With a little bit of practice, it’s not too difficult to make Excel spreadsheets that look great. However, translating what you see on screen to a printed page isn’t always easy.
The biggest obstacle standing in the way of perfect printing is not knowing how to carry out the process step-by-step. Follow this guide, and you’ll have the document in your hands in no time at all.
1. Assemble Your Data
As with most Excel projects, the first step here is to get your data ready.
If you already have a spreadsheet set up, you’re ready to go! If not, import your data into Excel and continue on to the next step.
2. Convert Data to a Table
Next, we’ll arrange our data as a table. You can skip this step if your data doesn’t lend itself to table formatting, but otherwise it’s an easy way to simplify the printing process.
To convert data to a table, drag a selection around all applicable content, then use CTRL + T. Tick the My table has headers box if appropriate, and click OK.
Table formatting allows us to do useful things like ordering our rows by the information in a particular column. However, it also lets us treat all this data as one entity, which is very handy as we prepare to print.
3. Set Print Area
We’ll tell Excel exactly what we want to print. To do so, use your mouse to select everything that’s required — if your data is formatted as a table, you can click anywhere within its parameters and use CTRL + SHIFT + 8.
Now, head to the Page Layout tab and click Print Area in the Page Setup section.
Use the dropdown and select Set Print Area.
4. Wrap Text, If Necessary
At the moment, each row in our table can be neatly formatted by adjusting the width of each column. However, this wouldn’t be the case if we were to add a column of quotes to our spreadsheet.
As you can see, now the contents of our final column exceed its normal width. We can make these entries fit, but we’ll need to format them as multiple lines of text. That might not be particularly easy to read, so we’ll wrap the text to alleviate any eye strain.
Select all the data in the table. Then, head to the Home tab, find the Alignment section, and click Wrap Text.
Any longer text elements should now possess the proper spacing between each line. Now is a good time to make any necessary adjustments to the width of each column and the height of each row.
5. Adjust Margins
Next, click File and navigate to Print. Here, you’ll see a preview of your spreadsheet as it will appear on a printed page.
This is a good time to decide whether you want to print in landscape or portrait orientation. Your data should inform your decision; if there are too many columns to make things legible in portrait orientation, choose landscape. On the other hand, if your spreadsheet is comprised of lots and lots of rows with fewer columns, portrait may be the better option.
Once you’ve made this decision, use the Margins dropdown to select the area of the page where your spreadsheet will appear. This will depend on the capabilities of your printer, but the Narrow Margins preset is a good way of getting as much as possible on the page, and it won’t cause problems for the majority of devices.
If you want to make sure that your spreadsheet is as large and as legible as possible once printed, we can use Excel’s scaling tools to do so. Click the Scaling dropdown and select Custom Scaling Options.
On the following screen, you can use the Fit to option to scale your spreadsheet to the width or height of a page
This can be useful if you’re looking to confine your spreadsheet to a single page.
Alternatively, you can use the Adjust to option to scale your content by percentage, allowing for a closer level of control.
6. Center Your Spreadsheet and Add a Header or Footer
Without leaving the Print screen, click the Margins dropdown and select Custom Margins. Then, tick the boxes marked Horizontally and Vertically in the Center on page section to center your spreadsheet.
This is optional, but it’s typically the best way to organize the blank margins that are going to surround your spreadsheet on the page.
Now is the time to add a header or footer, if necessary. Navigate to the Header/Footer tab of the Page Setup window and create as complex a header or footer as you see fit. You could also skip this step entirely — it’s up to you.
7. Make Final Adjustments and Print
At this point, we’re just about ready. Head back to the Print screen and take a look at the preview. If you see anything that doesn’t look right, make the appropriate size adjustments to individual rows or columns to take care of the problem. Once everything is to your liking, you can start printing out some copies.
Ready Set Print
Printing Excel spreadsheets can be a mess, unless you take the time to set up your document. We hope this guide has helped you avoid all the common pitfalls.
Are you struggling to make your spreadsheet look good in print? Or do you have a tip for other users that you’re eager to share with the community? Either way, the comments section below is the place to go if you want to join — or start — the conversation.
Originally written by Eyal Sela on August 7, 2009.