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How to save an Excel spreadsheet and everything else you need to know about working with files: A beginners guide.

Jason Morrell

by Jason Morrell 
November 29, 2021

In this post you'll discover how to save an Excel spreadsheet for the first time, then save further updates, close the file, re-open the file, create a brand new spreadsheet, create shortcuts to spreadsheets you use frequently, and other fundamental file skills like rename, delete, move, find or switch.


Beginners tour of the Excel screen

1. Creating a new Excel workbook

1.  Click the File tab, then choose NEW on the sidebar.

A gallery of templates is displayed. When you have mastered the basics, you can come back and use one of these templates to create a new spreadsheet. You’ll find a lot of the hard work has already been done.

2.  If you just want a blank workbook, choose the first thumbnail Blank Workbook.

3.  The new workbook is created and given the default filename (Book1, Book2, Book3 etc.)

4.  You can also press Ctrl N to bypass the dialog box and create a new blank workbook in one step.

Creating a new workbook

2. How to save an excel spreadsheet for the first time

To save an Excel spreadsheet for the very first time:

1.  Click the File tab.

2.  Choose Save or Save As on the left sidebar.

3.  Click Browse.

4.  Choose a folder to save your workbook in.

5.  In the filename box, type a name for your workbook and click Save.

6.  Once saved, you can quickly save any future changes by pressing Ctrl S.

3. Saving updates to an existing Excel workbook

If you have already saved the workbook, but you have since made some changes and want to save them:

1.  Click the File tab.

2.  Choose Save on the left sidebar. The existing filename is used, and the changes are saved.

3.  To save a copy of the spreadsheet to a separate file:

4.  Click the File tab.

5.  Choose Save As on the left sidebar.

6.  Click Browse.

7.  Choose a folder to save your workbook in.

8.  In the filename box, type a name for your new workbook and click Save.

4. Opening an existing Excel spreadsheet

All file management (opening, saving and closing a file) is accessed through the FILE tab, which is at the top-left of the screen.

To open an existing workbook:

1.  Click the FILE tab.

2.  Choose OPEN on the left sidebar.

3.  Click BROWSE at the bottom of the middle panel.

4.  Navigate to where your file is stored

5.  Select your spreadsheet.

6.  Click Open

Opening an existing workbook

5. Closing an Excel spreadsheet

  • Click the File tab then click CLOSE on the left sidebar, or ...
  • Press Ctrl W on the keyboard.

6. Using the recently-used file list

Excel lists the most recent files you worked on to save you the hassle of searching for them.

To re-open a file you have worked on recently:

1.  Click the File tab the click OPEN on the left sidebar.

2.  Choose RECENT in the middle column.

3.  On the right column. locate and double-left-click the file name to open it.

Using the recently used file list

7. Pinning the files that you use frequently

When you hover over a file in the RECENT list a horizontal pushpin symbol appears.

When you click the pushpin, it changes to a vertical pushpin  which indicates that the file is now pinned.

In the RECENT files list, the most recent files are listed at the top and the oldest files are listed at the bottom. As you open different spreadsheets, older files get moved down the list and eventually drop off.

Pinned files are locked at the top of the list and never move. Pin current or commonly used files.

Pinning files

8. Renaming an Excel spreadsheet

To rename an Excel spreadsheet:

1.  Open File Explorer.

File Explorer has a yellow folder icon and used to be called Windows Explorer.

Also, it should not be confused with Internet Explorer, an internet browser that has also been renamed to Edge.

Renaming a workbook

2.  Navigate your folders and locate your file.

3.  Right-click on the file name then click Rename on the context menu (or click twice slowly on the file name).

4.  Type a new name and press Enter.

You can also use this technique when using File → Open or File → Save.

9. Deleting an Excel workbook

To delete a workbook, you no longer need:

1.  Open File Explorer.

2.  Navigate your folders and locate your file.

3.  Right-click on the file name then click Delete on the context menu, or…

Click the file name once to select it, then press Delete on the keyboard.

10. Finding a lost file

If you cannot remember what you called the file or where you saved it, you can search for it.

1.  Single-left-click the FILE tab then single-left-click OPEN.

2.  In the top-right of the dialog is a search box. Single-left-click inside the search box.

3.  Type the whole file name or part of the file name then press ENTER. The app will search for your file and display a list of matching results.

4.  If you see your file listed, double-left-click it to open it.

11. Switching to another spreadsheet

Often you need to work on two or more workbooks at the same time. In the Windows task bar (at the very bottom of the screen), the Excel icon will show an overlap like the workbooks are stacked. This indicates that multiple workbooks are currently open.

To switch to a different workbook:

1.  Hover over the stacked Excel icon on the task bar to display thumbnails for each open workbook.

2.  Click the thumbnail of the workbook you want to switch to.

Switching from one open workbook to another

When you switch to a different workbook, all the other open workbooks remain open in the background. You haven’t lost them. You don’t need to save them first. You can switch workbooks any time.

12. Key Takeaways

  • Press Ctrl O to open an existing workbook.
  • Press Ctrl N to create a new workbook.
  • Press Ctrl S to save a workbook.
  • Press Ctrl W to close a workbook.
  • To rename a file, locate the file using Windows Explorer, then right-click and choose Rename. Type the new name and press Enter.
  • To switch from one open workbook to another, hover over the stacked Excel icon on the task bar then select the thumbnail from the gallery of open workbooks that you wish to switch to.

I hope you found plenty of value in this post. I'd love to hear your biggest takeaway in the comments below together with any questions you may have.

Have a fantastic day.

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About Jason Morrell

About the author

Jason Morrell

Jason Morrell is a professional trainer, consultant and course creator who lives on the glorious Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.

He helps people of all levels unleash and leverage the power contained within Microsoft Office by delivering training, troubleshooting services and taking on client projects. He loves to simplify tricky concepts and provide helpful, proven, actionable advice that can be implemented for quick results.

Purely for amusement he sometimes talks about himself in the third person.


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