After I passed along some tricks for making Microsoft Word work more efficiently, several readers wrote to ask whether there were any hidden tricks in Microsoft Excel that would make their work easier.

I know several Excel tricks that make it easier for me to use the software, but most of them aren't "hidden," they're "unnoticed." One tool that a lot of people haven't noticed is the ability to configure printing efficiently.

I used to perform a manual "trick" (and I use the word sarcastically) when I wanted to examine the printout of a worksheet. I'd print the worksheet, which had too many columns to fit on a page, and give myself a headache trying to read across the rows. Then I discovered the Landscape command in the Page Setup dialog box, but that wasn't more efficient because reading down the rows became more time consuming. My nifty "trick" was to pick up a roll of tape. I'd print in Portrait, then tape the adjacent pages together so I could see all the row data at once and not have to juggle too many pages. I see many users do the same thing when I'm on client sites, and I've started to ask people who use Excel regularly how they manage this scenario. Most of them use my "tape it together" trick.

Excel has a better trick, and for some reason, a large percentage of users don't even know it exists; and it's not even hidden, it's right in your face. The Page Setup dialog box has two options that help you print effectively but hardly anyone seems to know these options exist. The options are both found in the Scaling section of the Page tab.

The Adjust To option lets you scale the printout by a percentage. You can experiment with percentages without printing by changing the percentage and then checking the vertical dotted line on the worksheet (the line that indicates the end of page width). The Fit To option lets you configure printing by the number of pages for width and for length. For most of my spreadsheet work, one page wide by 100 pages tall works beautifully.

Neither of these options work well for a spreadsheet that has many columns, but if your Excel files are like mine, and have between four and seven columns, these setup tricks make printouts so much easier to read.