Technology How To

Print Well With Excel

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 8:50 am

Print Less Data
Look for rows and columns you can completely delete from the document. Good candidates include blank columns and columns where the information is the same in every cell.
Hide rows and columns that you’ll need later, but don’t need to print.

  1. Select the rows or columns.
  2. Choose Format>Row (or Column)>Hide.

You can tell a row (or column) is hidden because the row numbers (or column letters) will skip and there will be a thick black line at the skipped spot. To undo this action…

  1. Select across the hidden area.
  2. Choose Format>Row (or Column)>Unhide.

Hidden Columns

Print Area
With a Print Area, data remains visible on the screen, but only the cells you designate will print. To enable, highlight the cells you want to print and choose File>Print Area>Set Print Area. You can clear the Print Area later using File>Print Area>Clear Area.

Print Area only works with a single contiguous block of cells.

Make Your Data Fit
Autofit Rows and Columns
Place your cursor on the right edge of a column or on the bottom edge of a row. Double click. The row/column will automatically adjust to the widest or tallest data item. If a few items are anomalously long consider…

  • Using Format>Cells>Alignment>Wrap Text to get the item to fit.
  • Making those few cells a smaller font size than the remaining text.
  • If circumstances permit, just adjust the column so you don’t see the end of the data for the odd items. (This is the fastest approach, and it works well with bibliographic titles.)


Page Setup Menu
Always use the Print Preview button on your toolbar to see how your data will look when printed. Click Setup... to change the settings.
Margins Tab
If you’re not using a header or footer, change these settings to 0. This author uses 0.4 for other margins. You can experiment with even smaller margins, but if you make it too small, Excel or your printer may give warnings about printing outside of the printable area.

Sheet Tab: Rows to Repeat at top
Force your header row to print at the top of every page. You must use File>Page Setup… to use this feature. Click the red box and then highlight the row(s) you wish to repeat.

Sheet Tab:Gridlines
Check this box if you want to print the gridlines.

Sheet Tab:Row and Column Headings
Check this box to print ABC across the top and 123 along the left side. This is not the same as printing your descriptive column names.


Page Tab
Flip between portrait and landscape to see which approach gives the best results.

For most library uses, it’s important to have the horizontal data fit on a single sheet. Choose the radio button to print your data 1 page wide (you can erase the number in the “tall” blank). Excel will automatically change the percentage of text size to match (in my example 56%).

Print on Different Size Paper
Consider using Legal or Ledger (11X17) paper if that’s the only way for your data to legibly fit across one page. Take care with this approach if you’re sending your file to another person since many library printers only carry Letter size.

Set Excel Defaults to Improve Printing Performance
By using a template, you can set your favorite paper-saving tricks to be the default behavior in Excel. Here’s how:

  1. Open a blank Excel Workbook.
  2. Make the changes you want in the Page Setup Menu.
  3. Save the file as book.xlt. In the dropdown menu, this is called “Template”. For the moment save it on your desktop.

Suggested Template Settings

  • Print Gridlines
  • Margins at 0.4 all around with 0 for header and footer
  • Center horizontally and vertically (Margins tab)
  • Delete Sheet2 and Sheet3

You can always override these settings on any individual workbook. If you ever want to eliminate the template entirely, just delete the .xlt file.

Option 1: Save in Program Files
Excel has an XLStart folder that opens every time you start Excel. On the T60 ThinkPads at WFU it’s at C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11\XLSTART.

Option 2: Save in Userdata

  1. Make a folder in Userdata\OfficeTemplates called XLStart.
  2. Save your .xlt file there.
  3. Then, within Excel, go to Tools>Options.
  4. Choose General tab.
  5. In “At startup, open all files in”, type C:\userdata\OfficeTemplates\XLStart .


Now your template is backed up with your Userdata and will transfer from one computer to the next. Repeat steps 3-5 every time you get a new computer.

Notes on Templates

  • Templates do not apply to files you export to Excel (e.g. from Access/Voyager).
  • Templates do not affect pre-existing files (created by you or someone else).

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