Opening an Existing Workbook

Excel provides many ways for you to open workbook files. If the file you want is one that you've worked with recently, you can launch Excel and open the file at the same time. Click the Windows Start button, choose My Recent Documents from the Start menu, and then click the file you want from the list of the most recent documents you opened.

If Excel is already open, or you aren't sure of the exact name or location of the file, your best bet is to use Excel's Open command. Click the Open button on the Standard toolbar, or choose File, Open, to display the Open dialog box. You'll feel comfortable with the Open dialog box (see Figure 4.2) because it looks and acts very much like the Save As dialog box you worked with in the last hour.

Figure 4.2. The Open dialog box looks similar to the Save As box.



The last four files you opened are listed at the bottom of the File menu. If you've recently opened and closed a file, click the File menu and then click the file you want from the list.

Click the file you want to open from the File list and then click Open. The Open dialog box closes, and the workbook you selected appears on the Excel screen. If the file you want isn't shown on the File list for the current folder, click the drop-down arrow next to Look In and navigate to the correct folder.


When you get really busy and you're working with many different files, you might forget that you've already opened a workbook. If you try to open a file that's already open on your computer, Excel does not open the file again. Instead, it displays the already-open file message on your computer screen.

Different Open Options

Excel offers five options for opening a file. After you've selected the file you want to open, choose one of the options by clicking the drop-down arrow to the right of the Open button (see Figure 4.3). If you don't select an option, Excel assumes you want to open the file with the Open option, granting you full rights.

  • Open? You have full rights to view, modify, or save the workbook.

  • Open Read-Only? The file can be viewed or modified, but you'll have to save it with another name.

  • Open as Copy? When you open a workbook as a copy, a new copy of the workbook is created in the folder that contains the original workbook. You might choose this option if you're working on a group project where you're assigned a specific duty.

  • Open in Browser? Opens the workbook in your default browser.

  • Open and Repair? Opens and repairs a workbook that you were having trouble opening.

Figure 4.3. Options for opening a file.



If you attempt to open an Excel workbook that one of your co-workers has already opened, Excel tells you that the file is in use. In this case, you can open the file in Read-Only format, but you must save any changes you make to a new filename. Don't do it! Multiple copies of the same file with slightly different data are hard to manage and track.

    Part I: Excel Basics