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Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
Volume 14 Issue 6
June 2020
Word & Excel: How to Fit Your Document onto One Page

The problem

Has this ever happened to you? You've got a Microsoft Word document that you'd really like to fit into one page, but your text spills over onto a second page. Or, your Excel spreadsheet has a few rows that cross over to a second page below or a few columns that print on a page to the right, or both. Read on for my advice on how you might be able to fit your information onto a single page.

Before you start editing:
  • Bear in mind that this is more of an art than a science.
  • Make a backup copy of your document first in case something goes wrong.
Techniques that work in both Word and Excel

There are many things you can do in any program:
  • Reduce the margins: Smaller left and right margins will make the most difference by making more horizontal room for your text. Smaller top and bottom margins will help a little, but be sure to leave room for any header and footer text.
  • Combine the header and footer: If your title, page numbers, date, etc. could all fit into one area then combine them, which will enable you to make the margin for the now-empty top or bottom area smaller.
  • Your printer vs. someone else's: If you're keeping this document to yourself, you can make the margins as small as your own printer permits. However, if you're going to share this document with someone else electronically, be considerate and don't use margins smaller than 0.75 inches (1 inch is even better) in order to avoid causing printer problems on their end.
  • Page Setup: Change the orientation from Portrait (tall) to Landscape (wide). Note that this may in turn require you to adjust paragraph "tab stops" in Word, especially right-aligned tabs that you intended to be at or near the right margin.
  • Try a smaller font size.
  • Try a narrower (or sans-serif) font.
  • Review and edit your content: Rephrase, use fewer or simpler words. Start with any paragraph whose final line has only one or two words. Consider hyphenating longer words to better fit the space.
  • Smaller images: Make any embedded photos and pictures smaller while preserving their aspect ratios.
  • Move some of your information into a separate, "Part 2" document as appropriate.
  • Last resort: Reduce the Page Setup "Scale" percentage (if permitted) from 100% to a lower number, which will reduce how the document prints.
  • Don't confuse that with the on-screen "Zoom" option, which enlarges or reduces the size of the document on-screen but has no effect on how it prints.
To monitor whether you're making any progress, save paper by using Print Preview.

Techniques unique to Word

In Microsoft Word:
  • Reduce vertical whitespace: Remove blank lines or empty paragraphs, reduce paragraph spacing (the space before, space after, or spacing between lines), or use alternate methods like indenting or bullets or numbering or paragraph borders or other ways to visually separate sections of your text.
  • Delete any blank lines or paragraphs that might have accumulated at the end of your document. This is a common problem, especially in Word documents that have been edited over a long period of time.
Techniques unique to Excel

In Microsoft Excel:
  • Page Setup: Use the "Fit to 1 page wide by 99 pages tall" option, which makes Excel calculate the overall scale percentage to fit all columns onto one horizontal page (not just once, but on an ongoing basis as you make changes to your Worksheet), and gives you more flexibility than choosing "1 page wide by 1 page tall."
  • If your Workbook (your Excel document) contains multiple Worksheets (each spreadsheet layer within your document), note that Page Setup only applies to the current Worksheet, unless you select multiple Worksheets first.
  • Reduce vertical and horizontal whitespace: Adjust row widths and columns heights; if you use empty rows or columns as separators then try reducing them, or use cell borders (lines) instead.
  • Autofit your columns and rows: This function lets you minimize whitespace by "shrink-wrapping" each column's width and row's height to its current contents.
  • Word-wrap: For cells containing text, try the "Wrap text" cell formatting option.
  • Delete or Hide rows or columns that are unnecessary or redundant.
Microsoft Word techniques that I do not recommend

Word has a special "Shrink to Fit" function; in older versions it's part of Print Preview, in newer versions it takes a few step to reveal it. Clicking it will immediately make your document one page shorter by reducing the font size of every piece of text throughout your document, without removing any of your text.

For example, if your document uses a 12-point font, "Shrink to Fit" might reduce all of your text to 11- or 10-point, just enough to make your document one page shorter. If you click it again, it might reduce your text to 7- or 6-point to shorten your document by another page. If you use a variety of font sizes, it will proportionally reduce each size. This is a quick and expedient approach that (after you Save changes and close) will permanently change your document, but it may also cause other problems. Instead, you can probably make better choices yourself with manual editing as I've suggested above.

Also, Word's Font dialog has Character Spacing options that let you squeeze characters closer together, including scaling (by percentage) and spacing (by point). Instead, I recommend a simpler approach: Try a smaller font size, or switch to a font with a narrower design, or both.

Where to go from here
  • google: fit word document onto one page
  • google: fit excel spreadsheet onto one page
  • google: how to shorten and improve your writing
How to contact me:
email: martin@kadansky.com
phone: (617) 484-6657
web: http://www.kadansky.com

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I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.

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