Sooner or later you'll use this panel to change an Excel feature or find out more about Excel's settings. This article takes a look at some of the key settings and describes how they are used. With Excel open, the panel is accessed by clicking on Tools in the upper menu bar and then selecting Options. The Options panel then appears with its twelve tabs.

The Options panel opens with the View tab selected. If you have previously selected a different tab then the last tab view will open. Selecting any tab in the upper row of tabs moves the entire tab row to the lower position, so just be careful that you choose the intended tab. If you close the Options panel by any means, by clicking the OK or Cancel buttons or just by closing the panel, you'll be returned to the last tab you viewed when you next open it. Be aware that most changes made in this panel affects all Excel files. So now we'll look at the key aspects of each tab.

View Tab
Here you can allow or prevent the automatic startup of the task pane every time Excel launches. You can also turn off the formula bar or status bar for all worksheets. In the lower part of the panel, changing a setting only affects the current worksheet, except the scroll bars which affects all worksheets. So for example you could turn off the gridlines on sheet 1 only and then use sheet 1 as a data entry form, without affecting sheet2.

Calculations Tab
If you are working with very large worksheets data entry can take a long time as Excel recalculates all formula after each data entry. To solve this you can set calculations to manual mode, to allow for rapid data entry. Once all data is entered you press the F9 key for a manual recalculation. However for regular sized worksheets the calculation mode can be left at automatic.

Edit Tab
You can change the direction the cell locator moves after the Enter key is pressed from the default downwards direction, or stop the locator moving at all if you wish.

General Tab
If you choose the R1C1 reference style, columns as well as rows are numbered. Cell references are then changed to row number, column number. So cell A1 becomes cell R1C1, cell B1 becomes R1C2 and so on. Although this format is popular with Excel programmers it is rarely used for regular Excel applications. In this tab you can also change the default number of recently used files from 4 up to a maximum of 9, and the default number of sheets displayed in a new workbook from 3 up to the maximum of 255. You can also change the user name which appears in comments boxes.

Transition Tab
Most settings in this tab are usually left as they are, but you can change the default file type saved. So for example for creating specialized data lists you could choose CSV type.

Custom Lists
In this tab you can see the default custom lists already in Excel, such as months of the year and days of the week. If you type one of the items on a custom list into a cell and then fill the cell, the list will be produced in the filled cells. This can be useful in creating schedules and calendars. You can also create and import your own custom list.

The Chart, Color and International Tabs are generally left as they are, although in the color tab you can change the default colour scheme or add a new custom colour to the default palette.

Save Tab
Here you can change the Save AutoRecover time interval, so in the event of Excel crashing, a recovered file can be offered when Excel restarts. Just remember that if you exit Excel normally there is no such recovered file available, so this feature is only useful following an Excel crash.

Error Checking Tab
In this tab most settings are usefully left as they are. However you'll see that the option for "Formulas referring to empty cells" is not ticked by default. If this option is selected and you then click OK to apply, all formula which contain an empty cell will show a green alert marker in the top left of the cell. This can be useful where there are a relatively small number of formula in a worksheet. However it's not unusual for formula to include empty cells and rather than have a multitude of green alerts, this option is off by default. In this same tab you can also change the alert marker colour.

Spelling Tab
This tab lets you change the default spelling dictionary or custom dictionary and adjust Autocorrect details.

Security Tab
Here you can set password protection on the current Excel file on two levels. Firstly you can set a password to allow the file to be opened and secondly you can set a password to allow the file to be edited, otherwise it will open in read-only mode. Another very important security feature is under the Privacy Options label. If you tick "Remove personal information from file properties on save", Excel will remove any hidden file property information before the file is saved. If you're not sure what this means, open any Excel file, then choose File, Properties and choose the summary tab. You'll see the file author name and other text boxes which users can edit. So this feature enables you to clear all such data. This might be useful if you intend to send the Excel file to someone outside your organisation and you don't want the end user to see such hidden data.

So that completes out summary of the Excel Options panel. Interested in learning more? Why not consider attending a training course and take your Excel skills to the next level.