Printing: Seeing what will print

One of the first things you should do before trying to print anything from a spreadsheet is figure out what is actually going to print, and how it will appear on the printed page. In Open Office this isn’t so hard: it measures everything in inches, so if you have an 8.5″x11″ piece of paper, and have 1 inch margins, then any table that’s less that 6.5″x9″ will fit. Unfortunatley other programs have different units of measurement, and those units aren’t so useful when comparing table and paper sizes.

Fortunately most spreadsheet programs will let you see how it’s going to print, before you actually waste paper on it. When you do, be sure to look at all the pages, not just the first one!

In addition, once you exit the preview there will probably be dotted lines, blue lines, or some sort of new border between some columns and rows. These lines indicate where the edges of the printed page are, so it’s easier to adjust things to fit. Just like the regular cell outlines, they don’t print out.

Once you have everything looking right in the preview, it might be good to make a PDF of the spreadsheet just to double check. It’s not perfect – for example, it won’t tell you how your non-color printer will handle the color in your spreadsheet – but it’s very accurate on sizing. I recommend using the in-program preview fist, though, because a) it involves switching back and forth between two programs, and b) it doesn’t give you the guidelines in the spreadsheet that make it easier to adjust.

To make a PDF there ara few different options. In the modern versions of Excel you can just “save as” PDF, and in other programs you can print to PDF the same way you would print to a printer. Obviously Adobe Acrobat can be assumed to be the best option for this, but there are a number of free options as well if you search online for PDF makers.

Ready to try it? Here’s how to do it in various programs.

In Excel 97:

  1. Click on the header for the File menu or type alt-f.
  2. In the menu that opens, click on “Print Preview” or type v.

In Excel 2007:

  1. Click on the “windows” button in the upper left corner or type alt-f.
  2. Click on the arrow NEXT TO “Print” or type w.
  3. Click on “Print Preview” or type v.

In Excel 2010:

  1. Click on the green “File” tab or type alt-f.
  2. Click on “Print” or type p (v and w also work, as a nod towards backwards compatability).
  3. Look to the right half of the screen for the preview.

In Google Spreadsheet:

Google Spreadsheet does not have a print preview option, but it also doesn’t print to printers. It prints to a PDF, which you then have to open and print on paper.

In OpenOffice Calc:

  1. Click on the header for the File menu or type alt-f.
  2. In the menu that opens click on “Page Preview” or type “g”.

In Microsoft Works Spreadsheet:

  1. Click on the header for the File menu or type alt-f.
  2. In the menu that opens, click on “Print Preview” or type v.