Five tips to make spreadsheets more professional.

Want to improve the looks and readability of your spreadsheets? Learn five simple tips on how to make spreadsheets more professional.

Many people think that all spreadsheets look the same no matter the subject, just a collection of cells and numbers — but if you're reading through a poorly formatted one, you're going to notice the difference (and not in a good way.) Professional formatting improves both your sheet's readability and looks.

Here are five good tips on how to make a spreadsheet look professional.

Align text left or right.

It’s tempting to center the text in some cells, particularly those that serve as headers. However, centered text can make a spreadsheet look unbalanced. Instead, align text left and numbers right, and use a bold font for header cells.

Leave the first row and column empty.

A cramped document looks busy and can be difficult to read. Leave the first row and column empty to introduce some breathing space into your spreadsheets.

Remove cell borders.

The visible grid contributes a lot to the traditional, boring spreadsheet appearance. If you’re wondering how to make spreadsheets look good, simply hide the cell borders. Then, alternate between white and light gray background colors to distinguish rows from one another.

Limit colors.

Using too many colors can make the sheet look busy and disorienting. Limit yourself to three colors, use them sparingly, and always keep the page color white. However, you can bring some life to the sheet with data visualization tools. They can also make your data easier to read.

Share your sheets as PDF files.

Spreadsheet formatting can be notoriously finicky. If you share a spreadsheet with someone, it may look completely different on their screen depending on which application and program version they use. To keep the formatting intact, it's a good idea to convert spreadsheets to PDF files first.

PDF converters, like Adobe Acrobat online services, make converting spreadsheets easy — just drag your sheet to the converter and download the PDF. You can then share the sheet, knowing it will look professional no matter the recipient's device.