Like many marketers, I have a bit of experience with Microsoft Excel. I've used it to organize events, plan meals, and sort data -- but I don't have nearly the advanced knowledge I wish I did. And thanks to those limited skills, I'm constantly subjecting myself to the tedium of updating my spreadsheets manually.
I'm well aware that I'm missing out on a whole world of reporting automation that could save me hours of time. But when asked where they picked up their knowledge, even my most Excel-savvy colleagues 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 probably have a few too many Excel questions to rely on colleagues -- or Google -- to answer every one.
I can't be the only one out there who wants to master the world's most popular data analysis and visualization solution -- or at least learn how to create charts and graphs that'll impress my manager. So 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 . Take a look, bookmark your favorites, and get that much closer to working more efficiently in Excel.
How to Learn Excel Online: 12 of the Best Resources for Excel Training
1) Microsoft's Excel Training Center
When it comes to learning a new application, why not start at the source? After all, no one knows Excel better than the people at Microsoft.
In fact, they've done a great job putting together the Office Training Center: A resource hub for all Microsoft Office applications and services. The 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 the latest version of Excel, as well as 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), intermediate users (like sorting and filtering data, conditional formatting, and VLOOKUPs), and advanced users (like pivot tables, advanced IF functions, and how to password-protect worksheets and workbooks).
2) The Spreadsheet Page
Here's a very well-organized site that's chock full of helpful Excel tips, collected by an expert named John Walkenbach. Over the past thirty years, he's 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.
The most helpful part of his website is probably the Excel Tips tab, which has a long list of useful pointers on formatting, formulas, charts and graphics, and printing. The tips themselves include everything from working with fractions, to unlinking a pivot table from its source data, to spreadsheet protection FAQs.
The Downloads tab is another particularly helpful section of Walkenbach's site, where he's added free, ungated download links to files he created, like free Excel workbooks and add-ins. For example, there's one Excel workbook available for download that gives examples of custom number formats, which you can play with and tweak on your own time, and get familiar with them without having to start from scratch.
3) About.com's Spreadsheets Page
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 likely thousands of instruction sets on that site, most of which are illustrated, how-to posts. Plus, fresh content is added regularly.
Each piece of content is categorized according to everything from formulas and formatting, to videos, 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's just one caveat, which is that the site contains a good amount of ads -- but if you can stand them, the content is worth it.
Purna "Chandoo" Duggirala, Chandoo.org's founder, says he has one goal: "to make you awesome at Excel and charting." He started the blog in 2007 and, today, it contains over 450 articles and tutorials on using Excel and making better charts. He's built the blog as a community, citing values like humility, passion, fun, and simplicity. He also works to make it a valuable resource for the folks for whom English is not their first language.
Most of his tips stem from forums, where people ask questions about Excel -- about formulas, formatting, shortcuts, pivot tables, and so on -- and anyone can answer them. Chandoo then uses some of the more helpful forum questions to create articles and tutorials.
But it's not all so formal. For example, Chandoo once created a digital Easter egg hunt for a blog post, which included a downloadable Excel workbook containing seven hidden pandas. Readers were challenged to locate the pandas using clues, Excel techniques, and even "I-Spy" skills.
While the articles, forums, and other parts of the site are free, you can pay to join one of Chandoo's structured training programs, like Excel School ($97 - $247), or VBA Classes ($97 - $347). Plus, there's aways the option to buy one of his books -- The VLOOKUP Book or Excel Formula Helper Ebook.
5) HubSpot Excel Reources
Seeing as Excel is one of the most in-demand skills for data-driven marketers -- and because we want marketers like you to succeed -- we've created some of our own educational content about Excel here at HubSpot. From free ebooks, to templates, to video tutorials, we aim to cover a wide range of Excel-relevant topics.
Here are a few of our best:
- "How to Use Excel: The Essential Training Guide for Data-Driven Marketing" (free ebook)
- "9 Excel Templates to Make Marketing Easier" (free templates)
- "How to Create a Pivot Table in Excel: A Step-by-Step Tutorial" (video & blog post)
Here's a resource that puts we mere mortals 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.
The board is organized according to subject, like general announcements, questions, and MrExcel.com products. When a user posts a question, a member of the MrExcel.com expert community will reply with an answer. The questions range from simplifying an Excel task, to solving urgent inquiries.
Not a native English speaker? You can ask questions in your native language.
