Word and Excel – Get More Workspace

Programmer

This article is an extension of a previous post: https://www.yellowbearjourneys.com/beachreport/microsoft-office-toolbars/

System Level Settings

You need to be able to see more in your viewscreen. My current laptop screen size is about 8 inches high by 14 inches wide. That’s my total maximum workspace, if I could use all of it. That size is not really relevant. What is more relevant is the screen resolution. Mine is set to 1920×1080 pixels, which is the highest mine will go. The higher the resolution, the more I can view in my workspace. To change this in Windows, press Start, then Settings, then search for Display. And go to System settings.

Also, in my display settings, the size of text, apps, etc. is set to 150%. I can set it higher or lower. If I set it lower, I could see more on the screen. However, I won’t be able to make out what I’m seeing without much stronger glasses. And that’s not likely to happen, so 150% it is.

There’s another display setting which you can find by searching for Vision and choosing Ease of Vision settings. Here I could make my text bigger and reduce the amount of text that I see on a screen. I think 100% works well here.

On my screen, there’s a taskbar at the bottom. I keep mine limited to one line. I have a lot of apps that I want on my taskbar. To keep the taskbar to one line, I create folders in My Documents folder and place shortcuts to those apps in those folders. Then I right-click on the taskbar and add each folder. If I want to rearrange the apps in each folder on the taskbar, I open it from the taskbar and drag the apps to rearrange them.

But, how do you create shortcuts of your apps. The easiest way I’ve found to do that, is to start the app. Once it’s running, press Ctrl+Alt+Del. From that screen, click on Task Manager. On the Processes Tab, at the top, there will be a list of active Apps. Click the right-arrow to see more details about the app that you want to create a shortcut for. Right-click on the app and click Go to File Location. Once you’re at that file location, right-click on the app and copy it. (Or select it and Ctrl+c). Now, go to My Documents. Open the folder that you’ve put on your taskbar. Right-Click in that folder and Paste Shortcut. Now, right-click on the Shortcut to rename it. You don’t need Shortcut. You don’t need .exe (it’s just a shortcut name). I know that was several steps, but it seems to always work.

There may be a Scrollbar on the right-hand side that takes up a little bit of workspace when it’s visible. Microsoft decided to hide it. That’s great when you need it out of your way. But how can you tell that there’s a scrollbar to make visible without hovering over every inch of your screen to see if there’s a scrollbar there or not?

To make the scrollbars always visible in Windows, go to the Vision Display settings, and change the setting to Automatically Hide Scrollbars in Windows. Apps may override this setting. And you might have to hover over a Scrollbar to get it to display in the first place.

There are programmatic ways to make the Scrollbar skinnier. I don’t find those helpful. It’s hard enough for me to place the cursor on the Scrollbar as it is.

Word

At this point, you’ve gotten as much screen space as you can at the system level. Now, let’s talk about Word.

Word has a toolbar or banner at the top, right under the menu. To toggle this toolbar on and off, Ctrl+F1. If you need some of those tools handy even with the toolbar off, right-clock on the Customize Quick Access Toolbar. Then choose the tools that you want to always have available. This can be a little confusing the first time. The more you work with this, the easier it becomes. If your Quick Access Toolbar is below the menu (and banner), right-click on it to Show Above Ribbon. This will move the Quick Access Toolbar to the top of the screen, above the Menu. This space was already there, pretty much unused. So, moving your Quick Access Toolbar there will give you more workspace.

I like to see the Navigation Pane – this is a checkbox on the View Menu. I also like to see the Rulers (View Menu again). These take up space, but there helpful enough that I’ll keep them there. You can also view Gridlines, but I find that very unhelpful in Word. I you don’t use them, uncheck them. The Navigation Pane will show up if you Ctrl+F to Find something of if you click Find on the Home Menu.

There’s a down arrow at the top of the Navigation pane which will let you resize it. Or you can hover over the right-edge until you see a double-arrow for your cursor. And that will let you resize it. I like the default size.

I write books. For those documents, I set my page size to 6×9 and all margins to .5 inches. If it’s not a book, I set my margins to .25 all around. This gives me more workspace. This is on the Layout Menu.

Back to the View Menu. Word tries to default to Read Mode. This shows two pages per page. However, it closes the Navigation Pane. So, I normally use Print Layout.

There is Draft Layout which will hide heading and footing. It will also reduce the page break to a thin line. That would give me more workspace. However, especially when I’m writing books, I need to see what it’s looks like on the page.

On the Home Menu, there’s the font and font size. Word’s Default font is Calibri at 11 point. To me, Calibri is blurry. I much prefer Times New Roman, even though it’s a little bigger. I also can’t read 11 point easily, so I use 12 point. Calibri doesn’t have the little extra tics or serifs. Times New Roman does. I like heading fonts without serifs and text with.

To change the default, either click on the right-pointing down arrow on the Home Menu in the Font section, or Ctrl+D. Change the font, then click on Set as Default.

Word also defaults to leaving extra space between lines and paragraphs. I remove that. Click on the right-pointing down arrow on the Home Menu in the Paragraph section. You can also change the paragraph indentation here. Word defaults to no indentation. I set special to first line and .19 inches to indent the first line. I set this as a default. I then select a paragraph with this indentation and right-click on Normal and choose Modify, to change that style. Normal and No Spacing are similar styles. Normal has extra line spacing. No Spacing does not. I set them the same way.

Excel

Excel workspace can be increased in many of the same ways as Word. Toolbars work the same way.

