Snake!

BY J. CARLTON COLLINS, CPA
March 1, 2013

Q: I have an Excel worksheet with two columns and more than 1,300 rows of data that I would like to print on legal-size paper in landscape orientation. Is there a way to get the two columns to flow automatically to adjacent columns (across the page) so it fits on one page, as the graphic image below suggests?

A: The effect you seek is sometimes referred to as “snaking columns onto a single page.” Unfortunately, Excel does not provide a “snaking” option; however, you might consider the following three options as possible work-around solutions:

Postscript Printer Method

Many postscript printers can print multiple pages onto a single sheet of paper, and if you have a postscript printer, the following steps may help you achieve the results you desire:
 
1. (Optional) Change the paper size to legal from Excel’s Page Layout tab by selecting Size, Legal.

2. (Optional) Change the orientation to landscape from Excel’s Page Layout tab by selecting Orientation, Landscape.
 
3. Increase the font size of the Excel data you want to print to 36 points (this step is important because this technique will ultimately compress the final size of the font).

4. Adjust the column widths as needed so the data with the larger font size fits in each column.

5. Highlight the data to be printed, and from the Page Layout tab, select Print Area, Set Print Area.

6. From the File tab, select Print, select the appropriate printer from the Printer dropdown box, and then select Printer Properties. From the Document Properties dialog box, select the Finishing tab, select 16 pages per sheet from the Pages per Sheet dropdown box, and select Down, then Right from the Page order dropdown box, and then click OK.

7. Click Print to print the results. (Note: Since the print job is compressed by the printer and not the computer, selecting Print Preview will not display the compressed results described; you must print the page to view the results.)

This approach will print 16 condensed pages on one sheet of paper. Usually, these results would be unreadable. However, by increasing the font size to 36 points, the compressed results end up displaying a font size of approximately 12 points, so that the results are readable, and the effect (as pictured below) is close to the outcome you seek.

Paste to Word Method

Because Microsoft Word does provide an option for “snaking” (or “wrapping”) columns, a second approach is to copy and paste your data from Excel to Word, and then use Word’s Columns tool to achieve the effect you seek, as follows:

1. Copy and paste the data from Excel to Word by highlighting the data in Excel and pressing Ctrl+C, then paste the data into Word by switching to a new blank Word document and pressing Ctrl+V. (Note: It may be helpful to first adjust the column widths in Excel so that the pasted data fits properly in Word, with minimal wasted white space and no word wrapping within the pasted table cells.)

2. (Optional) In Word, adjust the paper size and orientation as follows: Change the paper size to legal from Word’s Page Layout tab by selecting Size, Legal. Change the orientation to landscape from Word’s Page Layout tab by selecting Orientation, Landscape.

3. From the Word Page Layout tab, select Columns, More Columns and, in the Number of columns spinner, select the number of columns that best fits your data (I’ve selected 4 columns in the example pictured below).

4. If needed, adjust the data’s font size and column widths in Word; then print the results.

Rearrange the Data in Excel Method

The third method involves a more labor-intensive approach in which you reorganize the data in Excel prior to printing, as follows:

1. (Optional) Change the paper size to legal from Excel’s Page Layout tab by selecting Size, Legal.

2. (Optional) Change the orientation to landscape from Excel’s Page Layout tab by selecting Orientation, Landscape.

3. Select File, Print; and then press the Esc key. This action displays Print Lines indicating where the print range will break if printed on multiple pages. These Print Lines can then be used as a guide for selecting and rearranging your data.

4. Select all of the data below the first page’s bottom Print Line (1,300+ rows, or cells A33 to B1358 in the reader's example), cut the data by pressing Ctrl+X, move the cursor to row 2 in the next available column, and then paste the data by pressing Ctrl+V.

5. Continue moving all data positioned below the worksheet’s first horizontal Print Line to the next available blank column until all data have been repositioned horizontally across the page, as suggested by the image above.

6. Print the resulting worksheet.

(Note: While this approach is more labor-intensive, a macro could be created to repeat these steps fairly rapidly).

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