Home Excel 2010 - Using the Excel Help and How to Window


Sooner or later you will have a question about an Excel feature or wonder how to perform a particular task, that’s where Excel help comes into play.

The Excel Help and How-to Window can be brought up by either pressing the F1 key or by clicking on the help button Help button located in the upper right-hand corner above the ribbon. 

Excel Help window

        Office.com website

From the Excel help window you can click on downloads, images, or templates.  Clicking on any of these takes you to the Office.com website.  This is a great site where you can get material for all of your Microsoft office products.

The downloads are tools to improve or expand your Excel capabilities.    Some of the downloads are free; for others, there is a charge. 

The images include illustrations, photos, animations, and sound.

The templates are pre-built spreadsheets that contain the capability to perform tasks such as creating a home budget, expense tracking, etc. You can alter the templates to meet your specific needs. 

The Getting Started with Excel 2010 area of the window is very helpful if you are already familiar with Excel 2007 and just want to know what has been changed and added in Version 2010.  The Browse Excel 2010 support area displays the major areas of Excel in categories.  To see more categories, click on see all.  Clicking on a category displays the topics in that category.  Clicking on a topic displays information about that topic.

Excel Help Table of Contents

The Table of Contents button in the Help window toolbar appears as an open or closed book depending upon whether the Table of Contents pane is being currently displayed on the left side of the window. When you click the Show Table of Contents button Excel Show Table of Contents button  it changes to an open book icon Book icon and the Table of Contents pane appears on the left side of the Help window.  Clicking on any of the book icons in the Table of Contents pane displays subtopics and articles to choose from. Clicking on an item with a Question Mark icon icon in front of it displays related information in the right pane.  Clicking on some items even displays a helpful video.

Excel Table of Contents pane

Clicking on the Not On Top button thumbtack Not on top changes the button to the Keep on Top Keep On Top button.  When the Keep on Top is displayed your help window will always stay on top of your spreadsheet.  You can adjust the size of the help screen so that you can view your spreadsheet at the same time.
Clicking on the Hide Table of Contents button Hide Table of Contents button clears the Table of Contents pane from the left side and changes the icon back to the Show table of Contents button Show table of Contents button  .

Microsoft updates their help files, templates and training which you can access through the Internet.  If you don’t have access to the Internet, you will only be able to access the help files that were stored on your computer when you installed Excel.


Use an Excel Help Search Keyword

You can search for a keyword or phrase by entering it in the Search drop down box then pressing Enter or clicking on the Search button.   Clicking on the arrow for the drop down box displays your latest searches.   Clicking on one of the past searches will redisplay the results of that search.

List of latest searches

Clicking on the Search down arrow reveals the areas you can select for help from either the Internet or from your computer.

Search Context Menu


Practice for Using Help

  1. Slowly move your cursor over the buttons in the ribbon to view the screen tips.
  2. Click on a cell in the worksheet. Press F1.  The Excel Help window displays.

    When viewing Help topics you can view those installed on your computer as part of Microsoft Office (offline) or the topics available on Microsoft Office.com.

    *Note:  If your computer is not connected to the Internet then of course you can only view help files that are available on your computer.

  3. If you see this button Connect to Office.com button on the Connection Status menu located on the status bar in the bottom right-hand corner of your window then you can access material from the Office.com website and you can skip the rest of this step.  If you see this button   Offline Button in the bottom right-hand corner of your window you can only view offline material in the help window.  Click on the button then select Show content from Office.com

    Connection Status

  4. Click on Downloads.  This takes you to Microsoft’s web site where you can download software that is compatible with Microsoft Office. Some of the software is free, some of it you can download on a trial version, and some of it must be purchased.  You can learn more about a product by clicking on its blue text.
  5. Click on the arrow to the left of Business management for an expanded view of the category. Business Management button.   Click on Finance and accounting. At both the top and bottom of the window you can click on the next and previous buttons to move through the choices.  Next and Previous buttons.   Look through the other categories there is a lot of great software here.
  6. Close the Browser window.  You should be looking at the Excel Help window again.
  7. If the Table of Contents are not displayed on the left side of the window click on the Show Table of Contents button Table of Contents button
    Click on Formulas in the Table of Contents.    This expands the view.

