Monday, July 20, 2009

Laying out the carpet for to recipients for your Excel files

I was looking at the MSKB 942385 and then downloaded the Office 2007 Service Pack 1 Changes_all.xls package. Irritating, that file is. Excel is now a great grid and table tool – it’s natural formatting, data handling (filtering, sorting) abilities exceeded Word’s model a long time ago. So whenever you need to deliver a dense grid of data, Excel is the way to go. Of course, Access would be as good but not everyone has Access on their machine. But, people still have a Word mindset – if you want to deliver for example 400 over rows of info to your recipient, leave that word processor approach of laying it out nice so that people can print (do you help them print?) but help them more pro-actively. Facilitate their hunting for gems in that 400 row grid, ensure that they can hit “print” and it prints well.

Download that file and play along with me. See what you can do to help the recipient along.

Suggested Best Practices

  1. Forget that danged banner proclaiming that the file is what it is – you can put a brief title in the Excel header / footer. Additionally, you can repeat the banner in the worksheet tab
  2. Provide Folder Path / Filename info as well as Page x of y in the Excel Header/Footer
  3. Ensure that the grid has a column of category names. Remove arbitrarily placed Category Headers from the grid.
  4. Put the data in an Excel Table. So that the recipient can sort/filter easily
  5. Freeze the column title / row titles. Dang! Frozen worksheets can’t go into the new Page Layout View.
  6. Set relevant Print Titles so that the paper follows your frozen worksheet titles.

Now, was it that hard to extend some courtesy to the recipient? What other tips for any Office program can you think of that will facilitate recipients?

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