Still printing spreadsheets? Here are five reasons why you should be working digitally.
No one enjoys using their printer. They’re expensive to run, they’re bad for the environment if used too liberally, and they’re often subject to paper jams and other frustrating errors. What’s more, your printer might be holding you back from getting the most out of Excel.
A printed spreadsheet isn’t very useful at all compared to a digital document. If you cut out your printer, you can take advantage of Windows 10’s handiest features, make your spreadsheet interactive, and take a copy of your file with you wherever you go. It’s time for your printed spreadsheets to hit the waste paper bin.
1. Windows Ink
Many users print out their spreadsheets because it’s the simplest way of annotating a document. Excel doesn’t make it particularly easy to add notes to your work, but there are many cases when you might need to do so. However, there’s one major downside to making notes on a physical document: lose that sheet of paper and your notes are gone too.
Windows 10 introduced Windows Ink, operating system (OS) level functionality that makes using a stylus extremely convenient. You can access drawing tools in Excel via the Draw tab in the Ribbon.
Drawing with a stylus on-screen might not be quite as familiar as writing with a pen, but it’s far more powerful. Windows Ink gives you access to a full range of pen thicknesses and variety of colors, and allows you to back up every note you make. What’s more, you can make edits to notes after they’re written, which makes it easy to create a neat and tidy annotated document to present to others.
2. Easier Navigation
Spreadsheets have a tendency to grow and grow. That means when you print a document, it might turn into an unwieldy stack of papers. You can avoid this kind of impracticality if you take advantage of the tools available from your PC.
For instance, say you want to keep a set of column headers visible for easy reference. If you’re working with paper copies, you’d have to print this information on each sheet, wasting resources and making your stack even higher. Working digitally, you could just freeze a row.
To freeze cells, head to the View tab and click Freeze Panes. Select Freeze Top Row to maintain your column headers, and Freeze First Column to keep your row headers.
Now when you scroll, those cells will stay in place, making it easier to keep track of what you’re looking at. You can use the Freeze Panes option for even more control over which cells you want to freeze.
3. Collaboration Tools
Many of us use Excel to collaborate with our colleagues, whether they’re situated on the other side of the office or the other side of the world. There are plenty of different ways you can pass a document back and forth, iterating upon the same piece of work.
However, if you’re working with more than one collaborator, it can sometimes be difficult to track which version of the document is current. Working digitally, you can remove the risk of working with outdated information.
If you keep a printed spreadsheet for reference, there’s always a chance that others could have updated it without your knowledge. By organizing a shared OneDrive folder to store current documentation, you can ensure that everyone in your team is referring to the exact same materials.
4. Cross-Platform Support
There was a time when it was difficult to take Excel with you. If you really needed access to your spreadsheets while on the move, you would have to print a hard copy, or pack your laptop. Fortunately, times have changed.
Now, Microsoft makes it easy to access the full Office suite from your phone. With an Office 365 subscription, you’ll be able to download tailored apps for iOS and Android and access your files anywhere.
With Excel installed on your phone, you can open up an important spreadsheet whenever you need to. Plus, you don’t have to lug around dog-eared documents when you’re working outside the office.
5. Living Documents
When you print an Excel spreadsheet, its contents are set in stone. This can be useful if you need access to an unchanged copy of the document — although you might be better off printing to PDF for safekeeping — but it doesn’t use Excel’s capabilities to their maximum potential.
It’s easy to set up an Excel spreadsheet with visualizations that update automatically when you add new data. This is one of the best reasons to drop paper copies and work digitally. Self-updating charts is just the first step, as an interactive Excel dashboard can offer up all kinds of useful functionality that a printed copy cannot.
To create our self-updating chart, we need to set up a data set. I want to track IMDb ratings for the Star Wars films, and I know that plenty more are going to come out over the next few years. I set up this spreadsheet with all the data currently available.
For our chart to be able to update itself, we need this convert this data to a table. To do so, highlight it and press Ctrl + T.
Our table does have headers, so we need to make sure that the box is ticked before we press OK. Now, we’re ready to create a chart from the Insert tab.
I chose to use a line graph because of the data I’m using, but you should pick whatever suits your project. We can now add new information to the table and watch it appear on the chart.
Working with paper copies, you would have to print this document out again to ensure you’re referring to the current version. By making the digital copy your go-to, you can create a living document that saves you time and effort.
Paper Copies Are Past: Embrace the Digital Future!
There was a time when Excel’s role was to prepare spreadsheets ahead of printing. Over the past thirty years, our relationship with computers has changed dramatically. Now, Microsoft expects users to spend most of their time working with spreadsheets within the software, and they design Excel accordingly.
Unnecessary printing is wasteful. That said, working digitally isn’t just about being ecologically mindful, as it allows the user to utilize the full breadth of features that Excel offers up.
There are some situations where there’s no alternative to printing out an Excel document. However, in many cases, relying on a paper copy will prevent you from making full use of the software’s capabilities. Microsoft is continually modernizing its Office suite — don’t fall behind because you’re tied to paper printouts!
Why do you prefer working digitally to working with printouts? What are your tips for reducing waste in the office? Why not join the conversation in the comments section below?