Cell Styles – More Usable, better defaults

A few posts ago, I presented an overview of the work we are doing in the area of great looking documents.  Over the next few posts, I want to walk through a number of the improvements we have made to styles.  Today, let’s cover Cell Styles.

“Cell Styles” were introduced in Excel v3.  The basic idea, much like styles in Word (and other products), was to give users the ability to create and apply styles to cells, which accrued a few benefits.  First, it gave users a way to create a consistent-looking document without needing to do nearly as much direct formatting.  Second, it gave users the ability to quickly change the formatting of all cells that use a particular style … so, for example, if you wanted to change the number format for all your currency cells, you could do that with one quick change and not have to touch every cell.  Styles can contain the following formatting: Font, Border, Number format, Alignment, Fills, and Protection.

In Excel 2007, we have made some updates to Cell Styles.  What follows is a description of the changes.

Excel 2007 uses the new ribbon UI to make this feature more discoverable and simpler to use.  In current versions of Excel, users have to launch a modal dialog to apply Cell Styles, and there is no preview of what a style looks like before the user applies the style.  In Excel 2007, we have put a gallery in the Excel ribbon.  This has a number of benefits.  First, styles are easier to apply – one or two clicks, no dialog involved.  Second, styles are more discoverable.  Third, users see exactly what the style will look like when applied.  Here is what the gallery looks like in the ribbon (note that when we are done, the user will see 10 styles in the gallery by default, not 6).

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To apply a Cell Style to a cell, the user simply needs to select the cell(s) they want styled, and click on the appropriate style in the gallery.  That’s it.

We are adding a lot more built-in Cell Styles.  Currently the design has ~45, but we are still tweaking, so that number may go up or down.  The built-in Cell Styles are designed around different tasks, with sets of styles for spreadsheet workflow, themed formatting of documents, titles and headers and number formats, etc.  Here is a shot of what is in the product currently.  (If you click on the drop-down arrow on the right-hand side of the gallery, the gallery expands to show its entire contents, which is what you see below … you can also scroll through the choices without expanding the gallery if you like.)  I would love to hear any comments or feedback folks have on this set, be it the look of these styles, or the types of styles we have or haven’t included.

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Cell styles in Excel 2007 are now be tied to Document Themes (see previous posts here and here), allowing for cells using cell styles to be quickly re-themed and remain consistent with other themed elements such as charts, tables, shapes and PivotTables.  Here is a what the built-in cell styles look like before and after a theme change.  Note that only the themed styles and headings/titles change (by design), and that the font and colour change as part of the theme change.

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Of course, these cell styles are completely customizable.  You can modify or delete the existing styles and add your own for your needs, using either context menus or controls in the gallery.

That’s it for this time – next time, a bit more on Table Styles.