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Tuesday 9 June 2015

Excel Tip: Make the best use of your screen space

This is a slightly different kind of post this week. I thought I'd share a few simple tips to help when you're a little short of screen space.

This may be because you are working on a laptop screen, or just dealing with a huge spreadsheet that you want to see as much of as possible without scrolling.

There are a few little things you can do to make the most of what you've got.

Firstly, since Excel 2007, the Ribbon can take up quite a sizable percentage of the screen, particularly if you are working on a laptop.

You don't need to have it visible all of the time.

Just click the ^ at the bottom right of the ribbon (see image below)
and it will fold away until you click on one of the menu headings. You can get it back more permanently (when you're on a larger screen) by clicking the pin symbol that has now replaced the arrow. This setting is a personal setting that does not affect any particular spreadsheet, just how you choose to view Excel in general.

You can also zoom out to see more of the screen by using the slider at the bottom right of your screen:
Just click the minus on the left to reduce the zoom % and see more of your screen. You can usually get away with 80% reasonably easily. Note that this change only affects the current worksheet and is saved with it.

If you are really trying to get as every pixel of space, you can hide the formula bar and the row and column letters and numbers for a particular worksheet by unticking Formula Bar and Headings on the view ribbon:

Like the zoom, this affects the current worksheet, and is saved with it.

By combining all of the above, you can make a lot better use of a small screen, when you need to.

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  1. Excel 2007 doesn't have the ^ at the bottom right of the ribbon to hide it but this can still be easily done by double-clicking the current ribbon tab name (or clicking any other one 3 times). This can be restored by double-clicking any ribbon tab.
    Alternatively the ribbon can be toggled by right-clicking it anywhere and selecting "Minimize the Ribbon".
    If you really must reduce the zoom to view more spreadsheet, then please remember to put it back to 100 (or someone else will then increase the font size to try to read it and it'll be a real mess on a printout)
    A better alternative is to adjust column widths/heights (which often improves the appearance anyway; always do this before trying zooming)
    Reducing font size or changing font can help make columns narrower (but try to do the whole column and don't use too many different ones, or it'll look messy). If there are entries in a column that are longer, consider wrapping the text. There is a button for this on the ribbon's Home tab or on Format cells, Alignment (which also has the alternative option to Shrink the text to fit - but use sparingly!). Merging cells can also help, but please don't.

    Instead of hiding the row/column headers, it is possible to make them smaller but this is often more trouble than it's worth (only a small gain and might not appear the same on someone else's screen)

    Finally, using short names for sheet tabs will allow more to be seen (seems obvious but…)

    and even more finally: if you can't see what you need to in one screen, then the layout probably wasn't right in the first place; spending time on the initial design (with a view to different size/resolution screens) is always time well spent - this should have been the first point


    1. Thanks for that Jim. Some very useful additions to the post, particularly the Excel 2007 correction. I also like the short tab names comment - really simple but can be very useful!

  2. My favourite is multiple screens... and persuading your employer of the long-term benefits to productivity (& staff morale) of larger, higher resolution screens.

    1. I agree. That can be a huge help if you're desk-based, however the tips above really come into their own on a laptop.