About Excel Utilities

A utility isn't an end product, such as a quarterly report. Rather, it's a tool that helps you produce an end product. An Excel utility is (almost always) an add-in that enhances Excel with new features or capabilities.

Excel is a great product, but many users soon develop a wish-list of features that they would like to see added to the software. For example, some users prefer to turn off the dotted-line page break display, and they want a feature that toggles this attribute so that they don't have to scroll through the Excel Options dialog box looking for the command. Users who work with dates might want a pop-up calendar feature to facilitate entering dates into cells. And some users desire an easier way to export a range of data to a separate file. These are all examples of features that aren't currently available in Excel. You can, however, add these features by creating a utility.

Utilities don't need to be complicated. Some of the most useful ones are actually very simple. For example, the following VBA procedure is a utility that toggles the page break display in the active window:

Sub TogglePageBreaks() With ActiveSheet

.DisplayPageBreaks = Not .DisplayPageBreaks End With End Sub

You can store this macro in your Personal Macro Workbook so that it's always available. Or you may prefer to package your favorite utilities in an add-in. For quicker access, you can assign your utility macros to a shortcut key, a right-click shortcut menu, or even modify the Ribbon.

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