Customize Microsoft Excel for Power Use

When you get into a car to drive it for the first time, you adjust the seat, the mirrors, and maybe even the steering wheel's position. You want to make sure that it's a comfortable fit before you set off down the road. Yet many people fire up their computer without reviewing any of the default settings that the hardware manufacturer and software vendors may have chosen. When it comes to working with , this is a mistake, because one size definitely doesn't fit all. You'll work more efficiently and with less frustration if you make a few adjustments.

Some programs are easier to customize than others, however. Microsoft's Excel 2007 has some obscure attributes that can be extremely helpful for tweaking the program's settings, but many people don't know about them. So let's take your copy of Excel out for a tune-up ride and get familiar with them.

Change the Default Location for Saved Files

The best opportunities for efficient interface tweaks involve tasks that you perform repeatedly. Let's start with what happens when you choose File, Save the first time to save a new file. Operating on its default settings, Excel will offer to save the file in your Documents folder. But it's hardly efficient to throw all of your Office files into a giant, disorganized shoebox. Instead, you should set up a separate folder for work projects, and save your spreadsheets there.

Suppose that most of your spreadsheets belong in a folder named Forecasts. When you create a new worksheet, you want the Forecasts folder to be its default save location. To accomplish this, start by launching Excel 2007 and clicking the Office button in the upper left corner. Click the Excel Options button at the bottom of the window.

In the Excel Options window, choose the Save option from the left-hand column. The top section of the right-hand pane is marked 'Save workbooks', and the last line is labeled 'Default file location'. Delete the contents of that box and type in C:\Forecasts to make the Forecasts folder your default choice. Choose OK to save the setting and return to Excel.