No matter what version of Excel you’re using, there are three easy tricks you can do to make your tables and models easier on the eyes, easier to use, and more professional. I’ll show you the transformation alongside an example.
First, let’s suppose this simple table is what we originally start with:
Step 1: Change the font to “Gill Sans MT”. This is the font recommended by Edward Tufte, an expert on the visual display of data. In Excel 2007, the default font is something called “Calibri”, which is also an improvement over the default “Arial” that came in previous versions of Excel. Here’s what that simple change does to our table:
Step 2: Don’t use extra decimals where not needed, and consider changing 0s to “-” for readability. To do this, simply select the numerical data you want to format, click on the “,” icon on the menu bar, and then click on the icon that decreases decimals (it looks something like “.00 -> 0″). Just doing that makes things much more readible:
Finally, step 3: Turn off the gridlines. To do this in Excel 2003, go to Tools >> Options >> General and make sure the box by “Gridlines” is unchecked. Our table now looks like this:
And voila. How much better does that look? Of course, there’s plenty of additional stuff you can do (put in lines to separate totals, put in dollar signs in some areas), but these three steps can always be done on any Excel model. Give it a whirl sometime.