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The Many Ways of Viewing an Excel Worksheet

Loretta Steele
5 min read

After you have created an Excel worksheet with all the appropriate formatting and correct formulas, what is left but to view the results.  Just as there are many ways in which to format a worksheet, there are various ways to view that worksheet.

Have you ever looked at someone else’s worksheet?  Was it easy to move around with the worksheet?  Is there a way to view worksheets in a way that is acceptable to you?  Excel does give you various viewing options.  This post will help assist you in discovering those options.

Ways of Viewing a Worksheet

Viewing a worksheet with a large number of cells can be frustrating.   Scrolling and scrolling around the worksheet looking for the important results portion is just a waste of your time.  Using various viewing options will help you pinpoint the portion of the worksheet that is important to you.  Below is a screen shot of the View option within Excel’s Ribbon?


The View submenu options include:

  • Workbook Views
  • Show
  • Zoom
  • Window

The last option, not visible in the screen shot is Macros.  Macros are placed on the View menu because the first option of the Macros submenu is “View Macros”.  Macros are a very specialized category and will be covered in a future post.  This post will cover the features available with the first option, the Workbook Views.

The Familiar Normal View

When you first start Excel, the Normal view is what you will see.  The Normal view includes the Ribbon with its main menu tabs, the Name Box that shows the cell name of the active cell, the Formula bar shows what is typed or a formula of the active cell and a Cancel box and Enter box.  Below the Formula bar is the Column headers and to the left are the Row headers.  Inside the headers are the worksheet’s cells.


A new Excel workbook starts out with three worksheets.  At the bottom of the Normal view is Sheet1, Sheet2 and Sheet3 with an Insert Worksheet tab for a new worksheet.  The Normal view is usually the view that most of us will initially use.

Keeping Track with the Page Layout View

After the Normal view the next view is Page Layout.  Why bother with this view when you can just go to the Backstage from File à Print and see a preview of the printout?  The Backstage preview is fine when you are ready to actually print your worksheet.  But how many times have you gone to the Backstage and noticed that the preview was not what you expected?  Or you noticed that certain cells where not formatted correctly or you realize the margins were not set right?  All of this could have been avoided by using the Page Layout view.

Let me start with the differences between Page Layout view and the Backstage preview feature.

Page Layout


With Page Layout view you can still make additions and modifications to your workbook.  Backstage preview is just a static picture of each page.  If you see cells that need correction you would need to exit Backstage preview and return to an editing mode.

Page Layout is an editing mode in Excel.  It is better than the Normal view because you can see how the pages are laid out.  Plus you have access to headers and footers, which you will not see in Normal view.  Just like a word processor, Page Layout view shows a ruler and margins.  An added feature is the position of pages in the Status bar at the bottom.  In the Status bar you can see Page x of y, where ‘x’ is the active page and ‘y’ is the total number of pages in the workbook

I tend to work in Normal view when I begin to create a worksheet.  After I have entered my titles, formulas and charts, I move into Page Layout view.  It is just easier to work in Page Layout view as I continue to add more charts and draw pictures.  The view helps me track the new modifications I enter to the worksheet.  I can clearly see where my charts and drawings are laid out in comparison to the rest of the worksheet.  I can adjust the margins if needed. Headers and footers can be created and modified.  Finally, I can eliminate the back and forth between Normal view and Backstage preview.  Page Layout gives me the convenience of both features.

Related: Excel Functions Standing upon Bones

Make Adjustments with the Page Break View

Need to view the positioning of all your pages, not just a portion of your pages?


Page Break Preview to the rescue.  Worksheets with a large number of columns are easier to see in Page Break Preview.  The example above is the view of a larger and more detailed loan schedule.  Notice the heavy lines that separate the pages.  Inside of each page is the actual page number in a light blue font.  In addition to the heavy blues lines, there are blue dashed lines to denote the page breaks.

The main advantage to using the Page Break Preview is the control you will have in determining the page break positions.  You control the page breaks by moving the dashed blue lines.  By moving the dashed line, you can increase the number of rows and columns on a page or decrease them.  With larger worksheets, using the Page Break Preview and adjusting the breaks with the dashed line can reduce the number of printed pages.  This view allows you to edit the worksheet just as you did in the Normal view.  Unlike the Page Layout, Page Break Preview does not show the headers and footers, nor do you see the margins and ruler.

The important thing to remember when adjusting page breaks, it also adjusts the scaling of the worksheet.  To see the effects of changing the page breaks, return to the Page Layout view or even the Backstage preview.  You might find that your new page breaks are not what you thought they might be.  If you really want more columns or rows per page, try using the Scale to Fit option in Page Layout.   Scaling will affect all pages equally.

Related: Help, My Contacts List is in Excel! (Using Microsoft Excel Tables)

Viewing Your Way with Custom Views

Found a view with margins, page orientation, scaling, page breaks and other view features that you would like to use again?  Then create a custom view.  In the View menu, Click Custom Views and give your new view a name.  Your view will be available at any time without having to reset all those view features.

Excel will not allow you to access Custom Views if you have an Excel table anywhere in the workbook, not just the worksheet.  The Custom Views will be grayed out.  In order to access Custom Views in that situation, you would have to convert the table to a range.

Maximize Your View with Full Screen View

The last workbook view is Full Screen view.  Full Screen will eliminate the Ribbon and the Status bar.  This view will work inside of the Normal, Page Layout and Page Breaks views. To exit Full Screen view, just press the escape key, ESC.

Workbook Views gives you a variety of ways to look at your worksheet.  Take advantage of the different views that are in Excel.   Learning these different views comes in handy when you are looking at other peoples worksheets.  Some prefer the Normal view.  Some work exclusively in the Page Layout view.  You may prefer the options of using all of the Workbook Views depending upon your viewing preference.

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.