Aside from posting questions on the message board, you can also browse Mr. Excel's "Hot Topics" -- found on the left-hand side of its homepage -- which includes things like finding the cumulative sum of even or odd rows, or removing the leading zero within a text field. The site also has a library of helpful Excel books and ebooks, and if you need help with problems that are more complex, you can even hire an Excel consultant directly from the website, for a fee.
7) Annielytics Video Tutorials
Annie Cushing, a web analytics data expert, created the Annielytics blog and YouTube channel to share her knowledge with the world. Don't let the punny name fool you -- both are chock full of really good, specific, and in-depth web analytics tips.
While the content here isn't all Excel-related -- much of it is about Google Analytics, for example -- it does contain some great Excel video tutorials. Even better, they were created with marketing and web analytics in mind, so they're directly applicable to things like marketing data reports. The Excel-specific videos can be found here, or by searching her YouTube channel for "Excel".
The Excel topics 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 vary in length depending on topic complexity, ranging from two-and-a-half-minutes, to those over half an hour long. To give you an idea of what the videos are like, here's one of our favorites, which covers a comprehensive overview of Excel charts:
8) Lynda.com's Excel Training Tutorials
Price: Membership starts at $19.99/month | 10-day free trial available
If you're willing to invest a little cash in your Excel training, Lynda.com is a worthwhile place to spend it. Members have access to thousands of courses on business, technology, creative skills, and software that'll help you work toward your personal and professional goals.
Included are over 100 courses on Excel, and over 4,000 video tutorials covering every version of the program, at any level of expertise. They cover a broad range of topics, from something as general as "Statistics with Excel Part One," to more niche topics, like "Data Visualization Storytelling Essentials."
Price: Individual courses start at $79/each
While Lynda.com asks for a monthly all-access membership fee, Coursera charges on a course-to-course basis. Partnering with top universities and organizations worldwide, the site offers online classes on a number of topics, ranging from music production to coaching skills.
There are only a few courses pertaining to Excel, but if you're looking for one that's on a formally academic level, they could be a good fit for you. In fact, many of the Excel-related courses come from Duke University, such as "Excel to MySQL: Analytic Techniques for Business Specialization."
That said, these courses don't come cheap -- after all, they're the same ones that are taught at top universities around the world. And like many real-world classes, each 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.
10) EdX Excel Courses
Here's a more budget-friendly option for those in search of a more formal course, rather than a one-off tutorial. EdX is a nonprofit that provides free education for people around the globe -- with an interesting model.
When users enroll in a course that's marked as "Verified," they have the option to pay a fee in exchange for an instructor-signed certificate with the institution's logo, to verify the achievement and increase job prospects. Those fees are used to fund the courses, giving you the option to take them for free if you don't mind foregoing the certificate.
Otherwise, there are some courses offered at a "Professional Education" level, for which the fee isn't optional. One example is the Business and Data Analysis Skills course, offered for $60.
To help you choose the right one, each edX course includes reviews (with a rating up to five stars), and information on length and amount of effort, usually measured in hours per week. There are also details on the level of knowledge required, along with video transcripts.
11) Khan Academy
When visitors arrive at the Khan Academy website, they're greeted with two simple but powerful lines of text: "You only have to know one thing: You can learn anything." And from algebra to astronomy, this resource offers a plethora of free courses on, well, almost anything -- for free.
That includes a few video tutorials on Excel. Most of them are part of larger, multi-installment courses on broader topics, like statistics. A general search for "Microsoft Excel" yields what might look like limited results, but they actually explain some fundamental parts of using Excel, like distributions and fitting lines to data.
If you had six hours to spare, how would you use them? "Sleep," "clean the house," and "bake something" are some of the things that come to the top of my mind, but try this on for size -- what if you could become an Excel expert in that amount of time?
That's what Udemy promises in its "Microsoft Excel - From Beginner to Expert in 6 Hours" course -- for only $15. Udemy is one of the most bountiful online learning resources out there, and its Excel courses certainly don't end with that single option. In fact, when I return to the homepage, it displays several additional lessons on the topic, in case I want to explore my options.
Those options are many. In fact, just typing "Excel" into the search bar yields dozens of results, each one displaying a star rating, price, length, and level.
Excel in Your Field
Ready to get started? With these tools, you'll be using Excel with little-to-no-sweat, in no time. Plus, practice makes perfect -- that's why there are so many tiered levels of courses available. Start where you can, and as you begin using more functions and commands, you can continue to expand your knowledge.
What are your favorite online resources for learning Excel? Let us know in the comments.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.