Use Excel to make your business data both presentable and functional

Sometimes we use software to complete a task out of habit.  Yet, in some cases, the job would be better accomplished using different software … with the added benefit of improving our business systems.

I’ll give you an example.

Say you have a service price list you’d like to give to clients. You format it using Word, which makes sense – Word is the best software to use for formatting documents after all.

But, if we think of a service price list as data which can be used to automate a certain business process, Excel is the better option.  Your price list will not only look presentable but the data can also be linked to an invoice and/or quote template in order to automate the sales process (assuming you don’t use accounting software to generate these).

So how would you do this using Excel?

The quickest way is to format your main data (i.e. your price list) by applying a Table Style.  Here’s how:

  • Select the data range you want to convert to a table;
  • Click the Format as Table button (Home > Styles) and choose a Microsoft predefined table style;
  • Select the My table has headers checkbox;
  • Click OK.

Your data will now appear within a table.  Easy as pie (charts) 😉

However, if you’re not completely happy with the way the table looks, you can modify all or part of it via the Table Tools > Design contextual tab.

Here’s how:

  • Ensure the active cell is located within your formatted table so that the Table Tools > Design contextual tab appears;
  • If you’d like to change your table style to a completely different style (changing both the colour and formatting), click the dropdown arrow for the Table Styles gallery  (Quick Styles gallery in 2013) and select another Microsoft predefined table style;
  • If instead, you’d like to change only certain elements of the table style, do this via Table Style Options on the same contextual tab. There are a variety of options to choose from.  These include adding or removing a Header Row and Total Row.  You can also change your table to have banded or un-banded rows and/or columns.  Make your selection by checking / unchecking the relevant checkbox.

Finally, if you’re looking for greater customisation, create your own table style.  This, again, is done via the  Table Styles / Quick Styles gallery (Table Tools > Design contextual tab), where you’ll find a variety of formatting options.  The process here is similar to formatting a table style within Word.

The end result: you’ll have a presentable service price list that you can impress your clients with.  Plus, your price list will be functional because it’ll give you the option of automating your quoting and invoicing process.

Give it a go.  And, for more tips to improve the look of your data, see Five sure-fire ways to jazz up your Excel spreadsheet.