Excel How-to: Working With Sheets

excel logoYou open Excel to see the standard three worksheets looking back at you. I've discovered over the years that there are quite a few people that work with Excel on a regular basis that don't know that you have quite a bit of flexibility with the worksheets. You can change the default number of sheets that a new workbook will start with, you can have almost as many as you want, you can rename, drag and drop, copy and duplicate, and even change the colors (kind of).

The examples shown here are using Excel 2003 on Windows XP. Your screens may look slightly different than this, but the basic functionality should be the same regardless of the version and OS.

Let's start with the number of sheets a new blank workbook will open with. Go to the main menu, select Tools -> Options:


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You will get an option dialog like this. Select the 'General' tab, and from there you can choose how many sheets Excel will have the next time you open it up (I'm going to change my to 2):


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You might want to look around a little while you're here, there might be some other settings you feel like tweaking. Click OK to close the dialog, the next time you open a new workbook in Excel it will have the number of sheets you just selected. Now, let's make some other changes here. This workbook has 3 sheets, and I only want 2, so let's go ahead and delete the third one. Just right-click on the tab with the sheet name and select 'Delete' from the popup menu:


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If you have anything entered on the sheet you'll get a confirmation message asking if you really want to do that, otherwise it will just be deleted. Now, let's rename Sheet1 to 'January', and Sheet2 to 'February'. To do that you can either right click again on the sheet tab, or just double-click it:


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We've now decided that we want to have February come before January (not sure why, but we have). You can either right click again on the tab and select 'Move or Copy', or you can just drag and drop it in front of January:


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Now. let's say there is something very important about the January sheet that you want people to pick up on as soon as they open the workbook. One of the easiest ways to do this is to highlight the tab by adding a color to it. To do this again right click on the tab, and select 'Tab Color' from the popup menu:


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This will add a highlight color of the tab, which really does get attention. The final tip I'll leave on this subject is this: If you are creating a sheet that is going to be repeated (say one for every month) get the first one formatted just the way you want it, then copy it by right-clicking on the tab and selecting 'Move or Copy'. From the dialog box select the checkbox next to 'Make a copy', and decide where you want the sheet to end up:


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This is a really fast and simple way to save you some time. You can add as many sheets as you need (depending on your computer's resources) and move and configure them any way you see fit for the project you're working on. If you decide that you manually want to add a sheet just right click anywhere over the sheet tabs and select 'Insert...' from the popup menu:


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You'll be able to choose where you want the sheet to end up, and you can simply rename it to whatever you need after it's been inserted.