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Most computer users will be familiar with Microsoft Excel. It is a spreadsheet program used frequently in the business world to display data, do calculations and make graphs and charts.

Opening an Excel document will give you lots of blank columns and rows you can fill. Each intersection of a column and a row is a square called a “cell”. Knowing a few formulas within excel means you can get live results as you enter in new information.

People use excel to keep track of expenses, calculate their payroll, document staff shifts, calculate mortgage repayments or transform results into pie graphs or bar graphs.

It is one of the most flexible programs on the Microsoft Office Suite.

Listen to the Using Microsoft Excel with JAWS audio guide (MP3)

To open a blank Excel document:

  • Use the windows key to enable the search bar and type EXCEL.
  • Hit ENTER once JAWS has identified the application.
  • This will open a blank Excel working book.

How to enter your data:

The Excel grid

To enter data into a blank Excel worksheet, you need to familiarise yourself with the grid it uses.

Columns have alphabetical names, so for instance the first column is A, the second column is B and so on.

Rows have numbers, so the first row is one, the second row is two and so on.

A cell that intersects a row and a column means it will include a letter and a number, so A1 will be the cell that intersects the first column and first row.

On a new sheet, cell A1 is the default selection.

Entering your data

  • To select an empty cell where you want to start entering your data, press the arrow keys.
  • As you move to cells in the workbook, JAWS announces the column and row of each cell as well as its contents.
  • When you select an empty cell, you hear, for example, “Blank, G4.” 
  • Once in the cell, type text or a number.
  • To enter the contents in the cell and move to the next cell in the column, press ENTER.
  • To move to the next cell in the row, press the TAB key. You can also use the arrow keys.

Moving through sheets on the same Excel document

  • Press CTRL and page up or page down to go from sheet to sheet.
  • To switch to the next workbook when more than one workbook is open, press CTRL + F6. JAWS will announce the name of the workbook.

Frequently used shortcuts

This table lists the most frequently used shortcuts in Excel.

  • Close a workbook: CTRL+W
  • Open a workbook: CTRL+O
  • Save a workbook: CTRL+S
  • Copy: CTRL+C
  • Paste: CTRL+V
  • Undo: CTRL+Z
  • Cut: CTRL+X
  • Remove cell contents: Delete
  • Delete column: ALT+H, D, C
  • Hide the selected rows: CTRL+9
  • Hide the selected columns: CTRL+0


Use AutoSum to add your data

You can quickly add numbers you’ve entered in your sheet by using the AutoSum function.

  • Firstly, select the cell where you want to put the total. This is typically to the right of or below the numbers you’re adding.
  • Then press ALT+H, U, and then S to enter the AutoSum function in the cell and press ENTER.
  • The AutoSum adds the numbers in the selected cells, and the total goes in your selected cell.
  • To hear the result of AutoSum calculation, move back to the cell containing the AutoSum function.
  • JAWS will tell you the number, the fact that this is a result of a formula, and the cell reference. For example, “538, Has formula, G6.”


Show your data in a chart

To quickly show a visual representation of your data, you can create a chart.

To select the group of numbers and labels you want to represent as a chart, select the first cell.

Then, to move to the last cell of data (typically the opposite corner of the group of cells), hold down the SHIFT key and press the arrow keys.

To get into the charts menu, press CTRL+Q. It will recommend a few ways you can represent that data, for instance, a bar graph or a pie graph. Switch between these options with the RIGHT or LEFT ARROW key until you hear the option you want.

Press ENTER to select the chart type. The chart representing your selected group is added to the worksheet as an embedded object.

Don’t forget, save your work!

Once you’ve started a new spreadsheet, there are a few things you need to do to keep a copy of it on your computer. Using the Microsoft Excel toolbar will give you options like saving a spreadsheet, printing it or emailing it to someone.

  • To open a new spreadsheet: press ALT+F, N
  • To review a list of recently-opened spreadsheets: press ALT+F, O
  • To save your spreadsheet: press ALT+F, S
  • To print your spreadsheet: press ALT+F, P
  • To quickly export your spreadsheet in a PDF or change the file type: press ALT+F, E

The makers of JAWS have also made video tutorials to help you with Excel. The links and topics are written are below.


Search – don’t get stuck

Microsoft Excel also has a great search bar in case you get stuck anywhere. 

Just Press ALT+Q, and Jaws will say, “Tell me what you want to do”. 

Microsoft also has dedicated support site for screen reader users with tips and common shortcuts.

Here are some useful links via the support site:


Looking for more advice or training?

The Vision Australia Access Technology (AT) team is here to support you and can organise personal training.

Our AT Helpdesk team are available Monday to Friday between the hours of 9:00am and 5:00pm EST to troubleshoot your accessible technology issues.

Give them a call on 1300 84 74 66 (and ask for the AT Helpdesk), or send an email at [email protected].