Report support: Two tips to beautify your spreadsheets

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Want a more polished spreadsheet that appeals to a wider audience? Not everyone likes the standard matrix look of a spreadsheet. Or anything that looks like a spreadsheet. You do. We do. Sometimes our audience does not.

Two tips:

1. Turn off gridlines (ViewGridlines).

You need them to design, and you probably don't even see them anymore. Casual users do see them, and they don't need them, and they think, "Uh-oh, it's a spreadsheet, I must steel myself!"

Simply turn gridlines off before you distribute your report. It's easier than filling cells with white and doesn't get in the way of using fills in cells where it makes sense.

2. Add a low-profile background image to your report (Page Layout > Background > From a file). Yes, it makes the report a little harder to read, but not every user is just interested in the detail.

Here's a decent report:

Here’s the same report with these two tips considered:

You be the judge! Don’t get hung up on the data or less than useful comparatives and variance calculations used here. This about the look and feel.

Here are a couple of extra tips for getting your background image right:

  • You don’t want your image to detract from the foreground data, so choose a large image and whitewash it back to barely perceptible.
  • To put your audience in a more big-picture state of mind and make it easier to absorb your numerical message, choose an image your audience will recognise.
  • Excel likes to repeat background images in x and y, so when you create a background image, just add lots of white space to the right and to the bottom. The image will still repeat, but it will do so far beyond the active rows and columns of your sheet – no-one will know.