A Ruler in Excel

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 22, 2018)

It seems odd that Word allows you to display an on-screen ruler, but Excel does not. Perhaps it is because you can scale Excel so that you can make whatever you want fit on any size page; perhaps not. Whatever the reason, you are left to your own devices to come up with a way to "measure" whatever you place on the screen.

One way you can approach the problem is to simply use your own physical ruler to determine on-screen measurements. This may seem strange, but it works pretty well. Try this:

  1. Open a new worksheet.
  2. Change the font used in the worksheet to Courier New.
  3. Change the width of each column to 12.
  4. Place a number one (a single digit) in columns A through G.
  5. Print the sheet.

If you get out your ruler, you should find that the digits on the printed page are about one inch apart. If they are not, then you can adjust the column widths and print again, until they are very close to an inch apart.

Now, hold the ruler up to the screen and measure the distance between the digits. Reduce the zoom setting for the screen until the digits are very close to an inch apart. (On my system, I needed to set the zoom at 82%.)

That's it. You can now use the ruler to figure out horizontal measurements on the screen. Even if you change the column widths or change the font, the zoom setting is what counts. In my case, every time I set my magnification at 82%, I can rest assured that what I see on screen is a very close approximation of what will print.

You can also use the same general approach to create your own graphic ruler. For instance, you could use a screen capture of the ruler in Word, and then size it to match the settings you made above. The graphic is "overlaid" on the screen (the same as you would do with a physical ruler), and therefore serves the same function.

Obviously, either of these workarounds takes a little trial and error. Hopefully, just about the time you get an approach figured out, Microsoft will release a version of Excel that has built-in rulers.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2484) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Assigning a Shortcut Key to Styles

Shortcut keys are a great way to apply styles to text in a document. You can easily create a shortcut key assignment for ...

Discover More

Fonts in WordArt

Want to make sure that people can view your WordArt as you intended? Then you'll want to make sure that you follow these ...

Discover More

Selecting a Range of Cells Relative to the Current Cell

When processing information in a macro, you often need to select different cells relative to the currently selected ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Hiding a Huge Number of Rows

Need to hide a large number of rows? It's easy to do if you combine a few keyboard shortcuts. Here are several techniques ...

Discover More

Viewing More than Two Places in a Worksheet

If your worksheet gets big enough, it is easy to spend a lot of time navigating back and forth between different areas. ...

Discover More

Determining Your Serial Number

The serial number assigned to your copy of Excel is valuable. It allows you to get support and is necessary for some ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is six minus 6?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.