4.2. Formatting Cell Appearance
Formatting cell values is important since it helps maintain consistency among your numbers. But to really make your spreadsheet readable, you're probably going to want to enlist some of Excel's tools for controlling things like alignment, color, and borders and shading.
Figure 4-6. Special number formats are ideal for formatting sequences of digits into a common pattern. For example, if you choose Phone Number in the Type list, Excel converts the sequence of digits 5551234567 into the proper phone-number style(555) 123-4567with no extra work required on your part.
To format the appearance of a cell, first select the single cell or group of cells that you want to work with, and then choose Format Cells from the menu, or just right-click the selection and choose Format Cells. The Format Cells dialog box that appears (Figure 4-7, top) is the place where you adjust your settings.
Note: Even a small amount of formatting can make a worksheet easier to interpret by drawing the viewer's eye to important information. Of course, as with formatting a Word document or designing a Web page, a little goes a long way. Don't feel the need to bury your worksheet in exotic colors and styles just because you can.
4.2.1. Alignment and Orientation
As you saw in the previous chapter, Excel automatically aligns cells according to the type of information you've typed in. But what if this alignment isn't what you want? Fortunately, the Alignment tab in the Format Cells dialog box (Figure 4-7, top) lets you easily change alignment as well as control some other interesting settings, like the ability to rotate text.
Excel lets you control the position of content between a cell's left and right borders with the following choices, some of which are shown in Figure 4-7, bottom:
Figure 4-7. The Alignment tab of the Format Cells dialog box lets you specify how you want cell text aligned and oriented, as shown below.
Vertical alignment controls the position of content between a cell's top and bottom border. Vertical alignment becomes important only if you enlarge a row's height so that it becomes taller than the contents it contains. To change the height of a row, click the bottom edge of the row header (the numbered cell on the left side of the worksheet), and drag it up or down. As you resize the row, the content stays fixed at the bottom. The vertical alignment setting lets you adjust the cell content's positioning.
Excel gives you the following vertical alignment choices, some of which are shown in Figure 4-7, bottom:
If you have a cell containing a large amount of text, you can increase the row's height so you can display multiple lines. Unfortunately, you'll notice that enlarging a cell doesn't automatically cause the text to flow into multiple lines and fill the newly available space. But there's a simple solution: just turn on the "Wrap text" checkbox (on the Alignment tab of the Format Cells dialog box). Now, long passages of text will flow across multiple lines. You can use this option in conjunction with the vertical alignment setting to control whether Excel centers a block of text or lines it up at the bottom or top of the cell. Another option is to explicitly split your text into lines. Whenever you want to insert a line break, just press Alt+Enter and start typing the new line.
Tip: After you've expanded a row, you can shrink it back by double-clicking the bottom edge of the row header. If you haven't turned on text wrapping, double-clicking shrinks the row back to its standard single-line height.
Finally, the Alignment tab lets you rotate content in a cell up to 180 degrees, as shown in Figure 4-7. You can set the number of degrees you want your text to rotate in either of two ways: by dragging the "arm" that appears on the right side of the Alignment tab or by clicking the Degrees box. Rotating cell content automatically changes the size of the cell (see Figure 4-8). Usually, you'll see it become narrower and taller to accommodate the rotated content.
Figure 4-8. If you set your text orientation at 15 Degrees (see Orientation box in Figure 4-7, set at 0 Degrees), the text would print at an angle, as shown in the headings here. The rotated text may look a little blurry on the screen, but it will look much clearer when printed.
Tip: Thanks to Excel's handy Redo feature, you can repeatedly apply a series of formatting changes to different cells. After you make your changes in the Format Cells dialog box, simply select the new cell you want to format in the same way and then hit Ctrl+Y to repeat the last action.
