Every once in a while, an application's feature is so simple and obvious that it goes overlooked even by those who use the program regularly. Excel's zoom capabilities are a good example of an overlooked feature that can increase your efficiency when working with both large and small spreadsheets.
Since we can't change the size of our monitors and it is inconvenient to quickly adjust a monitor's resolution, we are stuck with what is displayed on the screen with every application we use.
For example, with the common 1680×1050 resolution, you can see columns A through Z in Excel without scrolling. For small spreadsheets, there are too many cells forcing you to work only with a tiny portion of the upper left part of the worksheet.
Why Use Excel's Zoom Feature?
There are many studies in the management field that have examined the efficiency of employees. One study found that when the resolution of a monitor is set too high, employees have to squint to see the words on the screen reducing their work efficiency. Another study found that workers under similar conditions experienced more stress leading to further inefficiencies.
Matching the interface to the task is an important consideration when it comes to work efficiency. By zooming in and out of certain areas of a spreadsheet, you can create a custom environment in which to work to reduce inefficiencies and get more done.
Using Excel's Zoom Feature
To begin using Excel's zoom feature, open up any spreadsheet and click on the View tab on the Ribbon. Locate a section of the Ribbon labeled Zoom and notice that there are three buttons from which to choose.
Suppose you have a particularly large spreadsheet taking up many contiguous columns and rows. For the moment, you need to edit the spreadsheet and accuracy is your prime concern. Staring at a large spreadsheet can play tricks on your eyes, leading to inaccurate data entry.
Click on the button labeled Zoom and a dialogue box will open up. This box offers you several options. First, you can choose to zoom to a pre-defined level of magnification ranging from 25% to 200%. In addition, you have the option to fit the zoom to the selection you chose before you clicked this button. Finally, you can zoom to a custom level by typing in the percent you wish to zoom. Values for the custom zoom can range from 10% to 400%.
For now, let's skip the second button and focus our attention on the third. The third button labeled Zoom To Selection is a great way to quickly focus in on a specific section of a worksheet. Use your mouse to select some contiguous cells in the worksheet and click the Zoom To Selection button. Instantly, Excel will zoom in to fit your selection to the size of your screen.
We skipped over the second button for a reason. The second button labeled 100% returns you to normal zoom no matter which of the other two buttons' settings you've selected. This is a great way to quickly undo any zooming you've done to continue working with your worksheet in normal zoom.
Note that you can also use a keyboard shortcut and your mouse to zoom into an Excel sheet. Simply hold down the Ctrl key and scroll the wheel button on your mouse. Zooming using the keyboard shortcut works the same way as using the buttons on the toolbar, but is easier.
Using Excel's zoom features, you can increase your efficiency and accuracy by quickly focusing your attention to the part of your worksheet that is most important. Just as quickly, you can return to normal, 100% zoom and continue working with Excel as usual. Try Excel's zoom features and see if they work for you.
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LAST UPDATED 6/7/2010