Microsoft Excel and System Access

Microsoft Excel and System Access work hand in hand to provide intuitive and easy access to spreadsheets and charts. System Access works with Microsoft Excel 2003, 2007 and 2010. Microsoft Excel is generally used to keep track of data such as work hours, grade averages, sports scores, financial transactions, and so on.

Using Excel

In this section, we will show you how to create a very basic Excel spreadsheet to calculate work hours. A full-blown worksheet would likely contain much more data than this example, but this quick exercise will be enough to get you started. It is up to you to learn the nuances of Excel on your own, as teaching full Excel usage is far beyond the scope of this help system.

When starting Excel, System Access will say: "Microsoft Excel. Book 1. Sheet 1. A1." Book 1 refers to the fact that Excel groups multiple spreadsheets into a workbook, or just book for short. So whenever you begin a new workbook by starting Excel, you automatically start with a blank workbook containing three spreadsheets, called sheets for short. Finally, A1 refers to the cell that you are placed in when you first open Excel. Data in a spreadsheet is presented differently than it is in a text document, such as in Microsoft Word or Notepad. In a spreadsheet, data is laid out in a grid pattern consisting of rows and columns. Columns are labeled by letter, and rows are designated by number. The place where these columns intersect is refered to as a cell. So, if you look at where column A and row 1 intersect, this spot on the grid is refered to as cell A1.

You can move through the cells in a spreadsheet using your four arrow keys. To explore a column in Microsoft Excel, simply move up and down using the corresponding arrow keys. Moving left and right with your arrow keys allows you to explore the contents of the current row. Notice as you move through the document, that System Access speaks your current location within the spreadsheet. Now that you understand how to explore a spreadsheet, let's move to the top of the Excel document by pressing Control+Home.

Creating a Spreadsheet

Now that you are in cell A1, you can type anything you like. For this example, type the word "Name" without the quotes. Then press the Right Arrow Key to move right one cell. You will hear "Blank, B1." This information tells you that you have moved right by one cell, and the cell you have moved to is empty. In B1, type "Date." In C1, type "Department." Finally, in D1 type "Daily Hours." Now press Enter. You will be placed in D2, since pressing the enter key will always move you down one row in the spreadsheet. If you'd like to move back to cell A2, which is the leftmost cell in the current row, press the Home Key.

Note that if you'd like to replace the contents of a cell, you may simply begin typing in that cell and any previous data will be overwritten by the data you type. If you wish to make minor changes to the contents of a cell, press F2. When you're done editing the cell, you may press Enter to move to the next row, or Tab and Shift+Tab to move one column to the right or left. You have now defined the template that the rest of your sheet will be based upon. If you'd like to save the work you've done so far, you can do this by pressing Control+S and choosing a name for your workbook.

Working with Data

The titles you've just entered into the top row of the spreadsheet are called column headers. This is because each title tells you what kind of information will be entered in that particular column. Before continuing, let's verify where you are in the spreadsheet. If you read the status bar by pressing Modifier+Num-pad-3 or Page-down, you will hear, "A2, one row, four columns." That kind of information can be handy at times if you get a bit lost in a very large spreadsheet. Please remember that you may use your four arrow keys to move around the sheet.

Let's enter some information now. In cell A2, type the name "Tom," and then move to B2, the next cell to the right. Let's say you have forgotten what column you are in. If you press Modifier+C, you will hear "Date B1." This command does not move you at all, but only reads the column header to you. Note that you are still located in B2. Similarly, if you want to hear the first cell in the current row, press Modifier+R. You will hear "Tom, A2." Again, this command does not move you, but simply reads the relevant information.

Now that you are sure you are in the Date column, press Control+Colon, and Excel will automatically enter today's date into the cell. When you press Control+Colon, you will hear, "editing," followed by today's date. You may use the Tab Key to move to the next column cell. You are now under the Department column header, so let's type Sales. In the D2 cell, type "10" to indicate the number of hours that Tom worked today. Remember that when you press the Enter Key, Excel places you in D3 rather than A3. This is due to the grid-like nature of Excel. It believes you may want to add something else under the figure you entered in D2. Since this is not the case, it will be necessary to arrow back to A3, or press the Home Key to jump directly back to the beginning of row number 3.

To complete the sample spreadsheet, type in the remaining two rows of information: Glen, mm/dd/yyyy, Accounting, 9. Sarah, mm/dd/yyyy, HR, 8. Note: Don't forget that you can use Control+Colon to automatically enter the current date into a cell.

