Ready, set, Excel!


Q: I’ve just installed Excel 2010. Can you tell me which default settings, if any, I should change to make it easier to use?


A: When I install Excel, I typically adjust the default settings as outlined below. (These suggestions tend to be more of a personal preference than hardened advice. The settings you change will depend upon your personal preferences.)


1. Specify default file location. Set the default location of your Excel data files so Excel will automatically open and save files from/to the correct folder. To make this change, from the File tab select Options, Save, and under the Default file location, enter the default path and folder where you want to save your Excel files.


2. Disable default cursor movement. By default, Excel moves the active cell selection down one cell when you press the Enter key. I find this setting undesirable because often I prefer to move in a different direction, or remain in the same cell to apply formatting; therefore I choose to disable this default. ( Note: Even with this action disabled, I can achieve the same downward cursor movement by pressing the down arrow key after entering data.) To disable the default action, from the File tab select Options, Advanced, and in the Editing options section, uncheck the box labeled After pressing Enter, move selection.


3. Default number of recent documents. I prefer to display the maximum number of Excel documents I’ve recently opened, which is 50. To adjust this setting, from the File tab select Options, Advanced, and in the Display section, set the spinner box labeled Show this number of Recent Documents to 50.


4. Transition navigation keys. As discussed in the December 2011 Technology Q&A topic “From Here to Eternity” (page 66), I like to enable the Transition navigation keys so that pressing the Home key moves the cell pointer to cell A1. To enable this option, from the File tab select Options, Advanced, and under the Lotus compatibility section, check the box labeled Transition navigation keys. ( Note: Without adjusting this setting, you can still move the cursor to cell A1 by pressing Ctrl+Home.)


5. Edit the Quick Access Toolbar. I find it useful to customize my Quick Access Toolbar to include hidden tools (such as the PivotTable and PivotChart Wizard, Speak Cells and Send to Mail Recipient) and other commonly used tools (such as Encrypt Document, Quick Print and Strikethrough). Specific instructions for customizing the Quick Access Toolbar are described in the January 2011 Technology Q&A topic “I Command You” (page 63).


6. Default date format. By default, Excel displays dates with four-digit years, but I prefer two-digit years. This setting adjustment is described for Windows 7, Vista and XP in the April 2011 Technology Q&A topic “Displaying a Two-Digit Year” (page 61).


7. Default file format. If you frequently work with macros, consider changing the default file format to Excel Macro-Enabled Workbook so that Excel will save your macros automatically. To make this change, from the File tab select Options, Save, and under the Save Workbooks section, select Excel Macro-Enabled Workbook from the Save files in this format dropdown box.


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