There are many ways you can achieve a more professional look with your spreadsheets.

Simple formatting such as creating borders can make the data range easier on the eye. You can choose whether you want to add a border to the whole range or you can just select certain elements too. You can also use simple shading techniques to segregate some of the data i.e. change the heading cell to a light grey or maybe blue shade, there are many different colours to choose from so you could even find something that fits well with your business branding to make everything tie in. If you wanted you could even change the font on headings to make them stand out and more obvious that they are headings. Using the format painter can make these tasks a lot quicker as well; I find this to be a great tool to use.

Using the alignment functions that come as a standard in MS Office are another great way to make your documents and spreadsheets look more professional, simple things like ensuring text is centralised or justified can make a big difference to how your data looks.

There’s the option to use the formulas that Excel provides, the easiest being the sum formula, adding this to your spreadsheet can easily summarise costs for you, and it can keep a running total so if things change or lines are deleted etc. it keeps up to date. Using the correct format for your data really helps too, for example using the currency format for your costs ensures that all numerical cells have a decimal point in the same place along with a preceding £ sign, you could also just use the number format with a decimal point if you don’t want the £ sign in your data. You could use the date format to ensure all dates match i.e. DD/MM/YYYY.

Simple functions and features can make a difference

If you use spreadsheets for monitoring tasks you can use conditional formatting to highlight cells with a date in the near future or a month away, for example. This simple rule can make sure that you’re aware of an impending deadline and can work towards meeting that. This is something we use all the time as it’s a great way to prioritise your task list.

Conditional formatting is also great for highlighting any duplicates in a spreadsheet, you can also choose to have Excel delete all duplicates if you don’t need the info. It will also allow you to input a RAG (red, amber, green) status indicator of your choosing i.e. some people like to have a directional arrow in red, amber or green depending on the data within that cell/worksheet. Some people like to use the traffic light style shape or even a flag in the RAG colours. Some people like to see a data bar in their cells, these are longer for higher figures and are a great way to see higher/lower values at a glance, such as in a retail environment for stock levels perhaps.

Read more about conditional formatting here

Graphs and filters

Adding a chart to your data is another way to make your data look professional, by adding a pie, bar or line chart you can quickly identify trends in your data and these are great for adding to presentations/graphics to show data trends. A simple chart can make a big difference; some people like to see figures and data whereas other people like to have visuals/pictures. By adding a chart to your worksheet you can cover all your bases.

Even adding a filter can make all the difference to your worksheet, this simple feature can make your spreadsheets a lot easier to understand and again provide a summarised snapshot that you can put into a presentation. Filters are a great way of working on large spreadsheets as well as you can filter down to the level that is required and update/amend those cells as necessary. The fact that you can also print a selected area/section is great if you need to use this information elsewhere such as in management information packs.

There are so many simple ways to make your spreadsheets look professional; we could go on and on. Hopefully the points we have mentioned, when put into practice, will make a vast difference to your spreadsheets and how you work with them going forwards.
We’d love to hear about the formatting tools you use and how/when you use them too, so please send us a message or comment on social media.

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