How to Reduce the Size of an Excel Workbook

By Carol Luther

The Microsoft Excel spreadsheet software has many great features for users. Unfortunately, some of these features can cause the files created by this program to grow to unmanageable sizes quickly. When the file size is large, calculations are slow and the program may crash frequently. Reduce the size of Microsoft Excel Workbooks by limiting some features that use a lot of memory.

Step 1

Delete the extra default worksheets in a new Excel workbook. Each new workbook that Excel creates has three worksheets (Sheet1, Sheet2 and Sheet3). These sheets require additional memory and space on the hard drive when you save your workbook. Right click on the name tab (at the bottom of the workbook) for the second worksheet. Then choose Delete from the pop-up context menu. Repeat these steps to delete the third worksheet.

Step 2

Reduce the size of graphics, line art or smart art that you have inserted or imported into the workbook. Graphics quickly increase the size of every saved Excel file. Click on any embedded graphic object to activate the Picture Tools menu. Compress, crop or decrease the color saturation and resolution of jpeg, gif, bmp, tiff and png files. You can also use an external graphics program to resize clipart and other file formats, and then insert the smaller sized object into your workbook.

Step 3

Use TrueType fonts as the default font for your Excel worksheet labels. Custom fonts require additional memory allocations. Excel stores the instructions for your printer in the workbook. Therefore, your file size will increase with each custom font.

Step 4

Apply text formats such as bold, italics and colors to individual cells only. If you select a row or column when adding formats, Excel applies the formatting to all cells in the selection. Since Excel has more than 200 columns and thousands of rows, the formatting will use Random Access Memory to manage the formats for the rows and columns.

Step 5

Eliminate unnecessary comments, text boxes and other enhancements such as watermarks, cell shading and borders. All of them require additional space when you save the file. Headers, footers, page numbers, charts, hyperlinks, tables and range names in formulas also increase the size of an Excel workbook. Printing options such as gridline displays and repeated row and column headings can also be eliminated to reduce the size of your workbook.

Step 6

Save your workbook in PDF format. This option is included in Excel 2007; most earlier versions require an add-in that you must download. Choose Save As in the File menu in Excel versions through 2003. It is under the Microsoft Office Button menu (left of Home) in Excel 2007. Select PDF from the menu. Then select the Optimize for minimum size radio button in the file Save dialog box. This creates a smaller PDF file that is ready to email or publish online.

Tips & Warnings

  • Save your file after each change that you make. Use Excel's Save As command to give your test file a different name as you experiment with the options.
  • Use Windows Explorer or another file manager to see the difference in the file's size after each save.