Reduce start up tasks by customizing the way Excel launches

Reduce tedious and repetitive start up chores by customizing the way Excel launches.

Customizing Excel's environment is one way to work more efficiently. Further customizing Excel by controlling the way it opens can also reduce repetitive tasks, thereby increasing productivity. There are a few easy tweaks your users might benefit from when launching Excel:

  • Open a specific workbook
  • Open with no workbook
  • Open with a custom template

Open a specific workbook

Users who work with just one workbook can save a few keystrokes if  Excel opens that workbook when launching. To do so, simply store the workbook in the XLStart folder, which you'll probably find in the following directory:

  • Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\user name\Application Data\Microsoft\Excel\XLStart
  • Windows Vista: C:\Users\user name\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Excel\XLStart
  • Windows 7: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office

Save the workbook as you would any other, but specify the XLStart folder in the Save In control. Once you do, Excel will always open that workbook, instead of a blank workbook, when launching.

Open with no notebook

This is an odd request, but still, some users prefer not to open any workbook, even a new blank one, when launching Excel. There's no built-in setting to enable this behavior, but you can create a shortcut icon and use a switch, as follows:

  1. Using Windows Explorer, find Excel.exe in the Microsoft Office subfolder (C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office).
  2. Right-click Excel.exe and select Create Shortcut. Excel will create a new shortcut icon, which you'll find at the bottom of the list of files in the current folder.
  3. Right-click the shortcut icon and choose Properties.
  4. Click the Shortcut tab.
  5. Click in the Target field and add a space, followed by the /e switch to the current path.
  6. Click OK.

Most likely, you'll want to move the shortcut icon to the user's Desktop. You can do so by right-clicking the icon and choosing Send To, and then selecting Desktop. You must train your users to use this shortcut icon to launch Excel with no workbook - that is the one drawback to this simple technique.

Open with a custom template

A custom template is a great way to reduce formatting tasks and to apply your organization's conventions. To save a workbook as the default template, create the workbook, setting all the appropriate properties and options. Then, save the workbook as you normally would, but choose Excel Template (.xltx) from the Save In dropdown. Name the workbook Book, and save the workbook to the XLStart folder; don't save it to the default Template folder as you would other templates.


Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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