Opening Two Workbooks at Once

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 9, 2019)

Bill has two workbooks in which he does most of his work during the day. He wonders if there is a way to open these two workbooks at the same time, rather than needing to open them individually.

There are many, many ways you can do this. In this tip I'm just going to examine eight (!) different ways you can have them open at the same time. Some of these methods involve the use of Windows and others involve just Excel.

Using File Explorer

You know you can open an Excel workbook directly from Windows by simply double-clicking the workbook name. If you want to open multiple workbooks, follow these steps:

  1. In a File Explorer window, navigate to the folder containing the workbooks.
  2. Select the first workbook you want to open by clicking on it.
  3. Hold down the Ctrl key as you click on the second workbook you want to open. Both workbooks should now be selected in the dialog box.
  4. Right-click either of the selected workbooks. You should see a Context menu appear.
  5. Choose Open from the Context menu.

Configuring Windows for Automatic Starting

When Windows goes through its startup procedures, it does a lot of work. One of the things it does (among many others) is to open whatever files or run whatever programs are stored in a special Startup folder. To display this folder, open a File Explorer window and type the following:

shell:Startup

When you press Enter, you should see a folder similar to the following. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Startup folder.

There may be many or only a few items in the folder. If you want, you can create shortcuts to your two workbooks and place those shortcuts in this special Startup folder. The next time Windows is started, the two workbooks will be automatically opened.

You should note that this approach works only when you start Windows after having previously completely shut down. If you simply put your PC to sleep, the Startup folder doesn't come into play when the PC awakens.

Using a Batch File

Batch files are the "old school" way of automating a series of commands, dating all the way back to the advent of DOS. They still work great, though, and you can create a batch file that will open two workbooks. All you need to do is use Notepad to create a text file that contains the following two lines:

start MyWorkbook1.xlsx
start MyWorkbook2.xlsx

Obviously, you should change the names of the workbooks to reflect the names of the workbooks you want to open. When you save the text file, rename it to something descriptive, such as this:

OpenBooks.bat

Note the change of the filename extension from txt to bat; this is critical. Once renamed, you can double-click the batch file and it should run and open the workbooks.

Using the Open Dialog Box

We are all familiar with the Open dialog box; it is what is often used in Excel to, well, open files. Using the dialog box, you can open multiple workbooks at once, in a manner that is similar to how you open multiple files in Windows. Just follow these steps:

  1. Display the Open dialog box. This can be more confusing than you might think because how you do it differs based on your version of Excel. In Excel 2007 and Excel 2010, just press Ctrl+O. In Excel 2013 press Ctrl+O and then click Computer | Browse. In Excel 2016 press Ctrl+O and then click This PC | Browse. In Excel 2019 or Office 365 press Ctrl+O and then click on Browse.
  2. Select the first workbook you want to open by clicking on it.
  3. Hold down the Ctrl key as you click on the second workbook you want to open. Both workbooks should now be selected in the dialog box.
  4. Click the Open button.

Using the XLSTART Folder

Excel has a special folder that is traditionally known as the XLSTART folder. Any workbooks placed in this folder are automatically opened whenever you start Excel. The trick can be to find the XLSTART folder, because it isn't always in the same location on every system.

The easiest way to find the folder is to use the search capabilities of Windows itself. (Do this while Excel is not running.) Once located, you have two options:

  • Move the two workbooks into the XLSTART folder.
  • Create shortcuts to the two workbooks and place the shortcuts into the XLSTART folder.

Either way, when you next start Excel, the two desired workbooks should open as you desire.

Configuring Excel to Open the Workbooks

This approach is easy to accomplish within Excel. Just create a new folder and move the two workbooks into that folder. Then, within Excel, follow these steps:

  1. Display the Excel Options dialog box. (In Excel 2007 click the Office button and then click Excel Options. In Excel 2010 or a later version display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the dialog box click Advanced.
  3. Scroll down until you see the General section. (See Figure 2.)
  4. Figure 2. The General section of the Advanced Excel Options.

  5. In the "At Startup, Open All Files In" box, specify the full path to the folder in which you placed your workbooks.
  6. Click OK.

Now, the next time you start Excel, those two workbooks (and anything else in that folder) should open automatically. If the workbooks don't open, check to make sure that you put the correct path into the field in step 4.

Using a Macro

There are actually two approaches you can use when it comes to macros. The first is to create a macro that explicitly opens both workbooks. It should look very similar to the following:

Sub OpenMyWorkbooks()
    Workbooks.Open Filename:="C:\Users\Harry\Documents\Book1.xlsx"
    Workbooks.Open Filename:="C:\Users\Harry\Documents\Book2.xlsx"
    Windows.Arrange (xlArrangeStyleTiled)
End Sub

Just change the full pathnames to the workbooks you want to open, and then run the macro when you want them to open. You can even, if desired, configure Excel so the macro is available on the ribbon or assign it to a shortcut key.

The second approach is a variation on the forgoing macro—name it Workbook_Open and place it in the ThisWorkbook module of your Personal.xlsb workbook. Then, whenever you start Excel the two workbooks will automatically be opened.

Using a Workspace

If you are using either Excel 2007 or Excel 2010 you can create a workspace that uses your two workbooks. (Workspaces were removed from Excel with the release of Excel 2013.)

  1. Open the two workbooks you use the most often. (It is best if they are the only open workbooks.)
  2. Display the View tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click the Save Workspace tool (in the Windows group.)
  4. Use the controls in the dialog box to specify a name and location for your workspace.
  5. Click Save.

The workspace file is saved with the filename extension XLW. You can, within Windows, double-click the workspace file and Excel starts and opens both of the workbooks in the workspace.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (13698) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365.

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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