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Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Understanding Monospace Fonts.
In general, there are two types of fonts. The first is proportional space and the second is monospace. Proportional space fonts are designed so every letter only occupies the minimum horizontal space necessary for the letter. Thus, an "i" takes less space than a "w." Monospace typefaces, on the other hand, are designed so every letter and character takes the same amount of horizontal space. If you have ever spent any time working on typewriters, then you are familiar with monospace fonts—all the fonts used by typewriters fall into this category.
You can use either type of font in Excel—the only requirement is that the font be available within Windows. The type of font you select for use in your worksheets depends, in large part, on the purpose for which you are creating your worksheet. Monospace fonts are great for drafts and for pure numerical analysis. This is because every single character is the same width—the lack of "fanciness" means you can focus directly on the numbers. If you are creating a worksheet for more formal purposes or for publishing, then you will want to look toward some of the proportional fonts available on your system.
One important thing to keep in mind is that in virtually every font available, numbers are always monospace. Thus, if your worksheet contains only (or mostly) numeric data, then which font you choose to use is a purely asthetic decision; the numbers will still line up in the font you choose.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2132) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Understanding Monospace Fonts.
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