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How to Maximize Excel's Show Formulas Feature

 

It's often a rite of passage for Excel spreadsheets to be handed off from one user to another. The author of a spreadsheet gets promoted or leaves for other opportunities, and so you inherit an unfamiliar worksheet. Or perhaps you discover an Excel template that you wish to use and want to understand how the spreadsheet is wired together. In this article you'll see how to use the Show Formulas feature to be able to see all the formulas in a worksheet at a glance. You'll also see how to create a printed version of the formulas that includes column letters, row numbers, and gridlines.

Typically, in Excel, we see the result of formulas within the worksheet. As we navigate through the worksheet, the formula in any given cell will appear within Excel's Formula Bar. You can also double-click on a worksheet cell or press F2 to edit a formula within a worksheet cell. However, in complex spreadsheets it may feel impossible to visit every single cell to review the formulas within. To get a bird's eye view of your formulas, activate Excel's Formulas menu, and then click Show Formulas. For those that prefer keyboard shortcuts, press Ctrl and the ` (grave symbol) key on your keyboard. This key resides under the Esc key and has a ~ (tilde) character on it. In either case, you'll suddenly see the contents of all worksheet cells, instead of the values—thus the formula results—will be visible. You can use this to get a bird's eye view of all the formulas in a worksheet, or if you wish to go further, create a printed record of the formulas within a worksheet.

To do so, activate Excel's Page Layout menu, and then click Print Titles. Within the Page Setup dialog box choose both Gridlines and Row and Column Headings, and then click Print Preview. You'll see a you can print a view of the worksheet with all the formulas in place. In some cases, you may have to widen columns on the worksheet to display formulas in their entirety. Once you've created your printed record, reverse the steps by turning off Gridline and Row and Column Headings, so that these don't appear on your normal printout. You can then toggle the formulas off by either clicking the Show Formulas command again, or by pressing Ctrl-` (remember this is the grave symbol under the tilde key, and not the single quote character adjacent to the Enter key on your keyboard).

 

 
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