I, like most people, have some experience with Microsoft Excel — but not as much as I wish I did. For the most part, I’ve used it to brainstorm ideas, budget vacations, and make simple traffic and leads calculations.
But thanks to my limited Excel skills, I’m subjecting myself to the tedium of updating my spreadsheets manually. I’m well aware that it’s causing me to miss out on a whole world of reporting automation that could save me hours and hours of time.
But when I asked a handful of my most Excel-savvy colleagues where they picked up their Excel knowledge, they all told me things like, “I mostly learned from colleagues and friends” or “When I have a specific question, I ask someone or search on Google.”
Fair enough … but as a beginner, I feel like I’d have a few too many Excel questions to have to rely on colleagues or friends to answer every one.
I can’t be the only one out there who hopes to master the world’s most popular solution for analyzing and visualizing data. (Or at least learn how to create charts and graphs that’ll impress my manager.)
In the spirit of becoming a more productive, data-driven marketer, I scoured the internet for the best online resources for learning Excel. Most of these are free, and the ones that aren’t might be worth the investment to some folks out there. So take a look, bookmark your favorites, and get that much closer to working more efficiently in Excel.
Where to Learn Excel: The 10 Best Online Resources
When it comes to learning a new application, why not start at the source? After all, no one knows the Mircosoft Excel better than the people at Microsoft.
In fact, they’ve done a great job putting together the Office Training Center: a resource center for all of their Office applications and services. Their training center for Excel has a whole bunch of free tutorials, videos, and guides on Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone that cover both the latest version of Excel as well as the older ones.
Once you click into a platform, you’ll find resources divided by Excel ability: for beginners (like basic math and creating a chart), for intermediate users (like sorting and filtering data, conditional formatting, and VLOOKUPs), and for advanced users (like pivot tables, advanced IF functions, and how to password-protect worksheets and workbooks).
Here’s an awesome, very well organized site that’s chock full of helpful Excel tips collected by an Excel expert named John Walkenbach.
Over the past thirty years, Walkenbach has written more than 60 Excel books for users of all levels and around 300 articles and reviews for magazines like InfoWorld, PC World, and PC/Computing. At one point, he wrote the monthly spreadsheet column for PC World. In other words, the man knows his stuff — and he knows how to present it to an audience, too.
The most helpful part of his website is probably the Excel Tips tab, which has a long list of useful (and mostly non-trivial) tips on formatting, formulas, charts and graphics, and printing. The tips in there include everything from working with fractions, to unlinking a pivot table from its source data, to a spreadsheet protection FAQ sheet.
Another super helpful part of his site is the Downloads tab, where he’s added free, ungated download links to files he created, including free Excel workbooks and add-ins. Some of the files demonstrate useful techniques that you can adapt to your own work, and others are simply “for fun.”
For example, there’s one Excel workbook in there that gives examples of custom number formats, which you can play with and tweak on your own time to get familiar with them without having to start from scratch.
Finally, there are links on his site to all the books he’s written about Excel over the years, which includes books for each version of Excel from 2016 all the way back to some of its earliest versions.
Many of you are likely familiar with the content website About.com. But did you know it has its own spreadsheets subdomain, much of which is devoted to Excel? There are several thousand sets of instructions in there — mostly illustrated, how-to posts — and they add fresh content to it regularly.
Each of the pieces of content is categorized, and categories include everything from formulas and formatting to how-to videos and tools and templates. If you want to stay up-to-date on the latest spreadsheet news and tips, you can sign up for a free newsletter. There are a lot of advertisements on this site, but if you can stand them, the content is pretty darn great.
The founder of the blog at Chandoo.org (who’s nicknamed “Chandoo”) says he has one goal: “to make you awesome at Excel and charting.” The blog started back in 2007, and today, there are over 450 articles and tutorials in there on using Excel and making better charts.
He’s built the blog as a community, citing values like humility, passion, fun, awesomeness, and simplicity. He also works to make this a great place for the folks for whom English is not their first language.
Most of his tips start from the forums, where people ask a question about Excel — anything about formulas, formatting, shortcuts, pivot tables, and so on — and anyone can answer them. Chandoo then takes some of the more helpful forum questions and creates articles and tutorials out of them.
Image Credit: Chandoo.org
There’s some fun stuff in there, too. For example, Chandoo created an easter egg hunt for a recent blog post, which includes a downloadable Excel workbook that has seven pandas hidden within it. Readers can locate the pandas using clues, Excel techniques, or even good ol’ “I-Spy” skills.
