Preparing Final Products using Microsoft® Excel®

Many of today’s desktop applications are designed to show the final formatting on the screen as you work on the product.  For example, in Microsoft® Word, as long as you view the document in “Print Layout” as you are typing, you will generally see on the screen what you can expect when you print.  For example, it is pretty clear where the page breaks are, where the margins are and how the text is formatted.

Microsoft® Excel® is different. It is designed with function in mind, such as heavy calculations and visual representations. Because the goal is to focus on the specific task at hand, rather than the final visual product, it is important to add a step to your work when those calculations and visualizations are complete. You need to spend a little time getting your document ready to preview and print.  If you don’t, recipients may go to print the document and find that graphics span multiple pages, or that one stray column prints on 12 separate pages!

Here are three vital formatting tips to get your document ready in Excel®. These functions are available in the “Print Layout” menu.

  • Page Breaks – Make sure the page breaks make sense for your content. You may need to set your first row and/or column to repeat on each page, so the reader can make sense of the content on each page.  You may also need to move or resize graphics to fit on a page.
  • Headers and Footers – Regardless of software used, every ready-to-publish (or “ready to send to your boss”) document should have a title. Other common headers include the organization name, whether the document is internal or confidential, and/or a date produced.  Footers should include the page number; the file name can be helpful too.
  • Margins – Different printers can accommodate different margins, and it is important to make sure that the main content of the document doesn’t overlap your headers and footers. Check your margins.

Details matter!  Even if you think someone will just use your work in Excel®, check the formatting to be sure you are providing an attractive final product to the recipients – you never know when someone will want to print or create a PDF.  Your attention to the final details will be noticed and appreciated!