Microsoft Excel with JAWS

What is Excel?

Excel is a spreadsheet application that can be used for making tables and graphs, running calculations and transforming data, and organizing information.

Workbooks, Worksheets, Columns, and Rows

Excel is organized into workbooks and worksheets. Each Excel file is a workbook. Each workbook can have a nearly infinite number of worksheets. The worksheet is where you find cells and enter data. When you think about using Excel, you’re probably thinking about using the worksheet. Each new worksheet is like a new blank document, but it is within the same workbook.

Worksheets are spreadsheets organized by columns (vertical) and rows (horizontal). Rows are numbered, starting with 1 and continuing to basically infinity. Columns are numbered alphabetically, starting with A and continuing to Z. After Z, you’ll find column AA, AB, AC, and so on until AZ. After that, Excel will continue to add letters so that the number of columns can extend into infinity (basically).

The Cell in Excel

The unit where a column and row meet is called a cell. Cells are where the data (numbers, text, etc.) of the spreadsheet resides. A cell will be titled by the combination of its column and row designations. For example, the cell in the first row and first column is titled “A1”. Further, the cell in the 4th column and 18th row would be titled “D18”.

We can move from cell to cell using the arrow keys. Each arrow key will move you by cell in whatever direction you’ve selected. If you’re focused on cell B2, pressing up will bring you to B1, pressing down will bring you to B3, pressing left will bring you to A2, and pressing right will bring you to C2. As we move into new cells, JAWS will announce the contents and location of the cell.

Exercise 1: Explore a Spreadsheet

Open the example spreadsheet below. Use the arrow keys to read each populated cell.

example spreadsheet 1

Exercise 1 Questions

  1. What’s the difference between the contents of row 1 and the rest of the cells?
  2. Where is the data in this spreadsheet? In what row do you stop finding data? What column?

Opening, Saving, and Printing

Read the title bar of the active program | Insert + T

Open the file tab to save, open, print, and more | Alt + F

Create a new empty document | Ctrl + N

Open a saved document | Ctrl + O

Save file | F12

Print | Ctrl + P

Using the Ribbon with Excel

Like all other Microsoft Office applications, Excel features a ribbon toolbar for housing important settings and controls. Below are keyboard commands that are helpful when working with the ribbon.

Move focus between the ribbon and the document | Alt

Move through the buttons within a ribbon tab | Tab

Move through the different ribbon tabs | Arrow Keys

Read the item currently in focus | Insert + Tab

Exercise 2: Explore Another Spreadsheet

Open the example spreadsheet below. Use the arrow keys to read each populated cell.

example spreadsheet 2

Exercise 2 Questions

  1. Where is the data in this spreadsheet?
  2. In what row do you stop finding data? What column?

Navigating the Worksheet

Navigating the Excel spreadsheet requires a whole series of hotkeys on its own. Spreadsheets can be large and complex, and it is easy to get lost. We already learned we can navigate the spreadsheet by using the arrow keys, but this will be too slow in some cases. Below are commands that will allow you to work with Excel with maximum speed and clarity.

Move focus to the first cell in the worksheet | Ctrl + Home

Move focus to the last cell of contiguous data in the worksheet | Ctrl + End

Read the active cell’s contents | Insert + Tab

Read the active cell’s coordinates | Insert + C

Move to the last populated cell in any direction | Ctrl + Arrow Keys

Move until focus encounters a populated cell in any direction | Ctrl + Arrow Keys

Naming Columns and Rows

Excel becomes much easier to work with when we’re able to assign actual labels to our columns and rows, instead of just working with their coordinates.

To name a column, move your focus to the row that contains column titles (typically row 1) and use the command below. To name a row, move your focus to the column that contains column titles (typically column A) and use the command below.

Name the active column | Insert + Alt + Ctrl + C

Name the active row | Insert + Alt + Ctrl + R

Read the column title | Insert + Alt + Shift + C

Read the row title | Insert + Alt + Shift + R

Cells with Data

It can be difficult to find nonadjacent data in Excel. How many blank cells do you need to move through before you’re confident you didn’t miss anything? Fortunately, JAWS gives us great tools so that we don’t need to spend hours scouring our spreadsheets.

The cells with data menu will give us a list of cells that are not blank in our workbook. Simply use the up and down arrow keys to navigate through the list. When you find the cell you’d like, press enter and JAWS will move your focus to it.

Open the cells with data menu | Ctrl + Shift + D

Open list of cells in active column | Insert + Shift + C

Open list of cells in active row | Insert +Shift + R

Selecting Data

Selecting data is an important skill in Excel. You’ll find yourself needing to quickly delete, move, or format entire columns, rows, or sections of a spreadsheet. Below are some key commands that make those activities doable.

Select all contiguous data in the active section of the worksheet | Alt + A

Select all data in the worksheet | Alt + A, then Alt + A

Select all cells in active column | Ctrl + Space

Select all cells in active row | Shift + Space

Read the bounds of the selected text | Insert + Shift + Down Arrow

Formatting Text

While you may think of Excel as the dominion of hard numbers and calculations, Excel offers many of the same formatting options for text as other Microsoft Office applications. So, want to zest up your column titles? See the commands below.

Bold selected text | Ctrl + B

Italicize selected text | Ctrl + I

Underline selected text | Ctrl + U

Read formatting attributes of selected text | Insert + F

Making Your Data Work

Excel can do much more than simply hold data in columns and rows. It can be used to do a range of computations. If you start a cell entry with the equals sign, that will make that cell a formula. Try this out! Enter the following text into a cell in Excel: =1+1. What does JAWS say when you read the contents of this cell now?

Turn on cell edit mode | F2

Format edit combo box | Alt + H, then N

Announces the formula | Insert + Ctrl + F2

Working with Worksheets

We can use new worksheets to create related tables and figures. For example, you might create one workbook titled “Budget” that includes two worksheets, “Income” and “Expenses”. However, Excel is a flexible program, and you can really use it in whatever way meets your needs.

Insert a new worksheet | Alt + Shift + F1 or Shift + F11

Move to the next sheet in a workbook | Ctrl + Page Up

Move to the previous sheet in a workbook | Ctrl + Page Down

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