Excel Print Ranges
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What Range will Print?

Many users are not quite sure exactly how Excel determines what range to print when the Printer Tool used. Here's a quick review: 

  • If you do not highlight a range and click the Print Tool, the entire sheet will be printed. 

  • If you highlight a range to be printed and click the Print Tool; the entire sheet will be printed, the highlighting of the range is ignored by Excel. 

  • If you highlight a range and click on File Print (in the menu), click on the Selection choice, then the highlighted range will be printed. 
By default, Excel prints the entire sheet. Take a look at the Print Dialog box.  Note the selection defaults to Active Sheet(s), which means the entire sheet. 

    A Portion of the File Print dialog box 



As mentioned above, Excel prints the entire sheet by default as Active Sheet(s) is always the default and cannot be changed by the user until your open this dialog box. 

Clicking on the Printer Tool , is the same as  File Print (in the menu) and, as we have already seen, the entire sheet will print. 

The reason for this is that Excel assumes the user has one print range on a sheet and it is saving you time by having Active Sheet(s) pre-selected. If you do no not select a range to print, Excel determines the location of all cells that contains data and prints them. There is no need to highlight the range, Excel knows where all the data is. This is a great feature, assuming you only have one print range! 

Now, let's assume you have two print ranges, perhaps Division 1 Sales in the range A1:G50 and Division 2 Sales in the range A75:G130.  Even though you think of your sheet having two print ranges, Excel thinks you have one: A1:G130. When you select File Print (or click on the Print Tool), both divisions will print (and any blank cells in between. The trick here is to highlight the desired print range and define it as the Print Area. 

Now, back to the basic rule that Excel prints the entire sheet. This is not entirely true. If no Print Area has been set, then the entire sheet is printed. But, if a Print Area has been set, then Selected Sheet(s) means print only the Print Area on that sheet. 

So now your printing procedures are to:

  • Select the range to print 
  • Click on File (in the menu), Print Area, Set Print Area. 
  • Click on the Print Tool, only the Print Area will print. 
Let's say that Division 1 is the Print Area. You now select the range for Division 2.  What will print when you click on the Tool Bar? 

Division 1 will print as it is the Print Area. The only way to print Division 2 would be to select the range and then click on File Print (in the menu) and click on Selection or set this new range as your Print Area. 

In Review 

I hope this explanation was not too wordy, but I have seen countless users, both at their workstations and in training classes not understanding these concepts. In summary:

  • Set the PrintArea by clicking on File (in the menu), Print Area, Set Print Area, then all future print jobs will print only that range (on a particular sheet). 

  • If you desire to print a range that is not the Print Area, select that range and then select Selection in the File Print dialog box. 

These steps work in Excel 95 and later.  Excel 5 does not have a Set Print area menu selection, making this task more difficult. 

To remove the Print Area simply click on  Clear Print  Area menu choice 

Print Area is a Defined (range) Name which shows up in the Name List as Print_Area and can be treated accordingly. Other articles discuss Defined Names in more detail. 

For those users who use Defined Names the following is good set of procedure for printing:

  • GoTo (Edit GoTo or F5) the desired named range. As a result, the entire range is highlighted. 
  • Set the Print Area 
  • Print
By getting into this routine, your will work much faster and will spend very little time look for the cells to print and the highlighting is automatic.