Excel tips series: How to create beautiful Excel tables in seconds


Dave Sellick Founder, Sidgrove

Excel is still used regularly by accountants yet many are self taught and are missing out on lots of useful tricks!

To help us learn some more useful Excel functions, Dave Sellick will be giving us a great "Excel Top Tip" in each issue so we can learn how to really use Excel well. Dave is a super user of Excel and believes it is an absolute game changer and a central part of every accountant's toolkit - even in 2020.

In this issue, Dave shares with us how to prepare a table with a shadow in Excel to really revolutionise reports for your clients. The end result looks amazing!

A bit about Dave

  • I am the founder of a purpose led accounting practice & consultancy based in London called Sidgrove, working exclusively with founder-owned businesses & scaling startups. I initially trained in audit with PwC in banking, before moving into industry for around 6 years with numerous scaling startups; I’ve been running Sidgrove full time for just over a year.
  • I’ve spent more hours than is probably healthy🤦‍♂️😂 working with Excel 📊as an Accountant over the last 12 years in both industry and practice. During that time I’ve continued to push the boundaries 😇 of how it can be used to deliver efficiencies and superior insights to my clients.
  • My Excel journey really took off 🚀during my time as a Head of Finance of various startup businesses, where efficiency🛠, quality commercial insights 📈& creative presentation🌈 was imperative.
  • I’ve now taken all this experience into my practice, Sidgrove, 💪🏼where amongst a wide suite of software and hardware tools, it is still my most prized day-to-day tool 🏆and canvas ✒.
  • I believe Excel is still an absolute game changer 💯🚀and it needs to stay centre stage in the Accountant’s Toolset, even in 2020.
  • However, I know the full functionally of Excel can seem daunting many accountants 😨so I am starting a top tips series to help you get the best out of Excel’s most relevant functionality for Accountancy in the modern-day 😊.

💡How to create a beautiful Excel table in seconds

  • Formating 🎨 is so important ❗; not only do clients need to be engaged in our financial insight but so do we and our staff
  • Here are a few steps you can take to transform 🛠 any Excel table in seconds Super simple, but super effective
  • Let’s start with a basic, boring 🤦‍♂️ table like this:

1. Turn off gridlines...always!

  • Turning these off immediately creates more engagement 🙌🏼 around what you’re actually creating in the spreadsheet; in this case a table
  • Shortcut sequence⌨: alt - w - v - g
  • Or go to ‘View’ and ‘untick the ‘Gridlines’ box

  • That's a little bit better!

2. Transform the Header into a dark fill with a white font

  • Select the ‘Home’ tab then select the fill and font dropdowns

3. Change the body of the table into dotted line borders

This adds a more subtle, aesthetic border 👌🏼 - It is also a gamechanger if you print to PDF at a later stage - Try printing a dotted border and then ‘normal’ bordered table to PDF and you’ll see what I mean🙈!

  • Select the body of the table

  • Navigate to the borders section and select the second drop-down on border style

❗It’ll bring up the border draw function; press Esc to exit this

  • Select all borders

4. Apply Formatting to the total row

  • Select the total row and apply a light grey formatting

  • Apply a top & thick bottom border style

Done… but if you want to go a little further 🤓:

5. Add white borders to the header

  • Navigate to the border line colour section and change it to white

❗It’ll bring up the border draw function; press Esc to exit this

  • Select the top header and then select the all borders style in the borders dropdown

🎉 You should now have a table that looks something like this 💥

❗ I’ll be covering off how to get rid of those unnecessary 0’s in a later tip walkthrough!


Add a shadow to transform important tables and visuals 💡

  • This is so simple, but it can completely transform the looks of your graphics and tables in seconds

I’ve been loving this little hack recently, so it made sense to share it.

1. Adding Shadow to a tables

  • Here’s our table before adding shadow

  • Looking pretty good, but let’s say I want to make it pop a bit more because I’m presenting it in a report to an important Client/Board of Directors

i) Insert a rectangle shape

ii) Resize the rectangle around the edge of the table 👉🏼 Tip: hold ‘alt’ (or ‘cmd’ on a Mac) whilst doing this to snap to the table edge

iii) Change the fill to no fill iv) Change the border outline to black v) Put a shadow shape effect on the border

  • Either effect should work here - you can experiment with the shadow types 👌🏼

🎉 You should now have a table that looks something like this; a table with a little more ‘je ne sais quoi’ 💯

2. Adding Shadows to Graphs/Visuals

i) Select the outside border

ii) Add a Shadow

  • As in part 1) navigate to ‘Format’ 👉🏼 ‘ Shape Effects’ 👉🏼 ‘Shadow’

  • You should get a before/after result like this 🙌🏼

Thanks for reading, I'll be ready with more tips for you next time 🙌🏼

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