Formatting Cells, Rows, & Columns – Google Sheets

A well-formatted spreadsheet shows the meaning of its data clearly and concisely. With the techniques we discuss in this tutorial, your spreadsheet will be easier to read, bringing attention to the parts that matter most.

Default Formatting

All spreadsheets apply default formatting depending on the type of data in each cell.

Different data types with different default alignments
Default Alignment

The four cells outlined in red are unformatted.

  • Text values align to the left
  • Numbers align to the right
  • Errors middle align
  • Boolean value middle align

For a small spreadsheet, you don’t need to change the formatting. But, even in the example above, the center alignment and bottom border for the header row let the user know the first row is not part of the data table below.

Video Tutorial

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Basic Table Formatting

The table in the image below is the table we are starting with. Get your copy of this spreadsheet to follow along.

A spreadsheet table with no formatting
Table with No Formatting

Make Your Title Stand Out

First, let’s show that the title of Sample Data applies to the whole table. We can do this by making the text larger and centering it among all the columns.

As shown in the animation, you can format the title with these steps.

  • Select the cells you want to merge, A1:E1 in this example.
    • Click the Merge cells button on the toolbar.
  • Click on the Horizontal align drop-down and choose Center.
  • Choose Font size and change the value to 14.
  • Finally, click on Bold to make the font heavier.

Style the Table

Now let’s move on to data in rows 2 through 7. The header in row 2 and the footer in row 7 do not stand out from the rest of the data. To fix this, let’s start with the built-in tools that Google Sheets gives us to make this task easy.

Alternating Colors

Now we have a table with the header, body, and footer clearly indicated. This image explains that the header is the row above the data, the body is the data, and the footer contains additional information such as, in this case, a total.

A table with the header, body, and footer being pointed out
Parts of a Table

Header Alignment and Border

Let’s make a few more improvements to the header row. The dark green color applied in the previous step helps to accentuate the headers. However, the column labels will look better if we center them and use a bottom border.

Cell border and alignment menus
Menus for Cell Borders and Alignment

Both the cell borders and alignment options lead to drop-downs with more choices. Choose Bottom border and Center alignment.

Centered labels and a bottom border
Fully Formatted Header

Notice the black border under row 2. This border creates a visual separation between the data’s header and the body. The center alignment of the labels in row 2 makes them look more prominent than the body below. Now we’ll style the table’s footer.

Footer Border and Weight

Start by selecting the footer row. Selecting the footer row allows us to change the cell borders between rows 6 and 7 and the font weight in row 7 without reselecting cells.

The footer row with border and text formatting tools pointed out
Formatted Footer

We’re almost done with our table.

Currency Number Type

Now we will apply some formatting that shows the numbers in columns D and E are currency. You can use the menus to get this done.

Applying currency formatting
Currency Formatting Menu Choice

Go to Format, then Number, then choose Currency. The currency format will put a $ sign (or your local currency) before the number.

A well formatted table of spreadsheet data
Formatted Table

Now your data is easier to read. It lets the reader know where the table starts and ends, the location of the header and footer, and that the last two columns are currency.