Microsoft Excel

Insider’s Guide to Free Online Excel Training

It seems like every company uses Microsoft Excel these days but if you don’t have a lot of experience with the world’s most popular spreadsheet application, it can leave you feeling a little helpless.

Don’t let your lack of experience get you down. I have a secret I want to share with you. You can learn Microsoft Excel online… for free!

Michael Belfry

5 Articles to Help You Learn Excel for Free!

My name is Michael Belfry. I have been a training consultant for over 20 years. Along the way, I have helped thousands of people learn to use Microsoft Excel.

In this 5-part series of articles, I’m going to show you how to become proficient in Microsoft Excel using nothing but free online resources.

Bookmark this page, share it on social media, and thank you for checking out my blog!

What Is Excel?

Many applications let you organize data and perform calculations. At one time, Lotus 123 was the spreadsheet of choice. These days, anyone with a Gmail account has Google Sheets… but most modern organizations haven’t standardized on either of these programs.

Excel has become the “go to” application.

Microsoft Excel is the spreadsheet application of choice for organizations of all sizes. It has been the industry standard for over 20 years. If your job involves organizing information, performing calculations, or analyzing financial data, you need to be proficient in Excel.

Like it or not, Excel is everywhere. If you work in an office that uses spreadsheets, you probably have Excel on your computer! Even if you don’t have Excel installed locally, you can access an online version of the program at

It doesn’t matter which version of Excel you have. The interface and features are pretty consistent across the desktop and online versions.

Spreadsheet on a laptop computer

What Is Excel Used For?

Everyone knows that Excel is standard issue for companies that use spreadsheets but what does it do exactly?

Microsoft Excel is used to organize and analyze all types of data. Although Excel is often used for financial information, this application’s true power lies in its flexibility. Users can structure data and create formulas to build anything from a simple sales summary to a detailed annual report.

Common uses for Excel include:

  • Accounting
  • Creating charts
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Data entry
  • Data management
  • Financial analysis
  • Financial modeling
  • Forecasting
  • Task management
  • Project management

That’s a long list – and that’s exactly why Excel has become a core business application. You can use it for so many important tasks!

What Is the Best Way to Learn Microsoft Excel?

Excel is the spreadsheet application of choice in many organizations but what can you do if don’t have any experience with the program?

A structured approach to learning Microsoft Excel has been proven to yield the best results:

  1. Create a list of the Excel skills you need to learn (and write them down).
  2. Focus on learning one skill at a time.
  3. Apply what you’ve learned right away.
  4. Move on to the next skill.

Let’s unpack these steps a little more.

Smiling woman has discovered free online Excel training

I recommend making a list of the skills you need to learn before you start, because Excel does so much. Topics that will make the biggest difference to your productivity should be at the top of your list.

To me, focusing on one skill at a time just makes sense. Make sure you fully understand each concept before moving on to the next learning objective. Trying to learn too much at once is a recipe for frustration and feeling overwhelmed!

Understanding a concept is one thing, being able to apply what you’ve learned is something else entirely. Make sure you try out every new Excel skill you learn – even if you have to create your own practice spreadsheets to experiment with. Don’t skip this step!

Only move on to the next skill once you have completed the other steps.

How Can You Learn Excel Online for Free?

After providing Microsoft Excel training to various groups for close to two decades, one thing continues to surprise me. Some people are able to learn Excel on their own using books and online resources. Others need the structure of an in-person, instructor-led course in order to learn Microsoft Excel.

If you have the discipline to set aside time on a regular basis, there are a multitude of free resources available online. The secret is to approach learning about Excel using free online resources with the same level of commitment that you would in a traditional instructor-led course.

Think about the elements that make traditional in-person learning effective:

  • You select a course based on a list of training objectives.
  • You set aside time to attend each training session.
  • You complete any work assigned by the instructor.

There are many free online resources available to help you learn Excel but they aren’t packaged as nicely as a traditional in-person course costing hundreds (or thousands) of dollars.

More: Instructor-Led vs Online Learning

Make no mistake about it: learning Excel online for free is very much a “self-serve” option. You can learn Excel online for free, but YOU need to create a list of learning objectives. YOU need to set aside time on a regular basis to learn about Excel. YOU need to apply what you’ve learned in order to retain your new Excel skills.

What Is the Best Free Online Excel Training?

There are many free online resources available to help you learn Excel, but we all learn differently.

Some people prefer to read about concepts and have processes broken down into logical steps, others prefer to see things demonstrated as if a friend or coworker was walking them through an Excel task.

Choose free online Excel training that matches your learning style.

If you like to read, there are some amazing Excel blogs for you to dive into. If you’d rather watch a screencast or video, YouTube might be the most effective option. If you need the structure of a formal course, portals like Udemy or Skillshare have some free options that might work for you.

The next articles in this 5-part series identify the best free online resources for learning Excel. There are resources for every learning style. If learning about Microsoft Excel is important to you, you’ll definitely want to keep reading.

Here are all of the articles in the series.

Check out each article for advice and recommendations on how to get the most out of that type of training.

Best wishes on your journey to learn Microsoft Excel online for free!

By Michael Belfry

Working as a full-time training consultant, Michael provides Microsoft Office courses to government and private sector clients across Canada.