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Learn Excel Without Spending a Penny: 40 Free Excel Tutorials & Reference Sites

POSTED 05/07/2013
By Brad Zomick

Nothing beats getting something for nothing! When it comes to learning Microsoft Excel, the same holds true. Excel is such an important software application, many organizations have taken it upon themselves to publish free Excel tutorials and how-to guides. The amount of free content available online is truly staggering. However, a lot of it should be taken with a grain of salt. Your Econ 101 professor probably told you, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Many of the free resources have their limitations which fall into three major categories: outdated content, web pages laden with spammy advertising, and content is bait for some sort of paid service or product. In the course of our search, we filtered out the really bad stuff but be aware even some of the content provided may have one or more these shortcomings.

  1. Earlier this week we wrote about 6 Excel Experts who are on a mission to help the world learn Microsoft Excel. Chandoo was our favorite.
  2. Mr. Excel was a close runner up. They are the most comprehensive sources of information for beginners to advanced users of Excel.
  3. Debra Dalgleish’s Contextures, John Walkenbach’s The Spreadsheet Page, and Daniel Ferry’s Excel Hero are also good guru sites but are more useful to intermediate and advanced users of Excel.
  4. Excel Exposure is a good no frills Excel course focusing on Excel 2010 for PC’s. It has a lot of great beginner content with videos and how-to text. It was also selected for inclusion into University of Reddit. It is a work in progress and many of the more advanced lessons have not been added to the site yet.
  5. Another no frills options is Excel Central which has video, ebooks, and excel file downloads. If you snoop around enough you will realize that Excel Central is actually a paid course and front to sell books by Mike Smart. However, Excel Central gives away videos and PDF for the first 7-8 chapters (each of which have atleast 10 learning modules) for the Essential and Expert Skills Courses in Excel 2010 and 2007, which is a fair amount of free content.
Excel essentials training

Many free tutorials are bait for a larger purchase. However, Excel Central is still giving away 32 lessons of content for Excel 2007 and 2010 in PDF and video format.

  1. ImproveYourExcel is a clean looking site with over 60 introductory video tutorials for Excel 2010. Again if you click around enough you will find there are some Excel videos they are trying to sell.
  2. Excel Easy a simple excel reference worth checking out. It contains all the basics one needs to get function in Excel 2010. It does not have any videos but does have explicit instructions with pictures and there no adverisements whatsoever.
  3. What you see is what you get in the Excel Function Dictionary which is a downloadable workbook that acts as a reference dictionary. Simply find a function and learn exactly how to use it with examples embedded into the workbook. Sadly, it has not been updated since 2009.
  4. While About.com is a widely known content farm and it is essentially a Wikipedia with advertisements and lots of them. We were first hesitant to include it but it hass own spreadsheets subdomain devoted to Excel with over 1800 separate pages with how-to text and pictures all dedicated to Excel and consistently posts fresh content. Realistically, the number of tutorials is probably less than one thousand because many of the posts simply link to previous posts or are split into multiple pages to maximize exposure but if you can put up with the ad content there is a lot of information.
  5. Many EDU sites have their own excel tutorials. There is a lot of either specialty content (for physics or business) and outdated content. We found some excel wiki’s from 1995! However, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business Excel wiki is a head and shoulders above the rest. It has a ton of tutorial content and practice workbooks. There is some content for Excel 2010, but most of it is for Excel 2003 and 2007.

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  1. The Barnard Library site is another EDU site with good tutorial content for Mac for Excel 2011 and Excel 2010 for PC’s. Again, the site is a work in progress with whole sections on the using the Excel Ribbon that are under construction.
  2. ExcelTutorial.com is no frills basic tutorial that does not even list the name of the author. After some detective work we were able to trace some of the videos to Juan David Suarez Gil’s Youtube Channel where he hosts makeshift Excel Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).
  3. The Excel Tip of the Month is from Isaac Gottlieb, professor and author. It provides many practical applications of Excel in action. The best part is that the tips are provided in a downloadable Excel file that allows you learn and apply almost immediately. As of September 2012 this has moved to the Temple Fox School of Business website.
  4. Allan Wyatts Excel Tips is a subsite of Tips.net and provides a myriad of tips of the Ribbon versions of Excel (Excel 2007 and later). The site has over 1200 different Excel tips with explicit instructions and desciptive pictures. There is also a separate subsite for the non-ribbon (older versions) of excel.
  5. ExcelTip.com is a mega Excel resource with a veritable warehouse of Excel related information. There is an extensive archive up tips, a tutorial page (for Excel 2007), and an active discussion forum.
  6. Exceljet has an awesome list of keyboard shortcuts for PC and Mac. Efficient use of Excel is all about knowing keyboard shortcuts. In fact, true Excel gurus  are like programmers and seldom use a mouse when navigating their spreadsheets.

    Exceljet's keyboard shortcut page is where you can learn Excel like a programmer learns to code.

    Exceljet’s keyboard shortcut page is where you can learn Excel like a programmer learns to code.

