A collection of formatting tips for tables and titles in your Google Sheets.
Let’s start with a simple table, completely devoid of any formatting:
Let’s align those columns, they’re messy!
Center column headings, ID numbers, or other standardized entries.
Left align text.
Right align numbers (e.g. financial numbers).
Dates can be center or left aligned, both work, depending on your preference.
Generally, I would leave text left-aligned and numbers right-aligned, but it looks a little wonky in this table, so you’ll notice further on in this post I’ve changed both these columns to be center-aligned too.
Go for bold, white text on a dark background cell color. As above, ensure it’s center-aligned and consider making all the text uppercase.
Choose appropriate formatting options for the data in your tables.
Add thousand separators to big numbers above a thousand. Add currency signs to financial numbers to add context.
Choose an appropriate number of decimal places. For example 2 decimal places if you need that level of detail to show cents on the dollar, but remove decimal places if they’re not needed for large numbers:
Dates can be short or long, but be consistent across your spreadsheet:
If you add borders, which I’d recommend if you plan to present the sheet with gridlines turned off, then go for light or medium grey so they’re subtle.
Table row banding with conditional formatting
Sure you can do this manually, but it’s way easier and quicker to do with conditional formatting. Simply highlight your whole table (excluding the header row) and then open up the Conditional Formatting option sidebar. Select Custom Formula and use the following formula to highlight alternate rows:
or, if you want to swap the shaded rows, try this formula:
Pick a light shade of grey, or a light color to match your color scheme.
For more formatting ideas, including how I set up the red/green indicator arrows in the table at the top of this post, check out 8 and 9 of my 10 Google Sheet dashboard tips article.
I’d recommend resisting the urge to use fancy fonts, or cursive fonts designed to mimic handwriting, as they make your work look less professional.
I rarely look past the default Arial, which is fine in most cases, or Verdana as a fine alternative. If I’m looking for something to make my sheet or dashboard stand-out that bit more, then I use the Montserrat font.
Also, I wouldn’t use more than two different fonts in a sheet. Almost always I stick with one.
In this example, I add a title and then merge and center the cells above the table. I increase the font-size to 18pt, make it bold, before trying some different combinations of borders and background shading.
In dashboards, I often create “tiles” for headers or metrics. I’ll add the title (or metric), a background color to the cell that matches my color scheme and a thick border to the left or right with a contrasting color. ThenI can change the font and font-size to my needs, e.g.: