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Excel 2007 Cheat Sheet

By Preston Gralla and Richard Ericson
August 2, 2007 12:00 PM ET

One particularly noteworthy improvement to formatting is how Styles now respond to changes within your worksheet. In Excel 2003, you could apply a "green bar" effect so that the background color in rows alternated between green and white. However, once you added a row, the pattern was interrupted, and you needed to reapply the AutoFormat, a clumsy and awkward procedure.

Table with a theme
A table with the Equity theme applied.

In Excel 2007, that same pattern is adjusted whenever you add one or more rows. (Styles are equally smart when you add columns, for patterns that alternate between columns.) Styles will even adjust when you filter or hide rows or columns.

Themes, new to Office 2007, are style collections that include a color scheme, font, fill effects and more. Shared by several Office 2007 applications, themes can be applied to charts, tables and PivotTables in Excel, giving your work a consistent look and feel. That's especially useful when you're creating a chart that you want to copy to PowerPoint or Word.

To use Themes, select the Page Layout tab and click the Themes button to choose a new theme. You can also customize any theme or create new ones. One important caveat: Be aware that Themes only work if you're using Word's new Office XML format; they won't work on old-style .xls files.

The Ribbon interface also makes it more enjoyable to work with charts. Excel's charts have a whole new look, thanks to the new graphics engine in all Office 2007 applications. The layouts use different color palettes and fonts, but the important difference is the ability to more easily apply graphical effects, such as bevels and shadows, to individual elements (such as columns or pie slices).

Bar chart with rounded bars
With Excel's new charting engine, you can control everything about charts, from shadows to the amount of rounding on the corners of bars and columns.

The Ribbon has a Chart Tools group (with tabs for Design, Layout and Format) to put more charting options at your fingertips and eliminate most of the right-clicking you had to do to adjust charts in previous versions: switching rows and columns, controlling gridlines and axes, and adding trend lines.

Table tools

Excel's new table features make it less likely you'll have inconsistent formulas. Once you identify a contiguous range of cells as a table, Excel provides calculated columns. For example, if you add a column to the right of your table and enter a formula in any row, the formula will be copied to all cells in that new column, saving the time of executing a copy/paste command.

Even smarter, add a row and Excel is sure to include it in a total on the bottom row. (In previous versions of Excel, adding a row at the top or bottom of a range meant you risked omitting cells in that row from the sum formula.)

Total row
Working with a Total row. Click to view larger image.

Furthermore, options on the Table Tools Design context-sensitive tab let you toggle the formatting of the first column or the first row. One click and you can add a Total row (though Excel lacks a similar command to add a Total column), then change what each column in that row computes (total, average, minimum and so on).

In addition, as you scroll down through a lengthy table, Excel replaces the column headings (the gray boxes with A/B/C above the columns) with values from the table's header row -- a subtle improvement, to be sure, but it's a more efficient technique than having to freeze rows to see column headings.

Finally, the new Table Gallery makes it easy to select and apply a sophisticated look.



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