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.


In Windows 7 the path will be C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\XLSTART But if there are more than one user it is preferable to use the path under the user path: C:\Users\[i][user name][/i]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Excel\XLSTART Also I am not a network specialist but the fact that Roaming is in the past may suggest that if a user log in another PC his/her setup will follow.


If you save the same template as Sheet.xltx it will use the same formatting every time you create a new sheet. This way I ensure, for example, that if I create a simple spreadsheet and print it, it does at least come out landscape with a simple but useful header and footer. The standard portrait formatting that you get with Excel is almost never what I want. (If working in a different language, the standard names are different: Buch.xltx and Tabelle.xltx work for German) The other thing to go into my XLStart is Personal.xlsm with some useful little macros that I use all the time. This works best if the file is set up to be hidden so it is not confused with what you are really working on. By the way, I always use the "Open with no Workbook" option. More often than not, I will be working on an existing Excel file and do not want always to have to close an empty workbook just to get it out of the way.


Can this be done with Word as well? I assumed it could since I found the following folder in the file structure: C:\Documents and Settings\user name\Application Data\Microsoft\Word\STARTUP. When I saved my file there, it wasn't automatically opened when I launched Word. Any ideas? Additionally, Word doesn't appear to have the workspaces functionality. Am I overlooking something?


You can use the workspaces feature to open multiple files when Excel launches. Once you have all of the files open that you want Excel to open upon startup, go to the View tab and select Save Workspace. Save the workspace in the appropriate startup folder, as outlined in Susan's article. Next time you launch Excel, it will automatically open the files associated with that workspace.

Full Tao-er
Full Tao-er

At work, I frequently open spreadsheets with links to two other reference spreadsheets. In my experience, links sometimes have hiccups when the source spreadsheets are not open prior to opening the spreadsheet I want to work with. I created a workspace (found on the View tab in Excel 2010) using the two reference spreadsheets, then made a shortcut to that workspace that I keep on my desktop (WinXP.) I open it first before opening any spreadsheets that link to either of the reference spreadsheets. No more hiccups.


I'm sure I've written about this, but I couldn't find the specific blog entry. Use the pathname\filename switch.

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