Excel 2013: Creating and Opening Workbooks

Lesson 5: Creating and Opening Workbooks



Excel files are called workbooks. Whenever you start a new project in Excel, you'll need to create a new workbook. There are several ways to start working with a workbook in Excel 2013. You can choose to create a new workbook—either with a blank workbook or a predesigned template—or open an existing workbook.

To create a new blank workbook:

  1. Select the File tab. Backstage view will appear.

    Screenshot of ExcelClicking the File tab
  2. Select New, then click Blank workbook.

    Screenshot of Excel 2013Creating a new workbook
  3. A new blank workbook will appear.

To open an existing workbook:

In addition to creating new workbooks, you'll often need to open a workbook that was previously saved. To learn more about saving workbooks, visit our lesson on Saving and Sharing Workbooks.

  1. Navigate to Backstage view, then click Open.

    Screenshot of Excel 2013Opening a file
  2. Select Computer, then click Browse. Alternatively, you can choose OneDrive (previously known as SkyDrive) to open files stored on your OneDrive.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Opening a workbook
  3. The Open dialog box will appear. Locate and select your workbook, then click Open.

    Screenshot of Excel 2013Opening a workbook

If you've opened the desired workbook recently, you can browse your Recent Workbooks rather than search for the file.

Screenshot of Excel 2013Recently Presentations

To pin a workbook:

If you frequently work with the same workbook, you can pin it to Backstage view for faster access.

  1. Navigate to Backstage view, then click Open. Your recently edited workbooks will appear.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Viewing recently edited workbooks
  2. Hover the mouse over the workbook you want to pin. A pushpin icon will appear next to the workbook. Click the pushpin icon.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Pinning a workbook
  3. The workbook will stay in Recent Workbooks. To unpin a workbook, simply click the pushpin icon again.

    Screenshot of Excel 2013

You can also pin folders to Backstage view for faster access. From Backstage view, click Open, then locate the folder you want to pin and click the pushpin icon.

Screenshot of Excel 2013Pinning a folder to Backstage view

Using templates

A template is a predesigned spreadsheet you can use to create a new workbook quickly. Templates often include custom formatting and predefined formulas, so they can save you a lot of time and effort when starting a new project.

To create a new workbook from a template:

  1. Click the File tab to access Backstage view.

    Screenshot of Excel 2013Navigating to Backstage view
  2. Select New. Several templates will appear below the Blank workbook option.
  3. Select a template to review it.

    Screenshot of Excel 2013Selecting a template
  4. A preview of the template will appear, along with additional information on how the template can be used.
  5. Click Create to use the selected template.

    Screenshot of Excel 2013Creating a new workbook with a template
  6. A new workbook will appear with the selected template.

You can also browse templates by category or use the search bar to find something more specific.

Screenshot of Excel 2013Searching for a template

It's important to note that not all templates are created by Microsoft. Many are created by third-party providers and even individual users, so some templates may work better than others.

Compatibility mode

Sometimes you may need to work with workbooks that were created in earlier versions of Microsoft Excel, such as Excel 2003 or Excel 2000. When you open these types of workbooks, they will appear in Compatibility mode.

Compatibility mode disables certain features, so you'll only be able to access commands found in the program that was used to create the workbook. For example, if you open a workbook created in Excel 2003, you can only use tabs and commands found in Excel 2003.

In the image below, you can see that the workbook is in Compatibility mode. This will disable some Excel 2013 features, such as sparklines and slicers.

Screenshot of Excel 2013Disabled commands in Compatibility mode

In order to exit Compatibility mode, you'll need to convert the workbook to the current version type. However, if you're collaborating with others who only have access to an earlier version of Excel, it's best to leave the workbook in Compatibility mode so the format will not change.

To convert a workbook:

If you want access to all of the Excel 2013 features, you can convert the workbook to the 2013 file format.

Note that converting a file may cause some changes to the original layout of the workbook.

  1. Click the File tab to access Backstage view.
    Screenshot of ExcelClicking the File tab
  2. Locate and select Convert command.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Converting the workbook to the newest file type
  3. The Save As dialog box will appear. Select the location where you want to save the workbook, enter a file name for the presentation, and click Save.

    Screenshot of Excel 2013Saving a new version of the workbook
  4. The workbook will be converted to the newest file type.


  1. Create a new blank workbook.
  2. Open an existing workbook from your computer.
  3. Pin a folder to Backstage view.
  4. Create a new workbook using a template.