Picking a Workbook Format

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 21, 2015)


Kristine e-mails an Excel workbook to multiple users with different computers, some Mac and some Windows, and different e-mail systems (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc.). Whenever she sends out the workbook, there is always someone that cannot print it like she sent it, so she is wondering which format is the best to use for the workbook in order to ensure the widest number of people being able to access it.

In order to figure out what the best format is, you'll need to find out which versions of Excel are being used by your recipients. Once you have that information, you should use a "least common denominator" approach—choose the version of Excel that is the oldest. If the oldest version is Excel 2007, you can get away with using XLSX files, but if someone is using Excel 2003 or older, you'll need to use XLS format.

Of course, you'll want to balance this approach against the nature of the data and formulas in your workbook. It will do you no good to use an XLS format if you use formulas that rely on worksheet functions introduced in later versions of Excel. If this is the case for your workbooks, the only solution is to have your users upgrade to newer versions of Excel or redo your workbook's formulas to not use the newer functions.

If the users don't really need to use the workbook (they don't need to enter or change data) and all they need to do is print out the workbook, then that is a different kettle of fish. In such a case it isn't just the version of Excel you need to worry about, but what version of Windows, what printer drivers, and what printers they are using. Excel can modify how it prints based upon any of these factors, which means that a worksheet may print differently on one system than on another based upon these components.

That being said, if the users only need to print, you should consider not sending out the Excel workbook at all. Instead, create a PDF file of the workbook on your system and then send the PDF file out. You have a greater chance of the printouts matching from differing systems when printing a PDF versus printing the original workbook.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10159) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013.

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. ...


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What is six more than 8?

2015-03-23 05:42:31

S Hopkins

E-mail is the easiest.
My address: Wedgolf@gmail.com

2015-03-22 07:07:04

Kid Blast

s Hopkins,

Where can I obtain this 165kb excel/vba worksheet please?


2015-03-21 12:19:50

s hopkins

I have users working under ALL M/S opsys's from XP to Win 10, and Excel from 97 to 365.
Many times it's important to know What version of both are being used - especially when an error condition arises.
I have a short routine that identifies Windows operating system, Excel Version and Email application. This doesn't help much with printer conditions, however.
It's an 165 KB Excel/VBA Worksheet, and available.

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