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Minimizing Distractions in Microsoft Excel

Written by David Ringstrom

Excel is fraught with repetitive actions in the course of normal work, which can in turn be complicated by unexpected onscreen prompts. In this short series, I’ll point out the purpose behind some of the most frequent onscreen prompts and nuisances, when you might choose to use them, and how to suppress them if you’d rather not.

The series will lead off with explaining how to remove a persistent new icon that appears within worksheets in Excel 2013 and later, how to minimize distractions from the Screen Tip Style List, how to prevent Excel from unceremoniously zooming into or out of your worksheet, and how to take control of the Function ScreenTips that sometimes obscure key elements onscreen when you’re writing or editing a formula.

Disabling Quick Analysis Icon

The first prompt I’ll cover is the Quick Analysis icon in Excel 2013 and later, which is shown in Figure 1. This prompt appears every time you select a range of cells, and is intended to be an entrée into several analytical tools.

If you click the icon or perhaps inadvertently bump the Ctrl key on your keyboard, a panel of tools appears. When you hover over any of the icons within the Quick Analysis panel you’ll see an onscreen preview of what each feature provides.

However, having an icon flash on the screen every time you select a range of cells can be a distraction, so here’s how to disable that icon as shown in Figure 2:

  1. Select Excel’s File menu.
  2. Choose Options.
  3. Uncheck the Show Quick Analysis options on selection checkbox in the General section, which appears first in the Excel Options dialog box.
  4. Click OK to close the Excel Options dialog box.

Rest assured that doing so does not cripple Excel in any way. You can still access the Quick Analysis feature at any time in two other ways:

  • Press Ctrl-Q after you select a range of cells.
  • Right-click on a selection of cells and choose Quick Analysis from the resulting menu.
Minimizing Distractions in Microsoft Excel

Figure 1: The Quick Analysis panel gives you quick access to some of Excel’s analytical tools.

Minimizing Distractions in Microsoft Excel

Figure 2: Disable the flashing Quick Analysis panel to ease on-screen distractions.

Setting Screen Tip Style List Options

The next bit of distraction I’ll point out involves Excel’s menu, which Microsoft fondly calls the Ribbon. By default, when you hover over any command in the ribbon, a tip appears explaining what that feature does. If you can run Excel in your sleep, you may want to have fewer things flashing on the screen as you navigate the menu. Here are your options, as shown in Figure 3:

  1. Select Excel’s File menu.
  2. Choose Options.
  3. Make a selection from the Screen Tip Style list:
  4. a) Show Feature Descriptions in ScreenTips: This option gives verbose descriptions of each feature whenever you hover over a command within the ribbon.
  5. b) Don’t Show Feature Descriptions in ScreenTips: This option causes Excel to display the name of a feature within a screen tip, but not the description.
  6. c) Don’t Show ScreenTips: This option suppresses all tips of any sort from appearing when you hover over a command in the ribbon.
  7. Click OK to close the Excel Options dialog box.
Minimizing Distractions in Microsoft Excel

Figure 3: Select which Screen Tip Style works best with your experience of Excel.

Turning Off Zoom Slider

I’ll now turn my attention to a personal pet peeve of mine, which is the Zoom Slider that appears at the lower right-hand corner of Excel. Over the years I’ve grazed into this control various times while striving to grab the horizontal scroll bar. When you click the Zoom Slider, the text on your worksheet often turns minuscule—or enormous—and you then must take preventive actions to restore the screen back.

I tend to turn this feature off, as the View menu offers what I consider more effective alternatives:

  1. Right-click on the bottom row of the Excel window, as shown in Figure 4. This is known as the Status Bar. The Status Bar typically displays the word Ready in the bottom left-hand corner.
  2. Uncheck the following choices:
  • View Shortcuts
  • Zoom Slider
  • Zoom
  1. Click anywhere on the Excel window to close the Customize Status Bar menu.

The menu-based equivalents to the above commands are available on the View menu:

  • The Workbook Views section of the View menu includes counterparts to the View Shortcuts.
  • Zoom to Selection offers more control over fitting information onscreen than the Zoom Slider. This is useful when you have a couple more columns you’d like to fit onscreen. Select a range of cells that includes the columns that are typically off-screen, and then click Zoom to Selection. Excel will shrink or enlarge the text so that the selection exactly fits onscreen.
  • The Zoom command is a direct alternative to the Zoom

If you opt to keep the Zoom Slider in place, but bump into it accidentally, click the 100% command in the Zoom section of the View menu. The Undo command isn’t effective for the Zoom Slider because it tends to undo one degree of zooming at a time.

Minimizing Distractions in Microsoft Excel

Figure 4: Customize the Status Bar to avoid accidentally enlarging or shrinking the font size on-screen.

If your mouse has a wheel then you may have encountered situations where you inadvertently bump the wheel and zoom your spreadsheet in that fashion as well. To disable this feature, follow the steps as shown in Figure 5:

  1. Select Excel’s File menu.
  2. Choose Advanced.
  3. Uncheck the Zoom on Roll with Intellimouse checkbox within the Editing section.
  4. Click OK to close the Options dialog box.

You can still purposefully zoom in or out of your spreadsheet by holding down the Ctrl key while using the wheel on your mouse. As with the Zoom Slider, use the 100% command on the View menu to recover from any accidental zooming.

Minimizing Distractions in Microsoft Excel

Figure 5: Disable the Zoom on Roll with Intellimouse feature if your mouse has a wheel, in order to avoid accidentally zooming in and out of your spreadsheet.


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About the author

David Ringstrom

David Ringstrom, CPA, is the president of Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based spreadsheet and database consulting firm he started in 1991. Throughout his career, David has spoken at conferences on Excel, and he currently leads dozens of webinars each year on Excel, QuickBooks, and other software. He has served as the technical editor for over 25 books, including several editions in Wiley’s QuickBooks for Dummies and Quicken for Dummies series. In addition to writing for QuickBooks and Beyond, David is the Tech Editor at Large for AccountingWEB and Going Concern. He also offers live webcasts and self-study courses through CPE Link. His freelance articles on spreadsheets have been published as far afield as Pakistan. During training sessions, you’ll often hear David state, “Either you work Excel, or it works you!”

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