5 Excel Tips That Can Upgrade Your Spreadsheets

Do your Excel spreadsheets need more pizzazz? Making them stand out is easier than you may think. A few simple Excel tips and tricks can take your spreadsheet from boring to useful (and even beautiful) in no time.

When it comes to readability and ease of use, the design and layout of your spreadsheet can make all the difference. Fortunately, Excel has a number of features to help get your figures in shape — both on screen and in print.

Try these five handy hacks for Excel 2013:

1. Columns and rows

When formatting Excel reports, a few commands can help you set column width and row height quickly in a range of cells.

  • First, select the range you want to work with.
  • Then, go to Home > Format > Row Height to change the height of the rows.
  • In the Row Height dialog box, enter a value according to your needs.
  • Repeat for columns by selecting Home > Format > Column Width.

2. Freeze!

One of the most basic Excel tips is also one of the most useful: freezing your column headings. When you scroll through a large spreadsheet with hundreds, if not thousands, of rows, your eyes can quickly cross. To keep those ever-helpful headings in sight, freeze them so they're always on screen.

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  • Go to View > Freeze Panes > Freeze Top Row.

3. Do some painting

Not sure what that funny little paintbrush in the toolbar is for? It’s the Format Painter, and you can use it to quickly apply formatting to cells in your spreadsheet. Format Painter duplicates a format you’re using in one cell into other cells.

  • Select the cell with the formatting you want to copy, and then click the little paintbrush.
  • Next, move your cursor into the cell you want to format the same way. Voilà! The second cell is now formatted like the first. (Or drag the cursor through a range of cells to format them all in the same way.)

4. Think outside the theme

Sometimes, taking advantage of the most useful Excel tips requires you to step beyond your comfort zone. For example, have you ever ventured outside Excel’s default “office theme?” Now’s your chance. Excel 2013 has some pretty cool formatting options to choose from. To switch themes:

  • Go to Page Layout > Themes and have some fun with the colors, fonts and effects that are available. (Mac users go to Home > Themes.)

5. Save time with print preview

The classic Print Preview view that you may be used to from previous versions of Microsoft Excel has been modified for Excel 2013. So one of the Excel tips we're asked most about is how to see what your document will look like on the printed page. Don't worry, there's still an easy way to do this and, therefore, save time and paper. — then letting you make quick changes to margins before printing begins:

  • Go to File > Print. (Mac users: File > Print and make sure the “Show Quick Preview” box is checked.)
  • The right side of your screen show how your document will appear when printed. Don't overlook the two icons below your page, in the bottom right-hand corner. The one of the right allows you to zoom in on your page. The one of the left allows you to see the margins of your spreadsheet and drag them to a different position.
  • You can also adjust way your document is printed by adjusting the criteria under the Settings section, on the left side of the screen.

Every well-designed spreadsheet has one thing in common: The designer invested time and effort to meet the needs of the users and make the information more accessible and easier to digest.

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