June 07, 2011, 10:19 AM — Have you ever wondered if Microsoft Excel was invented by a sadist?
Trying to edit multiple files at one time becomes a game of "Find the worksheet." You know that the feature you need is on one of the ribbons, but which one? And a large, funky workbook file can slow the program down so much, you need to take a coffee break after altering a single number.
Let's face it: If you do a significant amount of important work in Excel, you're dealing with one nightmare after another. And if you find that using Excel is more difficult than tracking your finances with a pencil and paper, something isn't adding up properly.
I'm here to help, with solutions to five common nightmares found in Excel 2007 and 2010. I'll tell you how to manage multiple workbooks effortlessly, speed up a slow file, track changes from multiple users, find the feature you need among all the ribbons, and enter data more easily.
1. Multiple Open Workbooks Maximize Hassles
In Excel you have two clear and obvious ways to work on three or more spreadsheets: You can have too-small windows that don't give you the big picture, or you can clumsily switch between them.
When you launch Excel, it opens a single window on the Windows desktop. When you open or create another workbook (an Excel file that can contain one or more worksheets), that opens an internal window within the Excel window. You can maximize internal windows so that each one fills the entire Excel window, or restore them to view them all at once.
Unless your worksheets are exceptionally small, you should keep the inner windows maximized (the default setting) so that they fill the whole Excel window. You can switch between worksheets by pressing Ctrl-Tab or, to go in the other direction, Ctrl-Shift-Tab.
That approach works well if you have only two files open--but the more files you add, the more you might cycle through them, going in the wrong direction and then wasting time circling back. Another problem with the technique is that it doesn't allow you to examine two workbooks at the same time (which, depending on what you're doing, may come in handy).
For that, click a workbook's Restore button, which you can find below Excel's Restore button in the upper-right corner. Then you can resize and rearrange the windows for better viewing. You can also minimize those you don't want up at the moment.
If you use two monitors, click Excel's own Restore button so that the application is no longer maximized, and then drag the edge of Excel's window so that it fills both monitors. You'll have much more room for arranging windows.