Excel Tips

If you use Excel regularly, you're probably comfortable doing the standard spreadsheet stuff: You enter data, create basic formulas, and apply formatting. Although complete mastery of Excel certainly isn't one of your goals in life, you're always on the lookout for something that can make your job easier. But you simply haven't had the time or motivation to fully explore all that Excel has to offer.

Sound familiar? If so, here's your chance to pick up a few handy tricks that you may not have discovered yet. And if you're new to Excel, these tips will help get you off to a flying start.

1. What's the Current Date or Time?

You may be familiar with Excel's NOW function, which plugs the current date and time into your spreadsheet. Just enter =NOW() into any cell, and Excel displays the date and time formatted according to the regional options you've set for Windows. If you just want to see the date, use the TODAY function, =TODAY(), instead.

But if you want to use either of these functions as a type of "timestamp" you'll find that they don't do the job, because they're automatically updated whenever your worksheet is calculated or re-opened. The cell that displays today's date will display tomorrow's date when you open the spreadsheet tomorrow.

To insert a fixed date into a cell--a date that you don't want to change--hold down Ctrl while you press the semicolon ( ;) key. To insert the current time (without a date), press Ctrl-Shift-Semicolon.

These commands are useful if you like to document your work. For example, you might want to keep track of when you added new data to your worksheet.

2. Top Secret: Do Not Print

When it's time to print your Excel worksheet, you may prefer that some information is left unprinted. For example, you may have some confidential information (such as employee salaries) in a column, or your sheet may have some intermediate calculations that the top brass aren't interested in seeing.

To avoid printing specific rows or columns, just hide them before printing. To hide rows, select them by clicking the row numbers (click and drag to select a block of rows; hold down Ctrl while clicking to select non-adjacent rows). Then right-click one of the highlighted border row numbers and click Hide. Use the same procedure to hide columns (but right-click a highlighted column letter to choose Hide).


When you're finished printing, you can quickly unhide all rows or columns by selecting the entire worksheet (click the blank gray box formed by the intersection of the row and column borders at the top left corner of your spreadsheet). Then right-click a row or column border and choose Unhide.