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: Countering Compressed Columns.

Countering Compressed Columns

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated May 5, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Mark is experiencing a problem where, when he opens a workbook, many of the column widths have been compressed (narrowed) and need to be reset. This could be caused by a number of different things, so you'll need to do some checking.

The first thing to check is if someone else is opening the workbook. For instance, if the workbook is accessible across a network, and another person opens it, they could be changing the column widths. The user could even be doing this inadvertently. For instance, if the user has a different screen resolution than yours, then Excel will adapt the workbook to that resolution, and that may change the column widths. The solution is to either make sure that nobody else opens the workbook or make sure that everyone uses the same screen resolution.

You should also check your Zoom setting for the workbook. It could be that the column widths aren't changing at all, but that the Zoom setting is. This would make the columns appear to be a compressed width, even though they aren't.

Finally, it could also be that there are elements in the workbook that are forcing Excel to change column widths when they are automatically calculated. There have been reports of elements such as PivotTables and graphics causing column widths to change automatically.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (1980) 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: Countering Compressed Columns.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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