What Is a Spreadsheet?

A spreadsheet, also known as a worksheet, is a digital program file used to display, capture, and manipulate data. The spreadsheet data is arranged in rows and lines and can be comprised of text strings, numeric values, formulas, references, and functions. Spreadsheets help monitor current and forecast future business performance.

Spreadsheet Nomenclature

Here are some of the basic terms associated with spreadsheets.


A cell is a term used for the little boxes in the spreadsheet filled with input data. The cell is created at the intersection between a row and a column. The address of a given cell is indicated by the column header. For example, the first cell is usually named A1.


Worksheets are individual spreadsheets that comprise a workbook. A workbook can contain multiple worksheets the user can access via the tabs at the bottom of the worksheet they’re working on.


When users open a spreadsheet program (e.g., Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, etc.), they essentially open a workbook. A workbook is a collection of one or multiple worksheets within a single file.

What Are Some Popular Spreadsheet Programs?

Presently, there are many spreadsheet programs, the most popular ones being:

  • Microsoft Excel – the most utilized spreadsheet app;
  • Google Sheets – free and browser accessed;
  • iWork Numbers – Apple and iOS support;
  • LibreOffice – free;
  • OpenOffice – free.

Common Uses for Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are versatile tools that store and organize information. In addition, users can integrate them with third-party programs, such as word processing or presentation apps for business or school activities.

Businesses often benefit from spreadsheets as they greatly alleviate the work required from managers or supervisors within a company. Here are some of the most important tasks that are easy to accomplish using spreadsheets and which would be cumbersome to manage without them.

Organizing and Storing Data

Spreadsheets can be used to create and store data structurally. Individuals can organize, sort, and arrange large amounts of data within seconds and later analyze their data to take further actions.

In terms of storing data, spreadsheets can hold customer, financial, and product data. For example, Excel spreadsheets can have more than one million rows and over 16,000 columns. This makes them great for creating large databases.

Calculation and Accounting

Spreadsheets have built-in formulas for calculating any type of data (e.g., banking, forms, finance, school, etc.), making them a rather sophisticated calculator that automatically updates the output every time the input changes.

In accounting, digital spreadsheets allow users to enter formulas that can perform all their business calculations without them having to purchase specialized accounting software.


Users can create detailed charts that will make their data easily understandable. In addition, most spreadsheet apps offer dedicated chart types that users can customize to a great extent.

Budgeting and Spending

Spreadsheets can be used to track a company’s expenses and budgets. To manage their income and expenses, users can create dedicated budget spreadsheets. The budget spreadsheets also help companies comply with their tax requirements during tax season.

Exporting Data

Spreadsheets are helpful for exporting data, unlike other online data management systems that do not present data in an easy-to-read format or make it challenging for users to access them offline.

Data Cleaning and Sifting

Individuals can also use spreadsheets for data sifting and cleanup to detect duplicate or inaccurate data. It's pretty simple to eliminate low-quality or unwanted and reproduced data with a spreadsheet. This is particularly important for customer data, which must be kept accurate and up-to-date.

Generating Charts and Reports

Spreadsheets are used to generate reports or charts that show trends and make forecasts. These reports can be made accessible to all company employees, who can also examine the data themselves and compare the information. 

When there's a lot of data, individuals can use pivot tables to highlight specific aspects. Users can also create charts for reporting. For example, it's possible to generate pie and graph charts to improve readability. This is great for business presentations where users must show a lot of data in a short time frame.

Completing Administrative Tasks

Users can utilize spreadsheets to create invoices and receipts and plan for the future by making business forecasts. For example, compiling valuable data and presenting it to management to help them make informed decisions.