Some basic Excel tips

Here are some basic tips to make your spreadsheets look and work better.

  • Resize your rows and columns

If your data is wider than the default cell width, resize them so that all the data shows. Before shot is on the left and see how much better it looks on the right?


To resize all the columns at once, click the cell above row 1 and to the left of column A. The entire worksheet will be selected. Now move your cursor in between any two columns until it changes to the resize arrows and double click. All columns will be resized to fit the widest entry.


  • Let Excel do calculations

If you have figures you need to add, values to calculate, always let Excel do it for you. Not only is it more accurate, but if values change, your calculations will change, too.

  • 3D isn’t always best

Try to stick with 2D charts as they are easier to read and manipulate.

  • Name your worksheets

Notice how the second screen shot actually tells you what is on each worksheet. This is much easier to work with than “Sheet1”. To rename, either double click or right click to bring up the menu. You can also set different colors here.


  • Merged cells versus Center Across Selection

Look at the two rows below, can you see the difference? Both have words centered over several columns (A-D in this case). And both were done by formatting the cells using the Alignment tab. Row 1 was done with the Merge Cells checkbox. Notice when you click on cell A1, you actually select A1:D1.

But when you click on cell A2, you only select that cell. That is because Row 2 was done using the Center Across Selection option under horizontal text alignment.




And the big question is who cares? You might! You cannot insert a cell if any of the cells in that column are merged. You also cannot create an Excel Table if there are merged cells in your range (we’ll discuss Excel Tables soon!). You cannot sort or filter a range that has merged cells. You may not run across these issues often, but it’s good to know the difference.

Bonus tip for those who read the entire post!

Format Painter

If you spend any time formatting a cell using things like bold, italics, cell borders, you know it can make your spreadsheet really stand out. But if you have to apply several formatting steps to any other cells, you don’t have to go through all the steps again. Using your cursor, select the cell that has the formatting you want to copy. Then click on the Format Painter icon on the Home tab under the Clipboard group.

Your cursor will change to a large plus with a paint brush. Click on another cell and the formatting will be copied to the new cell! You can also click and drag to copy the formatting to more than one cell.

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