  1. GCFLearnfree.org Excel 2010 is the product of a local community organziation, the Goodwill Community Foundation in Durham, NC. It provides 21 different lessons with how-to text, good pictures, and some videos. It even has a downloadable iOS/Android app. However, the content is only limited to PC Excel 2010.
  2. Speaking of iOS, the iTunes Store is a great resource for free Excel related apps and podcasts. Some focus on integration with Excel like CloudOn and others are simply contain video tutorials.
  3. iTunes also has a number of free Excel podcasts including one from Mr. Excel.
  4. Also from the kind folks at Apple, is the iTunes U series which posts free course content from universities across the country, some of which includes Excel content.
  5. Free-Training-Tutorials.com is a site set up benefactor who claims to just “want to help a lot of people.” However, there are plenty of subtle affiliate links to paid Excel and other learning products. That aside the there are 24 lessons, some with multiple videos and downloadable Excel workbooks to try out what you learn in the videos. Video content is recorded on Excel 2010.

    GCFLearnfree.org not only provides free Excel 2010 training online but also has a free iOS app available for download.

    GCFLearnfree.org not only provides free Excel 2013 training online but also has a free iOS app available for download.

Test Your Excel Skills

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  1. Howcast’s How to Use Microsoft Excel has solid content on learning the basics in Excel 2010. There are 29 different videos with commentary from a professional Excel consultant. Bare in mind there is a plug for his business at the beginning of each video.
  2. The Mr. Excel Youtube Channel has over 1400 video tutorials. It has material for beginners through advanced users and covers mostly PC Excel 2010 and 2013. The channel has almost 9 thousand subscribers and over 2 million views.
  3. The Excel Is Fun Youtube Channel has over 2 thousand videos and is from one of Mr. Excel’s colleagues Mike Girvin. While Mr. Excel is the most famous Excel personality in the U.S., Mike has managed to top him on Youtube and has 80 thousand subscribers and over 29 million views to his channel. Perhaps bc his videos provide links to downloadable Excel workbooks. The content is most Excel 2007 and 2010.
  4. While Udemy is predominantly a paid platform there are some free courses available. We found three courses: one for beginners, one for advanced users, and another for beginners in VBA. Free courses on Udemy are designed to be small taste to entice users to upgrade to a paid course, but the advanced course about 9.5 hours of content which is not bad for a freebie.
  5. If you just want to get the basics check out the Learn Excel Functions Youtube Channel which has 62 videos for Excel 2010 and 2013.

    how cast excel tutorials

    Howcast hosts 29 different Excel tutorial videos.

  1. Many may think forums are a relic of the past but there are plenty that are still active in the world of Microsoft Excel. Forums are great for one off questions. You can ask questions, sift and search for someone who as already encountered your question, or just hang out see what people are talking about. The following forums have a regular beehive of Excel related activity (in order of thread activity): Mr. Excel Forum has 690 thousand topic threads and 3.4 million posts.
  2. The PC Review Excel Forum has 580 thousand threads and over 2 million posts.
  3. ExcelForum.com has 542 thousand threads and 2.3 million posts.
  4. The OzGrids Forum has 97 thousand threads and 500 thousand posts.
  5. Another old school way of learning Excel is via the Excel Listserve which has an archive of commentary going back to 1995!

    Excel listserv

    Learn Excel the old fashioned way via Excel listserve.

  1. AllExperts is a twist on a forum where you can direct your question direct to an experts. It has 25 Excel experts waiting to answer your questions, including 3 Excel MVP’s and the author of Excel for Dummies. You can also review questions the experts have answered in the past.
  2. For those who want to participate in an Excel community but desire something a little more modern that has better ease of use, try out the Excel Google Group.
  3. There are also a number of articles from tech magazines on how to extract the most out of Excel that are worth a read including “Work Faster in Excel” from Technive;
  4. “5 Excel Nightmares and How To Fix Them” from PC World;
  5. “Use Microsoft Excel for Everything” from PC World;
  6. The best way to get quick and efficient in Excel is through the use of keyboard shortcuts. Fortunately, Excel Jet has put together an awesome guide to Excel shortcuts for both PC and Mac.

    If you want to try out a forum but don't like the wonkiness of the old school forums try out the Excel Google group.

    If you want to try out a forum but don’t like the wonkiness of the old school forums try out the Excel Google group.

  1. Learn Excel “straight from the horse’s mouth” with the Microsoft Excel Getting Start Guides. There are separate guides for 2013, 2010, 2007, and Mac for Excel 2011. Ironically, the guides are on the lite side and are mostly how-to text with some videos.
  2. However, Microsoft’s Excel 2010 has the most robust guide with video training courses and an Excel Skill Builder series.
  3. They also do a decent job cataloguing common functions, formulas, and shortcuts.
  4. Those looking to use Office 365 should check out this video on basic tasks in the Excel web app, Office 365
  5. When in doubt you can always check out Microsoft Excel Support. Mac users note there is also a separate support system for Excel for Mac.
  6. Finally, if all else fails there is also special Microsoft run Excel Forum.
MS Excel Forum Question

Get your Excel answers “straight from the horse’s mouth” with Microsoft’s own excel forum.

You Get What You Pay For

We hope you enjoyed our list of free excel tutorials and how-t0 guides. Please share with your friends and bookmark this page as we will update it periodically. While some of these resources have their limitations. Perhaps the time spent reviewing it all may be better spent purchasing online Excel course from an expert who does all the heavy lifting for you and provides you with exercises to apply the knowledge learned. You need to decide what your time is worth. However, these resources all have one thing in common – they are free! If you are looking for even more resources to help you learn Excel check out our 133 Excel Resources list which also contains add-ins, templates, apps, and Excel experts to follow. If you are patient and diligent one could easily sift through these sites and cobble together a decent education in the Excel. It’s also worth noting while many of these resources are limited to older versions of Excel, a majority of the content is still applicable especially the fundamentals. Best of luck learning Excel!

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