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Microsoft Excel Tips

Reformat your dates Make a copy that includes...
How to change default colors  Set high-contrast selection 
Enter more than one line in a cell  Enter URL's as text
Switch rows of cells Calculate the amount of time...
Create a formula to keep Finding worksheet functions
Forgot a function's arguments Hide results when formulas
Useful shortcut keys Make your printouts fit page width
Use comments and reminders Fast file switching
A quick way to round numbers Change default number of worksheets
Freezing Titles in Excel Create an Excel List

Finding An Excel File Location

View a clean worksheet


Use the information below at your own risk.  See "Terms of Use"

Reformat your dates

Excel 2000 has some new four-digit date formats. To reformat your dates, go to the Format menu, select Cells, click the Number tab, and select Date from the Category list. Scroll down the Type list to view the available four-digit formats. You can also format dates on the fly if you enter your data using the syntax m/d/yyyy.


Make a Copy That Excludes Hidden Cells

When you use outlining or subtotals to create a small summary of a large set of data, you can make a copy of just the displayed cells in the summary, excluding the detail. First display only the summary rows or columns, and then select all of the summary data. On the Edit menu, click Go To, click Special, and then click Visible cells only. Now click the Copy button, click a cell on a blank worksheet, and click the Paste button. The copy includes only the summary data. For more information about subtotals and outlines, type inserting subtotals and creating outlines in the Office Assistant or on the Answer Wizard tab in the Excel Help window. 


How to Change Default Colors 

Excel uses Windows colors for several of its elements. You can change these colors for Excel by changing the Windows colors. 
  1. Click Start, point to Settings, and then click Control Panel. 
  2. Double-click the Display icon in Control Panel, click the Appearance tab, and click the element you want to change in the Item box. 
  3. You can then click the color and font color you want for each item: 

3D Objects:Sets the background color of the Excel row numbers and column letters, and also the inactive sheet tabs. The font color sets the color of the row numbers and column letters, and the text on inactive sheet tabs. 

Selected Items:Sets the color of the highlighting Excel uses to indicate which cells are selected. This highlighting is a muted version of the color you specify. 

ToolTip:Sets the default background color for worksheet comments. The font color sets the default color for comment text. You can also change the background and font colors for individual comments. For more information about changing comment colors, type format comments in the Office Assistant or on the Answer Wizard tab in the Excel Help window, click Search, and then click the topic "Change the appearance of a comment." 

Window:Sets the sheet background color. The font color sets the default color for data you enter in cells, and the color of the text on the active sheet tab. You can also change font and background colors for individual cells or an entire sheet. For more information about changing colors of cells and worksheets, type format worksheets in the Office Assistant or on the Answer Wizard tab in the Excel Help window, and then click Search. 

Changing the gridline color: You can set this color in Excel. On the Tools menu, click Options, click the View tab, and, under Window options, click the color you want in the Color list.


Set High-Contrast Selection 

When you select cells, do you have trouble seeing what's selected? If you need a higher-contrast selection display to accommodate low vision, you can set Excel 97-style selection shading. Use the Registry Editor to add a registry subkey HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\9.0\Excel\Options\Options6 as a DWORD value, and set this subkey equal to 16 decimal.


Enter More Than One Line in a Cell 

Excel provides two ways for you to display multiple lines of data in a cell. 

Type a line break: Press ALT+ENTER to start a new line while you're typing or editing data. 

Wrap text automatically: Click the cell, click Cells on the Format menu, click the Alignment tab, and then select the Wrap text check box. Data in the cell will then wrap to fit the column width. You can make the column wider or narrower to adjust the width of the data. For more information, type change column width in the Office Assistant or on the Answer Wizard tab in the Excel Help window, and then click Search.


Enter URLs As Text

When you type an Internet address in a cell, such as, Excel automatically turns the address into a hyperlink. To store the address as regular text instead, type an apostrophe (') before the address. For instance, if you type ', you'll see the address text in the cell, without the apostrophe, and the text won't be a hyperlink. If Excel has already turned an address into a hyperlink, you can deactivate it: Right-click the cell, point to Hyperlink on the shortcut menu, and then click Remove Hyperlink.


Switch Rows of Cells to Columns or Columns to Rows

Have you ever had a column of text that you wanted to move into a row so that you could use the text as column labels in a table? Or, have you ever had a row of data that you wanted to move into a table in which the data is organized in columns? It would be tedious to move the data manually, one item at a time. Instead, you can use the Paste Special command to transpose a column of data to a row of data, and vice versa.

