How to Make a Pretty Spreadsheet

Let’s face it, no one likes to stare at a bunch of numbers on a spreadsheet. But there are a few things you can do to make your data a little easier on the eye. These tips are super quick and easy, but do wonders to make your data set more legible, and just plain nicer to look at. Take a look at the data below and see what a difference these formatting tips make.

Ugly Data:

Pretty Data:

The pretty data just had three formatting techniques applied – autofitted columns, borders, and background colors – and what a difference they made! Let’s take a look at each technique more closely.

Download my ugly data example if you want to follow along with me.

AutoFit Your Columns

Often times, you will have a data that doesn’t fit nicely in the default column widths. If your data is wide and your columns are narrow, it might look like the ugly data we saw earlier. You can manually resize your columns by clicking and dragging with your mouse, but that takes a long time when you have a lot of columns. There is a faster way to resize your columns.

With your mouse, move your cursor to the column header, along the right edge of the column you want to resize until you find the magic spot where your cursor turns into a double-arrow.

Then double click with your mouse, and the column will automatically grow to fit the content inside of it!

You can even autofit all columns at the same time! First, select all of the columns at once like this.

Then find the magic double-arrow spot on the right-hand side of the last column.

Double-click, now ALL of your columns are resized!

Create Borders

Borders are basically just an outline around your cells and they are a really easy way to visually contain a set of data. You can create a border on any or all sides of your data – top, bottom, left, or right. Let’s take our autofitted data and create a border around all four sides of the header row.

First select the header row.

Then go to the ribbon at the top of your screen, and find the small down arrow next to the square with dotted lines.

When you click on this arrow, a menu will pop up with all of your border options. Select Outside Borders.

We now have a border around all four sides of our header.

Now we just repeat the same steps to put a border around the total row, as well as the whole data set.


Add Background Color

Finally, I like to add a little color to the header and total row to make them really pop. To add background color, first select the header row again.

Then find the paint bucket in your ribbon, and click the small arrow next to it.

A menu with different colors will pop up.

Choose the color you want, and then see the background color change on your header row.

Repeat these steps for the total row. And you’re done! Now look how much prettier our data is.