Formatting elements: Font (About)

In making last week’s post, I realized that I had missed a couple of the formatting types I’d promised to talk about. One of those things was what you can change about fonts, what you can do with them, and how to do them, so that’s what I’m going to start talking about today.

The font determines what your letters and numbers look like. There are four things you can change about fonts: size, color, family, and style. In most programs your changes will affect the whole cell, but a few, like Excel 2010, you can change just parts of the cell.

Size is how big your letters and numbers will be. You can make it either smaller or larger than the normal, default size. There are usually a number of recommended font sizes (10 and 12 being the most common), but you can honestly enter pretty much any number you want in most programs, within certain limits. Excel 2010, for example, restricts you to font sizes between 0 and 409. However, if you try to enter something larger or smaller than that it will just display a pop-up telling you what the maximum and minimum sizes are.

Color is, well, what color your text is. It can only change the color to a single, flat color. Depending on the program you may have pretty much any color you can imagine, or you might be limited to a few pre-set options. No matter how modern the program, though you won’t be able to do certain things. You won’t be able to make it dark at the top and light at the bottom, or striped, or give it a different color outline, or anything of that sort by changing the font color. If you want to do that sort of thing then you need WordArt, which is available in Excel 2010, FontWork Gallery in Open Office Calc.

Font family is a bit tricky to explain. It’s so basic that if you’re not trying to specify all the different options, like I am here, you pretty much just call it “font”. Times New Roman used to be the default for many programs, but recently it’s switched to Calibri. So if you’ve noticed that you can tell older printouts from new ones based on what the text looks like, what you’re noticing is the font. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, go to or just do a web search for “free font”.

Style covers pretty much everything else. It includes a lot of options, and not all programs groups them in the same category, but they’ll always be near each other. Italic, bold, and underline are probably font styles that everyone recognizes by name, but there are also options such as strikethrough (like this), superscript (like this) and subscript (like this). Pretty much all programs offer all six of these options, if you know to look for them.