Transpose a column of data...


...into a row of data.

Dairy Meat Beverages Produce

Follow these steps to transpose a row of data into a column or data, or vice versa:

  1. Select the cells that you want to switch.
  2. Click Copy on the Edit menu.
  3. Select the upper-left cell of the paste area. The paste area must be outside the copy area.
  4. On the Edit menu, click Paste Special.
  5. Select the Transpose check box.

Data from the top row of the copy area appears in the left column of the paste area, and data from the left column appears in the top row.

For more information on options in the Paste Special dialog box, click the ? in the upper-right corner of the dialog box, and then click the option you want to learn more about.


Calculate the Amount of Time Between Two Dates

To calculate the number of days between two dates, you can simply subtract the two dates. For example, if cell A1 contains the date 6/8/2000 and A2 contains 6/20/2000, the formula =A2-A1 calculates the number of days between these dates (12). 

Be sure to use number format for the cell where you enter this formula (click Cells on the Format menu, click the Number tab, and then click Number under Category). If you don't format the cell with number format, Excel assumes the result has the same format as the cells used in the calculation, and displays the result as a date instead of a number.


Create a Formula to Keep a Running Total

In Microsoft Excel, you can calculate a running (or cumulative) total in a column or row of cells by using a combination of absolute and relative references in a formula that uses the SUM function.

  A B
1 100 100
2 200 300
3 300 600
4 400 1000
5 500 1500

For example, to keep a running total of cells A1 through A5 in column B (for example, B1 contains the value from A1, B2 contains A1+A2, B3 contains A1+A2+A3, etc.), set up the worksheet as follows:

  1. Enter the formula=SUM($A$1:A1) into cell B1, as shown here.
  A B
1  100 =SUM($A$1:A1)
2 200  
3 300  
4 400  
5 500  
  A B
1  100 =SUM($A$1:A1)
2 200  
3 300  
4 400  
5 500  
  1. Select cells B1 through B10.
  2. On the Edit menu, click Fill Down.

The $A$1 (absolute reference) will be constant in each cell, while the A1 (relative reference) will be updated in each successive cell to refer to the adjacent cell in column A, as shown here:

  A B
1 100 =SUM($A$1:A1)
2 200 =SUM($A$1:A2)
3 300 =SUM($A$1:A3)
4 400 =SUM($A$1:A4)
5 500 =SUM($A$1:A5)

For more information on using absolute and relative references in Excel, type cell and range references in the Office Assistant or on the Answer Wizard tab in the Excel Help window, and then click Search. For more information on the SUM function, type SUM worksheet function in the Office Assistant or on the Answer Wizard tab in the Excel Help window, and then click Search.


Finding Worksheet Functions

Can't remember the name of that Excel worksheet function you used last year to determine your mortgage payments? You can use the Paste Function dialog box and the Office Assistant to help you locate the function you want.
  1. On the worksheet, select the cell you want to insert the function into.
  2. On the Insert menu, click Function.
  3. If the Office Assistant does not appear with a balloon asking if you want help, click the Office Assistant button in the lower-left corner of the Paste Function dialog box.
  4. In the Assistant balloon, click Help with this feature or Yes, please provide help.
  5. In the Assistant balloon, enter a brief description of what you want to do, such as amortize a loan, and then click Search.

For a list of functions to help you begin your search, see the Recommended category in the Function Category list in the Paste Function dialog box.


Forgot a Function's Arguments while entering it?

Press CTRL+A on your keyboard, and the formula palette is displayed to show you a description of the function, a description of each of the arguments for the function, and even the result of your calculation.


Hide Results When Formulas Calculate Error Values

You may not want the results of a formula to be displayed in your worksheet when the formula calculation results in an error value. In Excel, you can hide error values by using conditional formatting or conditional formulas.

