Printing the right thing in Excel

Often with Excel, you won’t want to print your entire workbook as a lot of your data would have just been for calculation purposes rather than display.

You may wish to only print particular sheets or even just a single table in your workbook. You can be working on a vast canvas of millions upon millions of cells so problems can occur such as:

  • Inadvertently printing hundreds of near-empty pages
  • Outermost edges of a table printing on a second sheet
  • Illegibly small fonts

Thankfully, Excel is very versatile with printing and allows you to print whatever range of your workbook you want, from a single cell to your entire workbook.

Adjusting your print area

Let’s start with the basics, Ctrl P will bring up the print window:

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This brings up all the standard printer options such as the amount of copies to print, which pages, whether you want to print double sided and so on.

Page layout

When you see the preview it won’t be obvious which area is going to print on which page. To rectify this select View >> Page Layout.

Here you’ll get a page-by-page display where all of your functions will continue to work. You can use this view to confirm that your work will print out on a single page in its entirety avoiding having blank printed pages.

Make sure all of the data is visible on the screen. If text or numbers are too wide to fit in a column, they will appear as number signs (##) when the page is printed. You can widen the column to prevent this.

From this same group under the View ribbon tab, you can also choose Page Break Preview to see where your page breaks will be, as well as Custom View.

To adjust the page breaks so the document prints the way you’d like it to, we simply drag the blue dotted line up or down as needed. As you hover over the edge the cursor will turn into a double arrow.

With Custom View you can save your current display and print settings so you can quickly apply the same settings to other documents in the future.

 Setting the print area

A quick method for telling Excel exactly what to print is to highlight the area you’d like to show up on your printed page and click Set Print Area:

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This guarantees that Excel will print the highlighted cells only. However, it does not guarantee that the document will print the selected cells in the way you want it to. To see how it’s going to print we use the dialog box launcher which opens the Page Setup dialog box:

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Then click Print Preview to view how your data will be displayed when printing.

Printing specifics

Now that we’ve been through the various ways to adjust your print settings we’re going to delve into ways to print more specific areas of your workbook. Again, you’re just trying to display the information that’s relevant rather than printing a whole page of workbook.

Printing a table

If you’re looking to print only a table from your spreadsheet the first thing to do is select a cell within your table. Then you need go to:

File >> Print (or Ctrl P)

Once the print settings pop up click on the Active Sheet dropdown and then select Print Active Table.

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The print preview on the screen should change to only show the table you’ve selected.

Printing multiple worksheets

To print a selection of worksheets, click the tab for the first sheet you’d like to print. Then hold down Ctrl and select the other sheets you’d like to print:

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After you’ve selected the sheets you’d like to print, select File > Print (Ctrl+P) to bring up the print screen.

Alan Gurney is AAT Comment’s Excel tips writer.

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