Now that we have a few lines of data, let's make Excel do a bit of work for a change. Move to cell C5. Once there, type "Total Hours Worked." Now, press the Tab Key to move to D5. Here we will make Excel automatically calculate the total number of hours. Just press Alt+Equals. For the sake of clarity, this means that you hold down the Alt Key, and then press the Equals Sign, then release both keys. You will hear, "Editing. SUM (D2:D4)." Now just press Enter. You will be placed into cell D6. If you press the Up Arrow Key to move back to cell D5, you should hear "27." What we have done is told Excel to create a very simple formula to calculate the daily hours column. When you arrow up to the cell with the formula, you will notice a high-pitched beep. This indicates that the cell contains a formula, and you'll then hear the result of that formula. In this case, the total number of hours is spoken.

If you ever wish to enter a different type of formula, such as a1 multiplied by A2, you can press the Equals Sign in the cell which should contain the formula, and then type "A1*A2".

Exploring a Spreadsheet

When Modifier+F7 is pressed, you can explore data within the entire spreadsheet. The first list box in this dialogue contains all data from each of the cells in the spreadsheet. When you arrow to a particular piece of information in the list box, the cell's location is spoken, as well as the data the cell is holding. Pressing Enter moves you to that data. The next list box contains all links in a spreadsheet, and if you tab to it, pressing the Enter Key will activate the link regardless of where it is within the spreadsheet. Tabbing once again places you in the totals list box. Here, you can arrow down through any number of cells containing calculated data. Note that after the totals data is spoken for a cell, you hear the message, "Not Spoken." This indicates that the totals cell will not be spoken when data in the formula changes, or is manually changed. If you want to have the totals information spoken automatically each time there is a change in the result of the calculation, simply press the Spacebar. Tabbing once more brings you into the list of worksheets within the current workbook. Pressing Enter on one of these sheets will place you within that sheet. When you are finished with the list boxes, simply either press Enter, or Escape to close them.

Title Ranges

System Access makes it easy to define title ranges in an Excel worksheet. A title range can be either a row of column titles starting at a given column, or a column of row titles starting at a given row. To add or delete a title range, press Modifier+Shift+T. If you are defining a row of column titles, you must already be on the first cell of the row which contains a title. Likewise, if you are defining a column of row titles, you must already be on the first cell of the column which contains a title. When you press Modifier+Shift+T for the first time in a worksheet, there will be no title ranges yet, so your only option will be to add one. Simply select whether you are defining a row of column titles or a column of row titles.

As with other document-specific settings, title ranges are automatically saved and will continue to be used even when you access the same document from another computer. When you press Modifier+Shift+T in the future, you will first be asked whether you want to add or delete a title range. If you choose to add one, the rest of the procedure will be the same as when you added the first one. If you choose to delete a title range, you will be prompted to choose which one you want to delete. Remember that adding and deleting title ranges does not change the worksheet itself; it only changes how System Access interprets the worksheet. So there is no harm in deleting a title range by mistake; just move to the appropriate cell and define it again.

Once you define a title range, the titles in that range are spoken automatically as you move around. Specifically, column titles are spoken automatically when you move from column to column, and row titles are spoken automatically when you move from row to row. When you press Modifier+Up Arrow to read a single cell, any title associated with that cell is spoken. However, titles are automatically spoken only when the appropriate title ranges have been explicitly defined; System Access never tries to guess the column or row title.

Odds and Ends

You may also define regions in Excel that you would like spoken automatically. To do this, just select the cells to be included in your region by pressing the F5 key, typing in a range of cells, such as a1:d5, followed by Enter. System Access will begin to confirm that you have selected multiple cells by reading each cell and its contents. You can press the Control Key to silence the speech; the data will remain selected. Now you can press Modifier+Numbers 1 through 0 on the numbers row of the keyboard. This defines the region. Whenever you'd like to speak this region, just press the Modifier Key+the number corresponding to the region you've defined. If you press Shift+Modifier+Numbers 1 through 0 on the number row, a menu will pop up allowing you to modify the range of cells in the region, or allowing you to delete the region entirely. Note, there will be no confirmation of region deletion.

System Access can also read charts. Data within the chart can be copied to the clipboard for insertion into other documents. If the chart is on a worksheet without any other data outside of the chart, you may move to the chart by pressing Control+Page Up or Control+Page Down. You may also use the sheets list box described above to move to a chart. If you move to a sheet that does have data outside of the chart's data, System Access will let you know. In this case you can press Modifier+Enter to activate the chart. If the worksheet has more than one chart, Modifier+Enter will display a list of charts from which to choose. When you are finished with the chart, just press Escape to return to the regular worksheet.

User Comments

Rycharde: Comment On SA Short Excel Tutorial

Thank you for producing a quick but thorough and handy tutorial covering SA and basic spreadsheet operation. Based on my experience with all four major screen readers, its not technical capability but functionality that produces results.

Posted on July 30, 2012

Last modified December 10, 2014

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