Once you are familiar with functions and formulas, the next step is to learn how to use Calc's automated processes to perform quick and useful analysis of your data.
Calc includes several tools to help you manipulate the information in your spreadsheet, ranging from features for copying and reusing data, to creating subtotals automatically, to varying information to help you find the answers you need. These tools are divided between the Tools and Data menus.
If you are a newcomer to spreadsheets, these tools can be overwhelming at first. However, they become simpler if you remember that they all depend on input from either a cell or a range of cells that contain the data with which you are working.
You can always enter the cells or range manually, but in many cases, it is easier to select the cells with the mouse. Click the Shrink/Maximize icon beside a field to temporarily reduce the size of the tool’s window so you can see the spreadsheet underneath and select the cells required.
Sometimes, you may have to experiment to find out which data goes into which field, but then you can set a selection of options, many of which can be ignored in any given case. Just keep the basic purpose of each tool in mind, and you should have little trouble with Calc’s function tools.
You don’t need to learn them, especially if your spreadsheet use is simple, but as your manipulation of data becomes more sophisticated, they can save time in making calculations, especially as you start to deal with hypothetical situations. Just as importantly, they can allow you to preserve your work and to share it with other people—or yourself at a later session.
One function tool not mentioned here are DataPilots (also known as pivot tables), but they are a topic that is sufficiently interesting and complex to require an chapter to themselves.
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