In the following example, the error value #DIV/0! is the result of a formula in cell D1 that tries to divide the value in cell C1 by the value in cell B1, which is empty:


You could delete the formula from the cell, of course. But, you want to keep it so that it calculates and displays valid results when a value is entered in B1. You can do this with conditional formatting in Excel 2000. Just follow these steps:

  1. Select the cell or cells that contain formulas that may calculate error results that you don't want to display.
  2. On the Format menu, click Conditional Formatting.
  3. In the Conditional Formatting dialog box, click the Condition 1 list and click Formula Is.
  4. In the box to the right of the Condition 1 list, enter the following formula:


    where cell_reference is the relative reference of the active cell in the selection. In the example shown, the active cell in the selection is D1. When you select a range of cells to conditionally format, the formula must evaluate each cell in the range. However, when you enter only the relative reference of the active cell in the selection, Excel adjusts the references to the other cells relative to the active cell.
  5. Click the Format button. In the Format Cells dialog box, click the white color in the Color list.
  6. Click OK in the Format Cells dialog box, and then click OK in the Conditional Formatting dialog box.

In versions of Excel prior to Excel 97, you could not create a custom number format to hide error values returned to the cell by the cell formula. However, you can change the formula itself to automatically hide error results by using the ISERROR function in a conditional formula. So, instead of


as in the example shown, you would use the formula:


which returns an empty string ("") to the cell if an error value is calculated.


Useful Shortcut Keys

Do you find that using the keyboard is sometimes quicker than using your mouse? Shortcut keys can help you bypass menus and carry out commands directly. You can use shortcut keys in many ways with Excel, from accessing commands and toolbar buttons to outlining and editing information. Shortcut keys are sometimes listed next to the command name on menus. For example, on the Edit menu, the Copy command shows the shortcut CTRL+C.

For a comprehensive list of shortcuts, ask the Office Assistant for help. In Excel 2000 or any of the other Office 2000 applications, press F1 to display the Assistant, and then type shortcut keys in the text box. Here are some of the most useful Excel shortcut keys:

Activity Shortcut Keys
Select the current column CTRL+SPACEBAR

Select the current row

Move to the beginning of the worksheet CTRL+HOME
Move to the last cell on the worksheet, which is the cell at the intersection of the rightmost used column and the bottommost used row (in the lower-right corner), or the cell opposite the home cell, which is typically A1 CTRL+END
Paste a function into a formula SHIFT+F3
When you enter a formula, display the Formula Palette after you type a function name CTRL+A
Select all (when you are not entering or editing a formula) CTRL+A
Alternate between displaying cell values and displaying cell formulas CTRL+` (single left quotation mark)
Calculate all sheets in all open workbooks F9
Calculate the active worksheet SHIFT+F9
Create a chart that uses the current range F11 or ALT+F1
Enter the date CTRL+; (semicolon)
Enter the time CTRL+: (colon)
Fill the selected cell range with the current entry CTRL+ENTER
Display the Go To dialog box F5
Display the Format Cells dialog box CTRL+1
Paste CTRL+V
Print CTRL+P

Make Your Printouts Fit the Page Width

When you print a worksheet, do you want it to fit the width of the paper, and take as many sheets of paper as required to print all the data? When you click Page Setup on the File menu, click the Page tab under Scaling, click Fit to, and select 1 page wide. In the second Fit to box for how tall you want the data, delete the number so the box is blank.


Use comments and reminders

Add comments and reminders to individual cells in Excel. Click the cell where you want to put a comment and select Comment from the Insert menu. Enter your comment and click outside the comment box when finished. Cells with comments are denoted by a small, red triangle located in the upper right-hand corner of the cell. To read a cell's comment, move the mouse over the cell. To keep a comment visible, right-click the cell and select Show Comment from the pop-up menu. To hide the comment, right-click the cell and select Hide Comment from the pop-up menu.


Fast file switching

Excel supports quick file switching by giving each open worksheet its own icon on the Windows Taskbar. You can switch from one worksheet to the next by selecting its button on the Taskbar, or, as in the past, by selecting Ctrl-F6. You can turn this option on and off by pulling down the Tools menu, choosing Options/View, and selecting or deselecting the "Windows in Taskbar" check box.


