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Minimizing Distractions in Microsoft Excel

Taking Control of Function ScreenTip Caption

Now, let’s take a look at the Function ScreenTip caption. This appears whenever Excel determines that you’re using a worksheet function and helpfully displays the arguments for a given function. The catch is that many times this tip obscures either part of the worksheet frame, so that you can’t view or click on a column you need. In other cases, the Function ScreenTip will obscure the cell below where you’re editing a formula. Many Excel users don’t realize that these captions can be moved anywhere on screen.

To trigger and then move a Function ScreenTip, as shown in Figure 6:


  1. Type =SUM( in Excel’s formula bar. Once you type the left parenthesis for a function the caption appears.
  2. Position your mouse over the top left-hand corner of the caption and then hold down your left mouse button to move the caption.

Rest assured that you’re not doing anything permanent here. The Function ScreenTip will default back to its normal position when you start crafting your next formula. Now that you know how to reposition this caption, let me point out a couple helpful aspects:

  • Click the function name within the caption to display Excel’s Help screen for the given function.
  • Click any argument within the caption to select that portion of the function within the formula bar or worksheet cell. This is helpful when deconstructing unfamiliar worksheet functions. I often leverage this technique further by pressing the F9 key after I select a function argument to convert that portion of the formula to a value. Make sure you either press Ctrl-Z or Escape to undo such actions so that you don’t inadvertently embed a hard-coded reference within your formula.


Minimizing Distractions in Microsoft Excel

Figure 6: Temporarily adjust the Function ScreenTip if you find it obscuring a part of the worksheet you need to view or use.

Aside from the sometimes-awkward positioning onscreen, I find the Function ScreenTip to be highly useful. If you’d rather not see these tips, follow these steps as shown in Figure 7:

  1. Select Excel’s File menu.
  2. Choose Advanced.
  3. Uncheck the Show Function ScreenTips checkbox within the Display section.
  4. Click OK to close the Options dialog box.
Minimizing Distractions in Microsoft Excel

Figure 7: If you’d prefer not to see the Function ScreenTip, you have them option to hide them.

Next Up in This Series

Part 2 of this series will lead off with managing those green tick marks that appear on screen to bring potential errors to your attention. You’ll see how to minimize false positives so that when they do appear onscreen you’ll be less inclined to ignore them and more likely to catch true errors in your spreadsheets. I’ll also discuss the pros and cons of the icons that appear whenever you paste data onto a worksheet or insert new rows/cells.

Please let me know what distracts you in Excel. I’ll be happy to help you find a solution.

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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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