Little Known Techniques for Opening Excel Files

By David H. Ringstrom, CPA

Every Excel user knows how to open a spreadsheet: Click on File (or the whimsical Office button in Excel 2007), choose the Open command, select a file, and then click the Open button. In this article, I'll explain several hidden techniques that can give you more control over unfamiliar spreadsheets.
 
Before we get to the specifics on the hidden features, first double-click on the title bar of the Open dialog box in Excel. This expands the window so that you can see more files without scrolling from side-to-side. Simply double-click on it again to restore it to its traditional size.
 
Next, click once on a file, and then click the arrow on the right edge of the Open button, as shown in Figure 1. Most users never realize that a menu exists here, which contains options that may vary based on your version of Excel:
 
Figure 1: Many users overlook the submenu within the Open button.
 
 
Open: This is the same function as clicking the Open button, so choosing it would simply add extra mouse clicks to your task.
 
Open Read-Only: This opens your file in a read-only state, so you can't accidentally save over the original. It's a great option to keep in mind when you want to look at a document but not necessarily create a new copy or save your work.
 
Open as Copy: This creates a copy of your document in the same folder as the original, but prepends Copy(x) before the file name. Unlike the Read-Only option, you can save changes to this document.
 
Open in Browser: This option becomes available when you click once on an HTML file within Excel's Open dialog box. The file you select will appear in your default web browser.
 
Open in Protected View: Excel 2010 and later offer a Protected View feature, which you can use to open unfamiliar documents in a sand-boxed mode. In Protected View you cannot make any changes, and any data connections or macros are disabled until you click the Enable Editing button shown in Figure 2. If you close this toolbar accidentally, you can also choose File, Info, and then release Protected View should you need to edit the document.
 
Figure 2: Protected view allows you to safely open unfamiliar spreadsheets.
 
 
Open and Repair: Available in all versions of Excel, this hidden command may enable you to open workbooks that Excel reports as corrupted.
 
Unless you need one of these special features, I recommend that you double-click on a file name and skip the Open button.
 
There's one other trick that must be accomplished outside of Excel's Open dialog box. As shown in Figure 3, you can right-click on an Excel file within a Windows Explorer window and then choose Print. Windows will launch Excel if necessary, print a copy, and then close the document, and close Excel if it wasn't previously open. This is a handy technique for grabbing a printout on your way out the door to a meeting.
 
Figure 3: You can quickly print an Excel document from a Windows Explorer window.
 
Read more articles by David Ringstrom. 
 
About the author:

David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at david@acctadv.com or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, and presents webcasts for several CPE providers, including AccountingWEB partner CPE Link.

 
 

You may like these other stories...

Whenever I speak to accountants about creating a cloud practice, the most common question is, “How do I charge my clients?” Ten years ago, maybe even five years ago, if I would’ve posed this question...
While reputational risk is the No. 1 nonfinancial concern among corporate directors, cybersecurity/IT risk is gaining steam. In fact, both private companies and organizations with more than $1 billion in revenue felt they...
Accountants who specialize in forensic and valuation services point to electronic data analysis, or big data, as the most pressing issue they’ll face in the coming months, according to results of a new survey released...

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Jul 31
In this session Excel expert David Ringstrom helps beginners get up to speed in Microsoft Excel. However, even experienced Excel users will learn some new tricks, particularly when David discusses under-utilized aspects of Excel.
Aug 5
This webcast will focus on accounting and disclosure policies for various types of consolidations and business combinations.
Aug 20
In this session we'll review best practices for how to generate interest in your firm’s services.
Aug 21
Meet budgets and client expectations using project management skills geared toward the unique challenges faced by CPAs. Kristen Rampe will share how knowing the keys to structuring and executing a successful project can make the difference between success and repeated failures.