When Excel Starts, Nothing Shows

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated February 19, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


4

When Helen starts Excel, it doesn't show anything—no worksheet, no headers, no anything. This is confusing to Helen, as she would like Excel to start with a new, blank workbook.

There are several reasons that this could be happening in Excel. The first thing is very easy—just restart your computer. This is always a good idea to make sure that there is nothing inadvertently in memory that could be causing the issue.

If that doesn't work for you, and you are starting Excel by double-clicking a shortcut, then you need to check something in how the shortcut is put together. Get out of Excel and do the following:

  1. Locate the shortcut icon on the desktop that you use to start Excel.
  2. Right-click on the shortcut icon and choose Properties from the resulting Context menu. Excel displays the Properties dialog box for the shortcut.
  3. Make sure the Shortcut tab is displayed.
  4. Check what is shown in the Target field. If there is a /e switch at the end of the command line, remove it. (The /e switch causes Excel to open in "embed mode," which means nothing shows.)
  5. Click OK to close the dialog box.

Now when you double-click on the shortcut, Excel should start normally and you should see the screen that allows you to specify if you want to start with a blank workbook, a previously opened workbook, or a new workbook based on a template. (This is the normal way Excel is supposed to open.)

If you want to just open a blank worksheet and bypass the screen just mentioned, you can do so by following these steps:

  1. Start Excel and make sure there is a workbook open. (Doesn't matter which one; you just need to have a workbook open.)
  2. Display the Excel Options dialog box. (In Excel 2007 click the Office button and then click Excel Options. In Excel 2010 and later versions display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  3. Make sure that General is clicked at the left side of the dialog box. (It should be selected by default.)
  4. Clear the Show the Start screen when this Application Starts option. (You'll need to scroll down in the dialog box to see it. This option is under the Start Up Options category.)
  5. Click OK.

Now you should be able to restart Excel and bypass the default options. Instead, you should see a blank workbook, automatically.

Finally, there is one other thing you can check. Your system could be configured such that the default workbook (the one that appears whenever you start Excel or open a new workbook) is hidden. This is easy enough to check—just start Excel and display the View tab of the ribbon. If the Unhide tool (in the Window group) is available, it means that there is a hidden workbook. Click the tool, and you can see if that workbook is named one of the default names, such as Book1 or Book2.

If you find that this is an issue on your system, the fix is a bit more complex. You should first use Windows to open the XLStart folder. (This is where the user-defined default workbook is stored.) You can use the search capabilities of Windows to locate the folder on your system. Its exact location can vary depending on how Excel was installed on your system, as well as the version of Excel you are using. For most modern versions of Excel, this is the default path for the folder:

C:\Users\"your name"\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Excel\XLSTART\

In this path, "your name" is a placeholder for your actual Windows username. You should also note that the AppData folder is hidden, by default. This means that to access the folder, you'll need to enable the display of hidden files on your Windows system. You can do that by following this tip, over on the WindowsTips site:

https://windows.tips.net/T011964

Once you navigate to the XLStart folder, you should see a file in there called either Book.xltx or Book.xltm. (The extension depends on whether the workbook contains macros or not.) This workbook is the default used whenever you open a blank workbook. You'll need to open it, in Excel, but in doing so you won't see anything—remember that it is hidden. You can display the View tab of the ribbon, click Unhide, and choose to unhide the workbook. Immediately save it again. Now any new, blank workbooks will be visible, as you would expect.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10424) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

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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Comments

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What is 8 - 3?

2022-03-19 11:07:08

John Mann

In my Excel 2010, there in no option "Show the Start screen when this Application Starts" in the General tab of Options, in fact there isn't very much at all, just a few lines using maybe 1/3 of the screen height. It makes no difference whether I have a new blank workbook, and actively used workbook, or no workbook at all - I get the same limited options in General tab.
My copy of Excel 2010 always starts with a blank workbook when I start is from a desktop shortcut (no switches in the shortcut command line).

Does the setting Allen described exist elsewhere in Excel 2010, or only in later versions?


2022-02-19 15:47:55

Tomek

Sorry for the messy posting; here is the corrected one
There are actually two locations for the startup Book.xlt? file. The other one is:
    C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Root\Office16\XLSTART\
or if you have 64 bit office:
    C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Root\Office16\XLSTART\

If there is a Book.xlt? file in there, it will take precedence over the one in the User Startup location.

For more info see:
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/customize-how-excel-starts-6509b9af-2cc8-4fb6-9ef5-cf5f1d292c19#bkmk_xlstart


2022-02-19 15:45:14

Tomek

There are actually two locations for the startup Book.xlt? file. The other one is:

bsp
bsp
bsp
bspC:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Root\Office16\XLSTART\
or if you have 64 bit office:

bsp
bsp
bsp
bspC:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Root\Office16\XLSTART\

If there is a Book.xlt? file in there, it will take precedence over the one in the User Startup location.

For more info see:
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/customize-how-excel-starts-6509b9af-2cc8-4fb6-9ef5-cf5f1d292c19#bkmk_xlstart


2022-02-19 06:59:58

Alex B

The shortcut for C:\Users\"your name"\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Excel\XLSTART\
being:-
%AppData%\microsoft\excel\xlstart


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