Image Credit: Chandoo.org
While the articles, forums, and other parts of the site are free, you can pay a fee to join one of his training programs like Excel School or VBA Classes, or by getting a copy of one of his books: The VLOOKUP Book or Excel Formula Helper Ebook.
Excel is one of the most in-demand skills for data-driven marketers these days. And because we want marketers like you to succeed, we’ve created a whole bunch of educational content about Excel here at HubSpot — which include free ebooks, templates, blog posts, and video tutorials covering a wide range of topics.
Here are a few of our best:
- “9 Excel Templates to Make Marketing Easier” (free templates)
- “40 Handy Excel Shortcuts You Can’t Live Without” (blog post)
- “How to Create a Pivot Table in Excel: A Step-by-Step Tutorial” (video & blog post)
Here’s a resource that puts normal humans like you and me in touch with Excel experts. MrExcel.com’s claim to fame is its interactive message board, which is constantly monitored by its community of Excel “gurus.”
When a user posts a question, a member of the Mr. Excel expert community will reply with an answer. The questions range from simplifying an Excel task to solving an “emergency.”
Not a native English speaker? You can even ask questions in your native language.
Aside from posting questions on the message board, you can also browse Mr. Excel’s “Hot Topics,” which includes things like finding the cumulative sum of even or odd rows, or removing leading zero with a text field.
They also have a library of helpful Excel books and ebooks on there. If you need help with problems that are more complex, you can even hire an Excel consultant directly from the website for a fee.
Web Analytics Data Expert Annie Cushing created a blog called Annielytics, which includes both a website and a YouTube channel. But don’t let the punny name fool you: Cushings’ YouTube channel is chock full of really good, specific, and in-depth web analytics tips.
While the content here isn’t all Excel-related — a lot of it is about Google Analytics, for example — she does have some really good video tutorials for Excel. One advantage to these videos? They were created with marketing and web analytics in mind, so they’re directly applicable to your marketing data reports.
To find her videos about Excel, click here or search her YouTube channel for “Excel”.
The Excel topics she covers vary widely: from how to create interactive pivot tables, to how to add a scrolling table to your dashboard using the INDEX function. The videos also range widely in length depending on topic complexity: There are two-and-a-half-minute videos, and there are videos that are over half an hour long.
To give you an idea of what her videos are like, here’s a good one, which covers a comprehensive overview of Excel charts:
Price: Membership starts at $19.99/month (Free Trial Here)
If you’re willing to invest a little cash in your Excel training, Lynda.com is a worthwhile place to spend it. Paying members have access to thousands of Lynda.com courses on business, technology, creative skills, and software that’ll help you work toward your personal professional goals.
Included in these courses are over 100 Excel courses and over 4,000 video tutorials covering every version of Excel and any level of expertise. They cover broad topics like “Excel 2016 Essential Training” and “Communication Visually and Add Impact With Charts,” and more niche topics like “Excel 2016: Pivot Tables in Depth” and “Excel Workshop: Building a Dynamic Heat Map.”
Price: Individual courses start at $79/each
While Lynda.com asks for a monthly membership fee that then gives you access to all its courses, Coursera charges on a course-to-course basis. The folks at Coursera have partnered with top universities and organizations worldwide to offer online courses for anyone to take.
There are only a few related to Excel, but if you’re looking for a full, college- or grad school-level course, one of them could be perfect for you. Many of the Excel-related courses come from Duke University, such as “Mastering Data Analysis in Excel” and “Excel to MySQL: Analytic Techniques for Business.”
That being said, it doesn’t come cheap. These are real courses taught at top universities around the world. Each course includes video lectures, interactive quizzes, peer-graded assessments, and the opportunity to connect with fellow students and instructors. Once you finish a course, you’ll receive formal recognition, along with an optional course certificate.
If you’re looking for more of a “course” instead of a one-off tutorial, but you’re not ready to shell out any cash, check out edX’s courses.
EdX is a nonprofit that relies on verified certificates to help fund free education for people around the globe. If you take a course that’s marked as “Verified,” then you have the option to pay an amount of money (around $50) to receive an instructor-signed certificate with the institution’s logo to verify your achievement and increase your job prospects. If not, you can take it for free.
To help you choose the courses that are right for you, each edX course includes a rating up to five stars, course reviews, and information on course length, amount of effort (measured in hours per week), level, and video transcripts.
What are your favorite online resources for learning Excel? Share with us in the comments.