Excel – Printing Large Spreadsheets

Due to discovery, large spreadsheets often arrive from clients, but they’re not ready for printing or PDF conversion right away. These files, designed for screen viewing, can pose challenges when you need to print them while keeping all the columns intact and adding necessary headers or footers. Fortunately, by adjusting a few key settings, you can ensure a smooth printing process. Let’s explore these settings to master the art of printing extensive spreadsheets efficiently, enhancing both productivity and presentation.

Issue 1 – Print Area:
It’s Only Printing a Portion of the Spreadsheet

You might need to clear and reset the print area to ensure the spreadsheet prints correctly. If the print area is too large, it can lead to unnecessary blank pages being printed. Creating a specific print area allows you to print exactly what you want. If you’re noticing that certain text or data visible on the screen isn’t appearing in the printout, it could indicate the need to reset or adjust the print area settings.

Clear Print Area

Clearing the print area essentially removes any previously defined restrictions on what part of the spreadsheet should be printed. When you set a print area in Excel, you’re specifying a range of cells that you want to be printed, and Excel will print only that specified range. However, if you clear the print area, Excel will revert to its default behavior of printing the entire worksheet, ensuring that all the data from the worksheet is included in the printout. This can be useful if you initially set a print area and now want to print the entire sheet or if you want to remove any limitations on what is printed.

Place your cursor on the page you want to clear the Print Area.

  1. Click on the Page Layout tab
  2. From the Page Setup group, select the Print Area button
    Displays a drop-down of options.
  3. Select Clear Print Area button
    Removes the defined print area on current worksheet.

Set Print Area

Setting a Print Area in Excel is beneficial when you want precise control over what part of your worksheet gets printed. This is particularly useful when dealing with large spreadsheets that contain a significant amount of data. By setting a print area, you can define a specific range of cells that you want to appear on the printed page. This allows you to:

  1. Avoid Unnecessary Printing: Large spreadsheets might contain data that’s not relevant for every printout. Setting a print area ensures that only the selected range will be printed, saving paper, ink, and time.
  2. Enhance Readability: Focusing on a specific range can make the printed output more readable and understandable. It’s especially helpful when you want to present a concise summary or specific details from your data.
  3. Fit Data on Pages: Print areas help you fit your data neatly onto the page without crowding or overlapping. This can be crucial when dealing with wide columns or when you want to create a consistent and professional look for your printouts.
  4. Create Reports: Setting a print area allows you to design customized reports from your spreadsheet, showing only the essential information needed for your audience.
  5. Maintain Privacy: If your spreadsheet contains sensitive information that you don’t want to expose in its entirety, setting a print area lets you control what’s visible on the printout.

By using the print area feature, you can tailor your printed output to match your specific requirements, ensuring that your data is presented effectively and professionally while avoiding unnecessary clutter.

  1. Select the range of cells to be printed
  2. Page Layout tab | Page Setup group | Print Area button
  3. Select Set Print Area

Note: Once you’ve established a print area in Excel, the chosen range will be indicated by either a black dotted line or a solid light gray line, depending on your Excel version. It’s important to be aware that any data or text extending beyond this defined print area will not be included in the printout. This distinction ensures that your printed output remains focused and precise, encompassing only the content within the specified range.

Issue 2 – Fit to One Page:
Scale to Fit Rows\Columns to Fit on Page

The “Scale to Fit Rows/Columns” feature in Excel proves invaluable when dealing with spreadsheet printouts that present challenges in terms of size and layout. There are scenarios where a spreadsheet might be excessively wide, causing it to extend beyond a single printed page. Conversely, some spreadsheets might be comparatively small, leaving considerable blank space on the printed page or causing columns to spill over onto separate pages.

In such situations, the “Scale to Fit Rows/Columns” feature offers a pragmatic solution. Rather than resorting to labor-intensive adjustments like resizing fonts or redefining column margins, this feature allows you to proportionally shrink or expand the content to fit within the confines of a single printed page. This not only saves valuable paper but also ensures that your data maintains its legibility and visual integrity. By automatically adjusting the scale, the feature efficiently resolves the challenge of accommodating varied spreadsheet sizes for printing, promoting a polished and organized final printout.

Option 1: Fine-tune Print Scaling via Print Preview

  1. With the desired Worksheet displayed,
    Click on the File tab Print
  2. From the Settings group, click No Scaling
    This button, positioned as the final option, might display a name different from “No Scaling” if you’ve already adjusted the setting previously.
  3. Select Fit All Columns on One Page

Note: If you find that the text is appearing too small or becoming difficult to read after utilizing the “Fit All Columns on One Page” option, there are a couple of approaches to enhance the readability. One option is to consider adjusting the page layout by transitioning from the portrait orientation to the landscape orientation. Alternatively, you can manually fine-tune the scaling of the document by accessing the Page Setup settings and selecting a specific percentage for scaling. Both of these methods provide ways to optimize the presentation of your content while maintaining its legibility.

Option 2: Manual Print Scaling from Page Setup Dialog Box

The Manual Print Scaling feature in the Page Setup Dialog Box is your key to precise control over how your Excel spreadsheet appears when printed. With it, you can manually adjust the scaling percentage, making your content larger for clarity or smaller to save space, ensuring your printed output aligns perfectly with your needs.

  1. With the desired Worksheet displayed,
    Click on the File tab Print
  2. From the Settings group, click Page Setup,
    Displays the Page Setup Dialog box.
  3. From the Page tab Scaling section,
    Select Adjust to or Fit to and modify the settings as needed.
  4. Click OK button or Print Preview.

Option 3: Adjust Print Scaling Options from Page Layout Tab

The “Scale to Fit” group under the “Page Layout” tab in Excel offers essential tools for ensuring that your text fits neatly on a printed page. This group includes two primary options: “Width” and “Height.” “Width” allows you to specify the number of pages wide your content should span when printed, while “Height” lets you set the number of pages tall. By using these options, you can adjust the scaling of your spreadsheet to make it fit on a single page or multiple pages as desired. Importantly, these options mirror the settings you’ll encounter when you proceed to print your document, ensuring that what you see on the screen closely matches the final printed output, maintaining document legibility and aesthetics.

  1. With the desired Worksheet displayed,
  2. Click on the Page Layout tab
  3. From the Scale to Fit group
  4. Modify the Width, Height, and Scale options.

Issue 3 – Print Titles:   Repeat Titles on Subsequent Pages

If the spreadsheet is large and all columns or rows do not display on one sheet of paper, it is best to set the row and/or column headings (i.e, Jan, Feb, Mar) to print on each additional page.  The Print Titles feature is similar to the Word table feature called ‘Heading Rows Repeat’.

Apply Row and/or Column Headings

Use the Normal or Page Break views to Apply Row Headings; row headings cannot be applied in Print Preview. 

  1. Click the Page Layout tab
  2. From the Page Setup group,
    Click the Print Titles button
    The Page Setup dialog box is displayed with the Sheet tab activated.
  3. From the Print Titles section,
    Click the ⬆️ button (to the right of the Rows to repeat at top or Columns to repeat at left) option.
    This feature displays the document so the cell range can be selected or entered manually.   The Page Setup dialog box image will temporarily resized to show only the “Rows to repeat at top” box.
  4. Select the Row(s) or Column(s) to repeat at the top\Left of each printed page, (i.e., Select Row 1).
  5. Click the ⬇️ button to redisplay the Page Setup dialog box.
    It will re-display the Page Setup box.
  6. Click the OK button.


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