Monday, June 9, 2014

Screen Size, Font, and Format Choices

Formatting choices are sometimes underrated in their importance when working with spreadsheets, but they deserve to be thought through with the same scrutiny as any other spreadsheet element, and chosen deliberately.

I decided to pursue this topic after thinking about why I designed Pagemonth Budget's workspace to be sized as it is.  All format choices, after all, are up to the user, and I could have maximized the workspace just as easily, or arranged the month pages horizontally instead of vertically and so on, but I wanted the workspace to be vertically arranged so that I could break each month into three screens and land in the same cell position in the next or previous month by using the pageup and pagedown keys.  That makes editing and locating much easier than full screen editing.

I also wanted to be able to see my desktop icons as I edited and viewed my workspace, so that I could visit other sites and return quickly to exactly where I had left.  The same reasoning guided my choices of font size and style--with the added need to be legible and viewable with the most comfort and without squinting or excessive scrolling.

Why three vertical screens per month?  Because Pagemonth Budget needed to print out as standard size notebook sheets for convenient review, and each monthpage is higher than it is wide.  Computer screens, conversely, are wider than they are high.  Position, ease of use, efficiency and other factors guided my formatting choices for the Pagemonth Budget workspace design.

I cite this example because each user's format choices will also benefit from careful selection.  Full screens are the normal view for most needs, but when things get hidden by the taskbar and the user must move it to the top or sides to see what he is editing, full screens are a hindrance and a "framed" workspace serves best.

These matters are why we begin the Setup Page on our website with the advice to "First, size your workspace to look like this:" and the view in figure 1:  about 21 1/2 rows high and column P wide.
It has shown itself to be the best format for editing, viewing, printing and binding our spreadsheet's design.

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