Excel 2007 Cheat Sheet

Here's how to find your way around and get the most out of Excel 2007

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The Office button and Quick Access toolbar: Your new best friends

There are two more new Excel tools that you'll want to get to know -- the Office button and the Quick Access toolbar. Think of the Office button as a greatly expanded File menu from the Excel 2003 days -- the File menu on steroids. As you can see in the figure below, it's where to go for the various Open, Save, New, Print and related options and also includes a list of all your recently opened files.

inside the Office button

Clicking the Office button reveals everything the File menu used to, and more.

But there are three particularly noteworthy new features here as well -- Prepare, Publish and Convert. Convert lets you convert documents saved in older formats to the new Microsoft Office Open XML format, which is the new Office standard. For Excel, the extension is .xlsx. Publish does exactly what it says; it gives options for publishing a document. If your company uses a document management server or SharePoint, you can publish it there.

Use Prepare when you've finished your worksheet and are ready to share it with others. There are plenty of great options here, such as marking a document as final; encrypting the document; inspecting it for hidden metadata and information you'd prefer remain private; and adding a digital signature. Because Excel 2007 isn't yet widely deployed, a particularly useful feature here is running the Compatibility Checker, which will let you know whether the worksheet contains features not supported by earlier Excel versions.

For those who like to fiddle with the Excel interface and how it works, the Excel Options button, located at the bottom of the Office button's box, lets you customize Excel in many ways, including how you work with formulas, and rules for error-checking worksheets. It has many of the features that you accessed via Tools > Options in previous versions of Excel, plus more. It's far better organized and easier to use than Tools > Options was.

The Quick Access toolbar

Even those who can't stand the Excel makeover and the Ribbon will find at least one thing to cheer about -- the Quick Access toolbar. This nifty little tool seems innocuous enough, but spend some time with it and you'll see it's one of the best additions to the new interface.

The three buttons on the left -- Save, Undo and Redo -- aren't particularly noteworthy, but the small icon to the right that looks like a small chart -- the Quick Layout button -- is exceedingly useful. Highlight a chart, click the button and a selection of premade chart layouts appear. Click the one you want, and it will immediately be applied to the chart.

Probably the most helpful customization for Excel 2007 is to add buttons the Quick Access toolbar, and there are several ways to do so. Directly to the right of the Quick Layout button, the nearly invisible Down arrow is the key to the Quick Access toolbar. Click it and you'll be able to add and remove toolbar buttons for a preset list of about 10 commands.

To add buttons for additional commands, select More Commands from this list. The screen below appears. (You can also get to this screen by clicking the Office button and choosing Excel Options and then Customize.)

Adding buttons to the Quick Access toolbar

Adding buttons to the Quick Access toolbar.

Choose a command from the left-hand side of the screen that you want to add to the Quick Access toolbar and click Add. You can change the order of the buttons by highlighting a button on the right side of the screen and using the Up and Down arrows to move it.

The list of commands you see on the left may seem somewhat limited at first. That's because Excel is showing you only the most popular commands. There are plenty of others you can add. Click the drop-down menu under "Choose commands from" at the top of the screen, and you'll see other lists of commands -- All Commands, Home Tab and so on. Select any option, and there will be plenty of commands you can add.

Finally, there's an even easier way to add a command. Right-click any object on the Ribbon and choose "Add to Quick Access toolbar." You can add not only individual commands in this way, but also entire groups -- for example, the Cell Styles group.

Once you've got the Quick Access toolbar customized to your liking, you will hardly ever have to use the Ribbon.

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