4.2.2. Fonts and Color
As in almost any Windows program, you can customize text in Excel, applying a dazzling assortment of colors and fancy typefaces. You can do everything from enlarging headings to shrinking footnotes. Other settings you can change include:
To change font settings, first highlight the cells you want to format, choose Format Cells, and then click the Font tab (Figure 4-9). The Formatting toolbar also provides a number of shortcuts that let you quickly change certain font settings, including font, size, color, and attributes like boldface and italics. The Formatting toolbar sits in the row just under Excels main menu; you can find out more about it on Section 4.3.1. (Truth be told, the formatting toolbar is way more convenient for setting fonts, because its drop-down menu shows a long list of font names, whereas the font list in the Format Cells dialog box is limited to showing an impossibly restrictive four fonts at a time. Scrolling through that cramped space is more than a little maddening.)
Not all fonts are equal. When displaying dataespecially numberssans-serif fonts are usually clearer and look more professional than serif fonts. (Serif fonts have little embellishments, like tiny curls, on the ends of the letters; sans-serif fonts don't.) Arial, the default spreadsheet font, is a sans-serif font. The font used for the body text of this book, Adobe Minion, is clearly a serif font, which works best for large amounts of text.
Figure 4-9. You can apply an exotic font through the Format Cells dialog box.
Note: No matter what font you apply, Excel, thankfully, always displays the cell contents in the eye-friendly Arial font in the Formula bar. That makes things easier if you happen to be working with cells that have been formatted to use graphically complex or large fonts.
Tip: Excel always assumes you want your worksheet font to be Arial unless you tell it otherwise. To change the font setting, select Tools Options and then click the General tab. Next to the "Standard font label are two drop-down menus where you can set the standard font and font size. The font you choose won't apply to existing worksheets, but Excel will use it every time you create a new worksheet.
18.104.22.168. Special characters
Most fonts contain not only digits and the common letters of the alphabet, but also some special symbols that you can't type directly on your keyboard. One example is the copyright symbol ©, which you can insert into a cell by typing in the text (C) and letting AutoCorrect do its work. Other symbols, however, aren't as readily available. One example is the special arrow character, . To use this symbol, youll need the help of the Wingdings font.
Note: Wingdings isn't the only font with special characters (although it does have a really great selection). You can insert extended characters from any font by selecting the name of the font from the Symbol dialog's drop-down list. (Extended characters are mostly non-English letters like Arabic or Hebrew letters.)
Wingdings is a special font included with Windows that's made up entirely of symbols like arrows, smiley faces, and zodiac signs, none of which are found in standard fonts. You can try to apply the Wingdings font on your own, but it won't be easy, because you won't know which character to press on your keyboard to get the symbol you want. A better choice is to use Excel's Symbol dialog box. Simply follow these steps:
When Excel inserts a character from the Symbol dialog box, it doesn't change the font for the cell. What you'll actually end up with is a cell that has two fontsone for the symbol character and one for the rest of your text. This approach works perfectly well, but it can cause some confusion. For example, if you apply a new font to the cell after inserting a special character, Excel adjusts the entire contents of the cell to use the new font, and your symbol will change into the corresponding character in the new font (which usually isn't what you want). These problems aren't unique to using symbols; they can crop up any time you deal with a cell that has more than one font.
Note: If you look at the cell contents in the Formula bar, you'll always see the cell data in the standard Arial font. That means, for example, that your Wingdings symbol won't appear as the icon that shows up in your worksheet. Instead, you'll see an ordinary letter or some type of extended non-English character, like æ.
4.2.3. Borders and Patterns
The best way to call attention to important information isn't to change fonts or alignment. Instead, place borders around key cells or groups of cells and use shading to highlight important columns and rows. Excel provides dozens of different ways to outline and highlight any selection of cells.
Note: Removing a worksheet's gridlines, as shown in Figure 4-11, lets you focus visually on any custom borders you've added (or are about to add). To remove a worksheet's gridlines, select Tools Options. From the Options dialog box that appears, select the View tab and then turn off the checkmark next to the Gridlines checkbox. (This grid-removing procedure affects only the current file and wont apply to new spreadsheets.)
Once again, the trusty Format Cells dialog box is your control center. Just follow these steps: