Microsoft Excel: A Guide To Controlling Your Page Layout

Page Layout is used to describe the group of commands that control how a spreadsheet will appear when printed. The most popular commands are:

  • Margins
  • Repeated Titles
  • Headings
  • Headers and Footers
  • Background
  • Orientation and Paper Size

These types of print and paper handling tasks are covered in our courses which run in London and Guildford.

Margins -Built-In

There is a choice of three built-in margin settings: Normal, narrow and wide. To get here choose page layout/margins

margins built in


Setting Custom Margins

If you take a look at the picture above, you will see that right at the bottom of the drop down list is a ‘Custom Margins’ choice

If you click this, this pop up box appears:

page set-up custom

Here you are able to adjust the margins to your exact requirements. You are also able to centre your image on the page here, either horizontally, vertically or both.

 Changing Margins By Dragging

To do this you need to go to the ‘Page ‘Layout’ view. There is a tab called Page Layout, DON’T USE THIS. Please see picture below for how to get to the correct place: View/Page layout

dragging margins 2

With your mouse you can then grab the margins and move them around. When you have got a hold of it, you will see a thin dotted line, wherever you let o of it, that is where the new margin will be. If you make a mistake, just hit CLTRL Z to undo it.

dragging margins 3

Centring On a Page, Paper Orientation & Setting Paper Size

By default Excel will print in the top left hand corner of the page. If you want it to print elsewhere you need to tell it to do so. To centre it on the page click:

Page Layout / Margins this will open a little pop out box and you need to click ‘Custom Margins’. This will open the box you see in the picture below. You will see on the lower left-hand side the options to centre horizontally and / or vertically.


When you have centred both, it will look similar to below.


You will also see in the top picture in this section you have the opportunity to decide which way round you want your paper.

There are a wide variety of standard paper sizes to choose from when you click the ‘Size’ button and you also have the opportunity to set your own custom size.

Setting The Print Area

The default print area for Excel is ALL of the data. Unless you have set up your pages this can make for a very confusing pile of paper, especially if you have lots of columns.

Another way is to set the print area. To do this highlight the data you want to print, click on the page layout, print area, set print area.

print area 1

The area will then have a dotted line around it. Once this is set the data can be filtered, sorted. Ideal if you wanted to print a ‘top 10’ and had to add new data each day / week.

print area 2

To clear the print area, see the 1st picture in this section and you will see where to do this. It is right next to the command to set the print area.

Inserting / Removing Page Breaks

Excel will create it’s own page breaks, based on the size paper you have selected. However you can choose to insert your own.

In the picture below I have chosen cell A17 to print the Achieve the Gold Standard in Customer Service section on a separate page. To get there, selsct tab page layout, breaks, insert page break. You can see beneath the insert choice there is a remove page break and reset all Page Breaks choice too.

Page breaks

If you wish to see an overview of the breaks navigate to view/ page break preview. From here you are able to drag the thick blue lines with your mouse to reset the page breaks

Page break preview 2

Setting a Background

The background is the area behind any data or charts that you add to a worksheet and is white by default. If you fancy a change you can insert graphics/ photographs / company logo pictures into the background. They are inserted at their default size and cannot be adjusted once they have been inserted. If you wish them to be more transparent you will need to have them ready like that before inserting. As you can see below this logo is far too big and solid to be used..

To insert or delete a background – Page Layout and then background in the page set-up group.


Setting Rows as Repeating Print Titles

When printing long spreadsheets Excel will only print column headings on the 1st page by default. If you have a long spreadsheet, trying to remember what all of the column headings are can be quite confusing.

To print them on every sheet do the following: Page Layout/ Print Titles Excel will auomatically put row 1 in there but you can click in there and choose any row.

repeating print titles

Printing Gridlines & Headings

Gridlines make reading and making sense of a large amount of data far easier. They show on screen by default but are not always automatically printed.

Below you can see that if you navigate to Page Layout / Sheet Options you can choose whether to view and print your gridlines. Next to it you will also see you have the same choices with headings. Headings are the letters across the tops of the columns and the numbers down he left hand side of the rows.


From the picture above you can see that you are also able to scale your spreadsheet by a percentage to fit your paper. You can see the changes on your screen as the dotted lines will move each time you change the scale.

For further details on our Excel course in London and Guildford see this course page for details.