Create a chart

  1. Select the data you want to plot [in columns, preferably]. Include their titles [ie: temperature, viscosity] if you want them to show up in the legend.
  2. Make sure your columns from Left to Right are your X and Y coordinates, respectively.
  3. INSERT>chart or click on Chart Wizard.
  4. Choose a chart type. Usually X-Y Scatter. Then choose a specific type of ie: X-Y Scatter.
  5. Select radio button for data in rows or columns, whichever corresponds to yours [usually columns].
  6. TITLES tab: give your chart a title, X-axis label, Y-axis label.
  7. GRIDLINES tab: varies the gridlines on your chart.
  8. LEGEND tab: lets you not show the legend, or change its position on the graph.
  9. DATA LABELS tab: lets you label the data points [with %values, etc.].
  10. Select where you want this graph to go: on it's own sheet or embedded in the spreadsheet

A quick way to round numbers

Often, you'll store numbers that have several decimal places in cells are formatted to display only one or two decimal places. In these instances, Excel rounds the displayed result. This is usually fine, but you may find that calculations based on the values appear to be off because formulas use the real values, not what you see. Here's a quick and easy way to force Excel to use the values as they appear in the worksheet--but use it with caution. The technique involves using Excel's Precision As Displayed feature, which affects all numbers in the workbook. The conversion is one-way and you won't be able to retrieve the original number value, even if you later disable the Precision As Displayed feature. Depending on how you're using the data, permanently 
changing the underlying values can have serious implications, so be absolutely sure you understand the impact that altering the data will have on your application. To use the Precision As Displayed feature, choose Tools | Options from the menu bar. Then, click on the Calculation tab, select the Precision As Displayed check box, and click OK. Excel then displays a warning that the change is permanent. Simply click OK to commit the change. Note that this setting change applies only to the currently active workbook. 


Change Excel's default number of worksheets

By default, Excel creates three worksheets in every new workbook. If you find that you routinely don't use all three or that you require more, change the default number that Excel creates. To do so, select Tools/Options from the menu bar. Then, click on the General tab and change the number in the Sheets In New Workbook spinner box to the number of desired sheets.


Freezing Titles in Excel

When a worksheet has become too large, you may notice rows/columns that contain headings do not fit on your screen as you scroll across the page. You can use Excel's Freezing Titles option to keep these row or column titles on the screen no matter where you scroll in the spreadsheet. Freezing the column titles in their place gives you the flexibility to see additional information. Here's how:

Click below the column heading or click to the right of the row title to be frozen, then go to Window>> Freeze Panes.

Go to Window>> Unfreeze Panes to turn this feature off.

 Freeze Panes Menu


Create an Excel List

  1. Highlight the range of data that you want make into a list.

    Note: From the Create List dialog box, you can select a range of cells to be specified as a list.
  2. On the Data menu, select List, then select Create List.
  3. If the selected data has headers, place a checkmark in the 'My list has headers' check box, then click OK.

The selected range of data is highlighted by the list indicator, and on the List toolbar, the most common list related functionality is made available.

Note: If the List toolbar is not visible, then go to View menu>> Toolbars>> List

Once the list is created, it will now be shown in a blue border. Also, AutoFilter drop-downs will be enabled automatically for each column in the list and the insert row will be added as the last row of the list. By clicking Toggle Total Row from the List toolbar, a total row will be displayed under the insert row.

The list becomes inactive when you select a row, cell, or column outside of the list. An inactive list is shown blue border and does not display the insert row or AutoFilter drop-downs.

Note: If the Hide Border is clicked (List menu>>Inactive Lists>>Hide Border), the border will not be displayed.


Finding An Excel File Location:

If you are like me, you have spent plenty of time trying to locate a particular file that needs to be changed or updated but can't remember the file name or location that you gave it.

In this tip, I will share with you a quick way I have found to make Excel work better for you. Here's how:
  1. Open Excel
  2. Go to File>> Page Setup
  3. In the Page Setup window, select the Header/Footer tab
  4. Select a location where you would like Excel to print the header or footer information.

Note: You will notice that Excel supplies preset headers and footers contained within the drop down lists. If you find a choice that meets your needs then click it and then click OK.

However, if you would like to use a Custom Footer or Header, here's how:

  1. Click either Custom Header or Custom Footer
  2. Once in the Header or Footer window, click in to one of the following labeled sections:
  • Left
  • Center
  • Right
  1. Once you've made your selection, click the Path and File button towards the center of the menu (the icon that looks like a folder).
  2. A command such as: &[Path]&[File] will now appear
  3. Verify that you've successfully added this information by selecting Print Preview

Note: If the File name is all that you really want added, then delete "&Path". Or, if the path is all that is needed, delete "&File".


View a clean worksheet

If you are tired of seeing the Excel gridlines and would like to view a cleaner looking worksheet, here's how:
  1. Go to Tools>> Options
  2. Once in the Options windows, select the View tab
  3. Uncheck the Gridlines box in the Window Options section
  4. Click OK

Note: The new work created will not be affected by this change.


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