      Formulas in the Table of Contents


  8. Help Button icon displays help information for that topic usually in the right pane. 
    Clicking on an item that starts with the Tutorial icon  takes you to a website that contains a tutorial for the subject.

    Click on Calculating dates.

    Calculating Dates menu

    Clicking on either one of the last two items under Calculating dates will display a video in a browser.
  9. Click on Calculating dates to collapse its expanded view.   Click on Formulas to collapse its expanded view.
  10. Click on Training Courses.  Most of the Training Courses consists of multiple videos, a practice file to download and a self-test.  Clicking on one of the training courses will take you to a website.  
    Click on the training course  Sparklines: Use tiny charts to show data trends
    The bottom half of the web page tells you about the course and what the goals are for the course.

    The courses are broken down into subcategories.  Each subcategory has its own training video.  


    Selecting the Practice category lets you download a practice workbook along with instructions.


    Selecting Test yourself lets you take a self-test.


    Selecting Feedback lets you give a rating of 1 to 5 stars for this course.


    Selecting Quick Reference Card provides a Summary of the capabilities of the Subject matter.


    Excel Training Videos

    Each course shows the level of the material, approximately how long it should take you to Excel course informationgo through the course, and a viewer’s rating of the course and how many people participated in the rating.   It also tells you whether the course applies to just Excel 2010 or to other office products.  You can download the course to view it directly from your computer rather than off the Internet.   This is very helpful if you have a slow internet connection.  The course you download is in PowerPoint.  The PowerPoint presentation provides you with all of the information that is in the online course and you can watch the videos inside of PowerPoint.

  11. Click on Training courses to collapse the expanded view. 

    Click on Videos. 

    These aren’t full courses they are just single videos about how to perform a particular Excel function.

    Click on Videos to Collapse the expanded view.

  12. Enter Vlookup in the search textbox   VLOOKUP entered in the Search box

    Click on the down arrow to the right of the Search button.

    Results of clicking on the down arrow of the Search button

    Verify that All Excel is selected. If it isn’t selected (has a check mark next to it) then click on it. 
    Click on the Search button.

    Search results for VLOOKUP function


    The Search list starts with help items that contain VLOOKUP in their titles followed by items that only contain the word VLOOKUP in their text.  

    If you click on an item that is an Article it will be displayed in the current pane.  If you click on an item that is a Link you will be taken to a non-Microsoft website.   If you click on an item that is Training or Video you will be taken to one of Microsoft’s websites where you can view training or video for the item you selected.

  13. Click on the down arrow to the right of the Search button.  Click on Excel Help under the heading Content from this Computer.   This list should be smaller because these are articles that are stored on your computer rather than the Internet.
  14. The help tool bar contains arrow buttons that you can use to move back and forth between the links you have clicked on.  Clicking on the home button takes you to the Excel Help and How-to pane which contains the same group headings as the Table of Contents pane.  The printer button allows you to print a portion of an article or the entire article.  The Font button allows you to change the size of the font.   If looking at small text isn’t comfortable for you then you can enlarge it.

    Excel 2010 Help toolbar

  15. If you are entering a function in a cell or in the formula bar and you want help for that function you can press F1 or click on the help button Excel Help Button located in the upper right-hand corner above the ribbon. 
    Click in Cell A1.  Type  =VL 

    The full function name VLOOKUP displays along with a tooltip providing information about the Function.

    Click on the help button

    A window provides help for the VLOOKUP function.  Scroll down in the help window and you can see where Excel has even provided Examples for you.

    Close the Help window.

  16. Excel also provides help for some of the commands on the ribbon.  If no help for that command is available you are taken to the general help window.  

    On the ribbon, click on the Home tab.  In the Alignment group move your cursor over the Wrap Text button so that it is highlighted (don’t click on it).   Press F1.  The help window appears with help specifically for Wrap Text.

    Close the Help window.

    In the Alignment group move your cursor over the Merge & Center button so that it is highlighted.  Press F1.  The help window appears with help specifically for Merge & Center.

    Close the Help window.