Formatting elements: Alignment (How to)

In a spreadsheet, alignment is basically how the text is positioned in the cell.  There are four main aspects to alignment: horizontal alignment, vertical alignment, text wrapping, and cell merging.  There are also additional possibilities that some spreadsheets might support, and some might not.  These include things like text orientation, text direction, cell margins, and automatically shrinking text to fit in a cell.

That’s a lot of aspects to discuss, and when I started writing I found that I had a lot to say about most of them. Therefore I decided to switch things up a little for this topic. This week I’m going to discuss how to do all of these options, then for the next several weeks I’ll take 1 or 2 of these aspects per week and explain what they are, and what you can & can’t do with them.  I’m going to be illustrating things as I go along, so I might or might not think of a enough other things for “Nifty things” page at the end.

Most have button shortcuts for the more common options, but they’re often dispersed and not all of the options appear. Therefore I’m only going to talk about how to get to the formatting screen that lets you edit them all in one place for any program that has such a possibility.

In Excel 97:

  1. Click on the header for the Format menu or type alt-o.
  2. In the menu that opens, click on “Cells…” or type “e”.
  3. In the window that appears, click on the “Alignment” tab.
  4. Select the alignment options(s) you want.
  5. Click on the “OK” button.

In Excel 2007:

  1. Go to the Home tab.
  2. Find the Alignment group. In my version it’s 3rd from the left.
  3. In the Alignment group, click on the small arrow in the bottom right corner.
  4. In the window that appears select the alignment options(s) you want.
  5. Click on the OK button.

In Google Spreadsheet:
This program doesn’t have a single menu you can do everything from. Instead, it has a set of 3 buttons. Here’s what the buttons look like, and what each one does.

  • The one that looks like stacked horizontal lines of varying lengths will open a menu that lets you set vertical and horizontal alignment.
  • The one that has two arrows pointing at each other will let you merge and unmerge cells. If you don’t have at least 2 unmerged or one merged cell selected, it will be greyed out.
  • The one that looks like stacked horizontal lines of equal lengths, with a curved arrow coming from the end of the 2nd-to-the-bottom line and pointing at the bottom line lets you toggle text wrapping on and off.

In OpenOffice Calc:

  1. Click on the header for the Format menu or type alt-o.
  2. In the menu that opens, click on “Cells…” or type “L”.
  3. In the window that appears, click on the “Alignment” tab.
  4. Select the alignment options(s) you want.
  5. Click on the “OK” button.

In Microsoft Works Spreadsheet:

  1. Click on the header for the Format menu or type alt-o.
  2. In the menu that opens, click on “Alignment…” or type “a”.
  3. In the window that appears, select the alignment option(s) you want. Note: to horizontally merge cells select “Center across selection”.
  4. Click on the “OK” button.