula to add the new row; the=SUM function will take into account the new line, and will still add the five lines together. Modern spreadsheet programs have hundreds of functions ranging from counting to statistics or advanced structures like "if statements" that change the content of a cell based on the contents of some other cell. Click here for a short list of useful functions.
A label is anything that is not interpreted as a value or formula.
A macro is series of keystrokes that can be played back with one key. Macros are useful for creating menus inside spreadsheet files. Some of the templates we will use have macros built into them for moving around the spreadsheet and for printing. Macros can be assigned to keys or may have a mouse "button" for the user to click on.
Open Office
A program that competes against Microsoft Office that has a spreadsheet component.  Open Office is free to download and use.  It is written by a community of skilled programmers who believe software should be free.  Some ABM students have used this software instead of Microsoft Office.  Go to for more.
On Windows-based spreadsheets the "pointer" is moved by the mouse. The shape of the pointer changes as you move to different parts of the spreadsheet; if you put the pointer on the line separating two columns in the column heading, the pointer changes shape to indicate that you can change the width of the column. If you move the pointer to a different cell and "click" the left mouse button once, the cursor is moved there as well.
Relative Reference / Relative Cell Address
When writing a formula, a reference to a cell is normally a relative reference. When the formula is copied to another location, the formula within that cell is the same, relative to its position on the spreadsheet. Normally this is exactly what you want, and is why you can figure out a formula once and then copy it and have it repeat correctly in ever cell it is copied to. Occasionally you will want to have a cell always refer to a specific cell, no matter where the formula is copied. That kind of reference is called an absolute reference.
A row is a horizontal portion of the spreadsheet. It extends from left to right across the spreadsheet. Rows are labeled with numbers. The first row of a spreadsheet is 1, and some spreadsheets go down to 8,000 rows or more. You might want to think a row as a single line on a ledger sheet.
A block of cells defined by the upper-left and lower-right cell addresses. A range could just be one row or one column from beginning to end. More often a range is a block of columns and rows. An example of a valid range is A1..G10. This would include all the cells in columns A through G with row numbers from 1 to 10. The ".." is spreadsheet shorthand for the word "to." Excel and Microsoft Works use a colon (:) instead of the .. to indicate a range. A range is always a rectangular shape. Depending on the spreadsheet program you are using, you may see the term range, block or selection.
To arrange the rows of a spreadsheet by sorting on the contents of one or more columns.  For example, a spreadsheet tracking the date of sale, the number of contacts the sales rep made, and the totals sales for the day might look something like the spreadsheet to the left.  (Click on the image to the left to view it full-sized).  The first block of data is the original list.  The rest are how the data looks when sorted by different columns.   
Tab or Worksheet
Some spreadsheets combine several "sheets" together into a "workbook." These generally have a "tab" at the bottom (Lotus 123) or the top (Microsoft Excel) of the active sheet. The tab for the "active" (visible) sheet is usually white with black letters, while the inactive tabs are in the background gray color. You can switch to a different sheet by clicking on an inactive tab.
Another term for a spreadsheet file or a worksheet. A template is a spreadsheet file that has the general structure already created, with blanks for further information to be added. You can retrieve the file and plug in the numbers. The college has developed several templates for farm and ranch management.
A normal number entered into a cell.
Lotus 123 version 2.0 commands