On the View Menu, you can show / hide the Formula Bar, Headings, and Gridlines. The Formula Bar is handy for typing long text and formulas (long or short). There’s a down arrow on the Formula Bar which will expand it to the maximum size that you have set. When it’s expanded, that down arrow becomes an up arrow. Click on it, and the Formula Bar is reduced to one visible line. I have my Formula Bar expanded to six lines. You may not need that many. To expand the size of the formula bar, hover over the bottom until your cursor changes to a double-arrow. Then drag the bottom of the Formula Bar down or up.

Headings displays column labels (A, B, …) and row numbers. I have this checked as it comes in very handy for formulas.

Gridlines, help me see individual cells. I find this to be very useful in Excel and detrimental in Word.

There is a Ruler check box. That’s greyed out unless you’re in Page Layout View (from the View Menu).

There is no Navigation Pane in Excel.

You can set your font and font-size. However, this is in a different place. On the File Menu, click Options (or More… then Options). In General, change the Default Font and size under When Creating New Workbooks.

Sometimes in Excel, you’ll want to use a monospaced font, such as Courier New. However, for readability, you may not want to make that your default font. This will make text line up. I prefer Arial for the default font for Excel most of the time, even though it’s bigger than Calibri.

Excel does not have Paragraph settings.

General Guidelines

Before changing something to increase your workspace, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much space are you saving? Is it worth it.
  • Is the text still readable?
  • Is it too much trouble or too confusing?
  • Does it make me more productive? Or more importantly, can you get your work done faster so that you have more time to play. If you’re working faster and still don’t have time to play, something needs to change.

Microsoft Office Toolbars

Programmer

Apparently, there was another upgrade to Microsoft Office 365. And the toolbars changed. Well, I call them toolbars. MS Office calls them menu ribbons, except for the shortcut toolbar which they call the Quick Access Toolbar. The menu ribbon has various tools on it and changes as you select different menus. The Quick Access toolbar lets you place tools/functions that you need to use a lot in one common place that’s always visible – unless you hide the quick access toolbar.

Changes: The Quick Access Toolbar is now below the ribbon, rather than above. Visually, I guess that makes more sense. However, it’s still a change. Also, Undo and Redo were added to the main (Home) menu ribbon. They used to be on the quick access toolbar. Those are the main changes.

Also, turning on and off the ribbon has become more complicated. I often turn the ribbon off (hide the ribbon) so that I can see more on the screen. And I want a quick way to turn it on and off. To  turn the ribbon on, you can right-click on the Quick Access Toolbar and uncheck Collapse the Ribbon. To turn the ribbon off, click on click the down arrow to the right of the ribbon, then right-click in the list of choices, then check Collapse the Ribbon.

Luckily, Allen Wyatt reminded me that Ctrl+F1 toggles the ribbon on and off. Actually, I’m pretty certain that I never knew that. Ctrl+F1 is a lot easier to remember than the various steps that Office visually provides to turn it on and off. He also provides a macro, if you want to place a button on the quick access toolbar to do that.

Redo and Undo: I removed the Redo and Undo Commands from my Home menu. Redo is Ctrl+y, Undo is Ctrl+z. And I always use those keystrokes, rather than clicking the button.

Quick Access Toolbar: I decided to review what was on my quick access toolbars and see if I could use them to optimize the amount of the document or spreadsheet or other office app window. In other words, I wanted to keep the ribbon hidden as much of the time as possible, and just do functions that I do a lot, from the quick access toolbar, since that takes up less space.

If Outlook, I no longer use the ribbon. I’ve placed these commands on my quick access toolbar. To change, right-click and choose customize. Then change the first drop-down from Popular Commands to All Commands. Then Add the commands you want where you want. Use the up and down arrows on the right to order where these commands show up in the ribbon. The commands on my Outlook quick access bar are Reply, Reply All, Forward, Delete, Rules, Send Receive All Folders, Send All, and Print. If you have automatic send/receive set on, you won’t need to add those send commands. Print is Ctrl+p, so I wouldn’t need that one. But there’s plenty of room. I originally added New Email until I noticed that New Email/New Appointment is always present in the working window, depending on whether I’m on email or calendar.

In Word, you may want to hide your quick access toolbar and just toggle the ribbons on and off with Ctrl+F1. However, I need the commands Advanced Find and Find Next, so currently I’ve got them on the quick access toolbar. I think I’ll just modify the Home Ribbon and add them there. Advanced Find allows you to do nifty things like only find whole words. Ctrl+f used to get you there, but now it takes you to the simplified find (that change happened a long time ago). Advanced Find is already on the Home Menu ribbon. Click the down arrow on Find (all the way to the right). I’d like to click once, rather than twice to get there. Find Next is not on the Home Menu ribbon.

In addition to those commands, I currently have Format Painter, Replace, Show All, and Speak on my Quick Access Toolbar. I often need Format Painter, Show All, and Speak, no matter what menu ribbon is currently displayed. So, I may leave well enough alone.

In Excel, I didn’t have a need for the Quick Access Toolbar. If I did, I would add Sort and Filter. With the Formula Bar taking up extra room, I decided to not also have the Quick Access Toolbar taking room.

I don’t use PowerPoint enough to know if there’s a need for the Quick Access Toolbar. I did remove Redo and Undo from the Home Menu. I don’t use other Office Apps, other than Access (database) on rare occasions. Access is in the Professional version. I did use Teams for Work, but so far not on my Personal Computer. If you use OneDrive or OneNote, you may want to customize those apps.

Final Note: If you want the quick access bar back on the top, you can right-click on it and choose Show Quick Access Bar above the Ribbon. It will go back where it used to be and give you even more space in your app’s working window. When you do this, the command titles won’t be displayed, just the icons. But you can hover over them to see what they do, should you ever forget.