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Making Excel Beautiful

I've written a hell of an excel sheet. A real complicated model with lots of macro functionality and a grid full of numbers.  It works pretty well.

Now I'm looking to make it look great too.  I'm looking for tips and tricks , websites or books, on making nice looking excel. I'm talking font advice, colors, graphing, logos, hiding unused cells. The works. 

Anyone got any tricks?
Que
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
 
 
Any of Robin Williams' books on design for non-designers is an excellent place to start.
Joel Spolsky Send private email
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
 
 
As a starting point I use AutoFormat.  In Excel 2003 it is on the Format menu.
Mark Jerde Send private email
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
 
 
To start, separate different sections by creating an outline around the cells.  It might not look any better, but it will give you a starting point for where to apply other styles and will help make the structure of the chart more clear.
Joel Coehoorn
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
 
 
Thanks for the advice. I have been playing with autoformat and borders.

I'm also interested in visualization packages or at least nice charts.  I've got about 25 numbers that really matter, but I'd loveto render these graphically... somehow. Maybe just a big yellow smiley when the reaction is going to work and a frown when things look out of whack :)  :(
Que
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
 
 
"I've got about 25 numbers that really matter, but I'd loveto render these graphically... somehow."

In Excel 2003, select the desired cells, then click the Chart Wizard button.  Hold down the Control key when clicking to select discontinuous cells.

When I automated the creation of a large spreadsheet (*) and a half-dozen associated charts I wrote the selected values to a hidden sheet for ease of creating the graphs.

(*) The spreadsheet was output by a wide-format (24") printer.
Mark Jerde Send private email
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
 
 
There was a great web site run by some college professor and one his students a few years ago.  Their business was fixing up excel spreadsheets.  As part of the comeon, the web site gave lots of great design tips.

Must have been a bad business model, because the site disappeared.  And if it ever came back, I don't remember the site name (exceldesigntips.com?).

Anyhow, I remember a bunch of tips, but three are real doozies:

- throw away the crayon box.  You are allowed to shade in maybe 3 shades of grey and one color max.
- make all of your formulas flow to the right and down.  If you audit the spreadsheet, the arrows should lay out nicely instead of being a rat's nest.
- make sure that you see (through shading, labels, etc.) if a cell is calculated or manually entered.

A cool link to give you ideas:
http://www.exceluser.com/dash/index.htm

Mike
Bankstrong Send private email
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
 
 
Very nice link Mike... Thanks
_
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
 
 
HA!

I found a copy of the old web site that I referenced before. 

The old spreadsheetstyle.com was copied to http://www.mang.canterbury.ac.nz/people/jfraffen/sscom/index.htm after they went out of business. 

Fantastic information.

Mike
Bankstrong Send private email
Thursday, February 03, 2005
 
 
Aother cool link for design ideas.  Do I sound obsessed with good Excel design?

http://www.infommersion.com/land/charts/charts.html

Mike
Bankstrong Send private email
Thursday, February 03, 2005
 
 
Love it Mike.

How about gradiant fill?  I have a red cell and a blue cell, can I fill the four cells in between with shades of blue-red?
Que
Thursday, February 03, 2005
 
 
"How about gradiant fill?  I have a red cell and a blue cell, can I fill the four cells in between with shades of blue-red?"

Do you mean CAN, or SHOULD?  You can do it -- use some sort of purply affair -- but as to whether or not you should, I'd say not.  The ends of the gradient are a long way apart round the colour wheel, and as you'll only get four colours between them it's not going to look that good.  Either abandon the idea, or pick colours closer together (red and green work better over a short gradient).
Mat Hall Send private email
Friday, February 11, 2005
 
 
or you could draw a borderless box over the appropriate cells and apply a gradient to the shape

actually, i found this discussion while googling for a way to apply a smooth gradient to cells AND have text in them.  i've achieve the affect somewhat by filling the cells with a solid color (color A) and then applying a semi transparent filled shape overtop with a box filled with a gradient that goes from color B at about 80% trans to color A at 10% trans. (text is color B where colors A & B are of high contrast... eg navy blue and white)

but anyway, i thought there HAD to be a better way. guess not?

(above applies to excel 2003 on xp)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005
 
 
or try this

(just had a brainstorm/fart)

use as many cells as you like to create a smooth transition between two colors (the more cells you use, the more subtle the color change between adjacent cells)

then set the column width or row height (for horizontal and vertical gradients respectively) to a very small value

turn grid off (in options) and put a border around the group

add text to first cell in gradient, select the full color range, and "center accross selection"

haven't tried this, but it seams like it should work

Wednesday, February 23, 2005
 
 

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