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Page Layout

While Excel 2007 offers impressive new features in somewhat complicated areas such as charts and tables, we’re launching our how-to articles with the area that tends to drive a lot of Excel users batty: printing. Sure, it seems a little basic, but the only people who sneer at Excel printing advice are people who have never burned 20 sheets of paper figuring out how to print a readable version of a worksheet. Excel 2007 offers help through the Page Layout tab, found in the Ribbon that runs across the top of the Excel 2007 window. Page Layout brings together many of the greatest hits of the Page Setup and Print Preview windows from previous Excel versions (although both of those still exist, as we’ll discuss). This tab provides easy access to a lot of settings that used to be several clicks deep. When you learn to use them all, you’ll come a lot closer to finding exactly what you expect when you walk to the printer.

What’s In The Toolbox

The Margins button provides built-in settings for Normal, Wide, and Narrow. When you click one of the choices (and you’ve zoomed out to a view of 50% or so), you can see dotted lines indicating where the margins will be. Click Custom Margins to enter your own preferred dimensions.

The new Page Layout tab collects most of the tools you’ll need to set up easy-to-read printed worksheets.

The Orientation button offers a familiar function, turning the printed page on its side (landscape) or vertically (portrait). The Size button designates the paper size you’re printing to, and Excel 2007 displays dimensions right in the list next to cryptic paper names such as A4, A5, anda new one for usJapanese postcard.

Print Area is the place to highlight the portion of the worksheet you want to print out, which proves very handy when you want to distribute only certain parts of a large worksheet, such as one quarter’s results. Just drag the cursor over a block of cells and then choose Set Print Area. You can add another, nonadjacent block by highlighting it and choosing Add To Print Area. The Breaks button lets you insert and remove page breaks where needed, but to make them easy to work with, turn on the Page Break Preview on the View tab.

Background is the place to insert an image file that appears behind the entire worksheet. Most spreadsheets become unreadable with a complicated background, so use this feature carefully. Use something like a very light version of your corporate logo dropped behind a report.

Print Titles makes it easier to keep track of information spread across several printed pages. Let’s say you’ve typed column headings such as “Postage,” “Entertaining,” and “Travel” at the top of the worksheet. If the data columns under each heading are long enough to reach past the first printed page, it may be hard to remember whether the third column on the left is Entertaining or Travel. By using Print Titles to select the row containing the column labels, you can ensure they are repeated at the top of each printed page.

The Scale To Fit tools provide an easy way to make everything fit on a page. Using the pull-down menus under Width and Height, choose the number of pages you want the printed worksheet to fit on. Excel automatically reduces the content’s size to fit within the allotted space.

Sheet Options simply determines whether gridlines and headings (the letters of columns and numbers of rows) appear on printed sheets.

Going Old School

The familiar old Page Setup and Print Preview dialog boxes are never far away. Open Page Setup by clicking the small arrows at the bottom of the Page Setup, Scale To Fit, or Sheet Options sections. Many of the features in the Page Setup window are also on the Ribbon, but the window provides access to a few extras such as header and footer settings. While we’re discussing headers and footers, it’s worth pointing out that they represent one area where the Page Layout tab is missing a critical feature. The easiest way to set up headers and footers in Excel 2007 is on the Insert tab’s Header & Footer button.

Print Preview is still the reliable way to see how Excel plans to put your worksheet on paper. You’ll find it under the Office button in the upper-left corner, under the Print option.

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