Saving Excel spreadsheets as PDF files has gotten incrementally easier over the years, but can still require more effort than necessary. When saving a document as a PDF, many users go through several mouse clicks on the File menu instead of choosing PDF as the file type in Excel's Save As dialog box. However, this technique can be streamlined even further with a single mouse-click or keyboard shortcut. Emailing a spreadsheet as a PDF attachment can be simplified in the same fashion, as I'll explain in this article.
The ability to save Excel spreadsheets as PDF documents was introduced in Excel 2007. If you're using Excel 2007 and don't have the ability to save documents as PDFs, install Service Pack 3 to add this feature along with a cumulative roll-up of bug fixes. Excel 2003 users must install a third-party PDF generator, such as the free PrimoPDF. The exact steps to save a document in PDF form vary depending upon your version of Excel:
Figure 1: Excel 2013: Click File, Export, and then Create PDF/XPS, or double-click the Create PDF/XPS Document command.
Figure 2: Excel 2010: Click File, Save and Send, Create PDF/XPS Document, and then Create PDF. Skip a step by double-clicking the Create PDF/XPS Document command.
Figure 3: Excel 2007: Click the Office button, choose Save As, and then PDF or XPS.
A simpler approach in Excel 2007 and later is to choose the Save As command from the File menu, and then change the File Type to PDF. To do so, click in the File Type field, and then type the letter P, as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4: In Excel 2007 and later you can choose PDF from the Save As dialog box. Press P in the Save As Type field to quickly select the PDF format.
In addition to saving documents in PDF form, you can also e-mail them as attachments from within Excel:
Figure 5: Excel 2013: Click File, Share, Email, and then Send as PDF.
Figure 6: Excel 2010: Click File, Save and Send, and then Send as PDF.
Figure 7: Excel 2007: Click the Office button, choose Send, and then E-mail as PDF Attachment.
Navigating through the File menu quickly becomes onerous if you frequently save or email PDF attachments, so you'll be pleased to know that there's a hidden technique by which you can create an icon that also has a keyboard shortcut. We can add this icon to the Quick Access Toolbar, but getting there involves a bit of nuance.
The Quick Access Toolbar typically appears in the top left-hand corner of Excel, although you can reposition it to appear below the ribbon. To do so, right-click on the Quick Access Toolbar, and then choose Show Quick Access Toolbar Below the Ribbon. Doing so means you'll lose one row in the worksheet area, so I typically leave it at the top of the screen.
To add more icons to the Quick Access Toolbar:
1. As shown in Figure 8, click the arrow at the end of the menu, and then choose More Commands. You can also right-click on the menu and choose Customize Quick Access Toolbar. Either action will display the Quick Access Toolbar of Excel's Options dialog box.
2. Choose the File Tab from the Choose Commands from list.
3. Scroll down and double-click on Email as PDF Attachment to create a shortcut for emailing spreadsheets as PDF files. Double-clicking on the command allows you to skip the Add button.
4. Scroll down and double-click on the first Save As Other Format command. Be sure to choose the first Save As Other Format command and not the second.
5. Click OK to close the Excel Options dialog box.
Figure 8: Follow these steps to add the two commands to your Quick Access Toolbar.
6. Click the arrow next to the Save As Other Format icon, right-click on PDF or XPS, and then select Add to Quick Access Toolbar. This will add a third new icon to your Quick Access Toolbar, as illustrated in Figure 9.
7. Right-click on Save as Other Format and choose Remove From Quick Access Toolbar.
At this point you have two new icons that enable you to email or save an Excel spreadsheet as a PDF file with a single mouse click. As an added bonus, if you press the Alt key, Excel will reveal numeric keyboard shortcuts for these icons. As shown in Figure 9, my keyboard shortcut for emailing a PDF file is Alt-4, while saving as a PDF file is Alt-5. The numbers are assigned based on the order that the icons appear in the Quick Access Toolbar, so your shortcut numbers may vary.
Figure 9: You now have two separate icons that will allow you to send or save a spreadsheet as a PDF file.
It's an understatement to say that Excel is fraught with nuance, and in this case note that you'll need to press the 4 or 5 keys along the top of your keyboard. If you use Alt and a number on your number pad you'll end up inserting a symbol into the active cell within your workbook instead of converting your spreadsheet into a PDF.
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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, teaches webcasts for CPE Link, and writes freelance articles on Excel for AccountingWEB, Going Concern, et. al.
David H. Ringstrom, CPA, is an author and nationally recognized instructor who teaches scores of webinars each year. His Excel courses are based on over 25 years of consulting and teaching experience. His mantra is “Either you work Excel, or it works you.” David offers spreadsheet and database consulting services nationwide.