Excel Quick Tip: Printing Spreadsheets to a Single Page

While attempting to print a massive spreadsheet onto one sheet of paper may be an exercise in futility, many of us have been frustrated by the one or two columns that hop off to the right of the print area. The following tips can help you manage printing spreadsheets to ensure all content is available on one page.

Quick Tip: Orientation, Margins, and Scaling

Large spreadsheets are not very conducive to printing, especially when tables are split between multiple sheets. However, there are a few options available to help print data in a presentable form.

The following is a snapshot of a reasonably sized table of data, listing the largest European cities.

Simple data table.
Simple data table.

In an attempt to print, the right-most column disappears from the print preview. This column is outside of the page 1 print area and will be printed on a separate sheet for each vertical page. These sheets will only show one column — rather useless unless there’s interest in taping the sheets together (please don’t).

Print preview with right-most column falling off the first page.
Print preview with right-most column falling off the first page.

The goal is to get those dropped columns back into the print area. One option would be to manipulate the spreadsheet so the columns do fit on the preview page. However, this may compromise the overall layout of your page with shrunken text and columns. Before using this approach, check if orientation, margin, or scaling options can give you a desired result.

Printing Spreadsheets in Landscape Orientation

The default reaction should be to see how the sheet looks in landscape orientation. This will flip the page on its axis and print horizontally.

Printing spreadsheets in landscape orientation.
Printer settings and preview on landscape orientation.

However, this may not be the desired approach, especially if you are combining this with pages of text meant to be viewed vertically. If this is the case, you can modify margin settings to try and get all columns to appear in portrait orientation.

Adjusting Margins

By narrowing the margins, you may be able to add enough space to include all columns. This would not impact scaling or size of text in the printout.

Print screen and print preview with narrow margins.
Print screen and print preview with narrow margins.

As can be seen in the print preview, the right-most column is now included as additional space has been freed up with narrow margins. Again, the narrow margin may not be desirable in your report, or maybe there is a second column still off to the side. The final step would be to see if any scaling treatments can provide the desired results.

Scaling Spreadsheets

The print scaling option has been changed to Fit All Columns on One Page to scale all content down in size so the right column will fit. The compromise here is a smaller text size and smaller column width on the print version, but it maintains the font size and width on the computer version. This approach allows you to retain the original orientation and margin size.

Print settings and preview with scaling.
Print settings and preview with scaling.

Scaling options also exist for Fit All Rows on One Page, which may be useful for narrow data tables that go a few extra lines over a vertical page. The third option, Fit Sheet on One Page will scale down to ensure all contents–both rows and columns–to fit on one sheet. This is extremely useful for reasonably sized dashboards, but should be used with caution. The further columns or rows extend beyond the “natural” print area, the smaller the printed text will be.

Other Notes and Suggestions

  • The above examples show the impact of each approach separately. For worksheets that have columns extending 3 to 4 columns off the page, a combination of the three approaches may be required.
  • Prior to engaging in any of the above approaches, you should confirm that your spreadsheet is efficiently laid out. Check to see if there is any empty space in columns, or even see if you can provide an abbreviation for a cell with a long text string (to subsequently shrink the column). In the example above, there is a large amount of unused space in column A, which could be made thinner. Avoid changing text sizes for the sake of printing — a similar effect can be accomplished through scaling, without changing the actual layout. You can also read tips on basic layout principles.
  • The more columns outside of the print area, the smaller the text on the entire document will be when printed using the scaling features. Readers of your printouts will become easily frustrated if the font size becomes smaller than is commonly acceptable. Generally speaking, only use scaling to bring one or two columns into the print area.
  • Another less technical approach is to use legal (US) or A3 sized paper. This may annoy some recipients as it is not ideal for storing in filing cabinets or combining with normal sized letters, but it is effective when used as individual handouts.


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