Excel Tutorial: How To Make Excel Files Smaller


As an Excel user, you may have encountered the frustration of dealing with large file sizes that take up excessive storage space and can be cumbersome to send or share. Reducing the size of your Excel files is not only important for efficient file management, but it also helps in speeding up file transfer and improving overall performance. In this tutorial, we will cover simple and effective steps to make your Excel files smaller without compromising on the quality of your data.

A. Importance of reducing file size in Excel

Large Excel files can slow down your computer, take up valuable storage space, and can be challenging to send via email or other file-sharing methods. By reducing the size of your Excel files, you can make them more manageable and easier to work with.

B. Brief overview of the steps to be covered in the tutorial

In this tutorial, we will explore various techniques such as removing unnecessary formatting and data, compressing images, using efficient formulas, and more to make your Excel files smaller and more manageable. These simple steps can make a significant difference in the performance and usability of your Excel files.

Key Takeaways

  • Reducing the size of your Excel files is important for efficient file management and improved performance.
  • Techniques such as compressing images, removing unused styles and formatting, and using efficient formulas can make a significant difference in file size.
  • Hidden rows and columns as well as excessive conditional formatting can contribute to larger file sizes and should be managed accordingly.
  • Utilizing formulas instead of hard-coded values can help reduce file size and improve overall functionality.
  • Implementing these strategies can make Excel files more manageable and easier to work with.

Compressing Images

When it comes to reducing the file size of an Excel document, one of the key contributors to large file sizes is the inclusion of large images. Compressing these images can significantly reduce the overall size of the Excel file, making it easier to share and store.

Explanation of how large images can contribute to file size

Large images, whether inserted directly into the spreadsheet or linked from an external source, can dramatically increase the file size of an Excel document. High-resolution images with a large file size can quickly add up, especially if there are multiple images within the file. Compressing these images is essential to keeping the overall file size manageable.

Step-by-step guide on how to compress images within Excel

  • Select the image(s): In Excel, click on the image you want to compress. If you want to compress multiple images, hold down the Ctrl key and click on each image.
  • Go to the "Format" tab: Once the image(s) are selected, navigate to the "Format" tab in Excel. This tab contains various options for formatting and editing images within the spreadsheet.
  • Click on "Compress Pictures": Within the "Format" tab, locate the "Compress Pictures" option. This will open a dialogue box with compression options.
  • Choose compression options: In the "Compress Pictures" dialogue box, you can choose to apply compression to all pictures in the document or only the selected pictures. You can also choose the level of compression, such as "High", "Web", "Print", or "Screen". Each option provides a different level of compression based on the intended use of the document.
  • Apply the compression: Once you have selected your compression options, click "OK" to apply the changes. The selected images will be compressed based on the settings you chose.

Removing Unused Styles and Formatting

When working with Excel files, it’s common for the file size to increase as you add more data and formatting. One of the reasons for this increase in file size is the accumulation of unused styles and formatting. These unused styles and formatting can bloat the file size, making it slower to load and consume more storage space. In this chapter, we will discuss how to identify and remove unused styles and formatting to make your Excel files smaller.

A. Discussion on how unused styles and formatting can bloat file size

Unused styles and formatting in an Excel file can significantly increase its size. When you apply different styles and formatting to your data, Excel saves each of these changes in the file, even if they are not actively being used. Over time, this can lead to a large accumulation of redundant styles and formatting, unnecessarily increasing the file size. Removing these unused styles and formatting can help reduce the file size and improve the file’s performance.

B. Instructions on how to identify and remove unused styles and formatting

Identifying and removing unused styles and formatting in Excel can be done using the “Styles” and “Format” features.

  • Identifying Unused Styles: To identify unused styles, go to the “Home” tab, click on the “Styles” group, and select “Styles Pane.” In the Styles Pane, you can see a list of all the styles used in the workbook, including the unused ones. Simply right-click on the unused style and select “Delete” to remove it from the workbook.
  • Removing Unused Formatting: To remove unused formatting, go to the “Home” tab, click on the “Find & Select” option, and choose “Replace.” In the “Find and Replace” dialog box, click on the “Format” button and select the formatting you want to remove. Then, leave the “Replace with” field blank and click “Replace All” to remove the selected formatting from the workbook.

By regularly reviewing and removing unused styles and formatting, you can keep your Excel files lean and optimized for better performance.

Deleting Hidden Rows and Columns

Hidden rows and columns may still impact the file size of an Excel sheet, even though they are not visible to the user. These hidden elements can consume memory and make the file size larger than necessary. Therefore, it is essential to learn how to reveal and delete unnecessary rows and columns to optimize the file size.

Explanation of how hidden rows and columns can still affect file size

When rows and columns are hidden in an Excel sheet, they are not visible but still exist within the file. This means that they take up space and can contribute to a larger file size. Over time, as more and more rows and columns are hidden, the file size can increase significantly, impacting its performance and storage requirements.

Tutorial on how to unhide and delete unnecessary rows and columns

1. Unhiding hidden rows and columns: To unhide a hidden row or column, select the rows or columns surrounding the hidden ones, right-click, and choose "Unhide" from the dropdown menu. This will make the hidden rows or columns visible again.

2. Identifying unnecessary rows and columns: Scrutinize the Excel sheet to identify any unnecessary rows and columns that can be deleted to reduce the file size. Look for empty or irrelevant data that can be removed without impacting the overall integrity of the sheet.

3. Deleting unnecessary rows and columns: Once identified, select the unnecessary rows and columns and right-click to choose the "Delete" option from the dropdown menu. This will permanently remove them from the sheet and reduce the file size.

  • Remember, it's essential to be cautious when deleting rows and columns, as they may contain critical data. Always make sure to backup the file before making any changes.
  • Regularly check for and remove unnecessary rows and columns to keep the Excel file size optimized and efficient.

Utilizing Formulas Instead of Hard-Coded Values

One effective way to reduce the size of Excel files is by utilizing formulas instead of hard-coded values. By doing so, you can significantly decrease the file size and improve its overall performance.

A. Explanation of how using formulas can reduce file size

When you use hard-coded values in an Excel file, each value takes up space within the file, leading to larger file sizes. However, when you use formulas to calculate values instead, the file only needs to store the formula itself, rather than the resulting values. This can result in a considerable reduction in file size, especially for large datasets or complex calculations.

B. Examples of how to replace hard-coded values with formulas

1. Use simple arithmetic formulas

Instead of entering the results of calculations directly into cells, utilize simple arithmetic formulas such as =A1+B1 instead. This approach reduces the amount of data stored within the file, leading to a smaller file size.

2. Utilize function-based formulas

Excel offers a wide range of functions that can be used to replace hard-coded values with dynamic formulas. For example, instead of manually inputting tax rates for calculations, you can use the =TAX function to compute the tax amount based on a given percentage.

3. Referencing cells instead of hard-coded values

Another effective method is to reference cells containing values, rather than hard-coding them directly into formulas. By doing so, you can reduce redundancy and streamline the file, resulting in a smaller file size without compromising the integrity of the data.

Using Conditional Formatting Sparingly

Conditional formatting is a powerful tool in Excel that allows you to apply different formatting to cells based on specific conditions. While this can greatly enhance the visual appeal and usability of your spreadsheet, excessive use of conditional formatting can also lead to an increase in file size.

Discussion on how excessive use of conditional formatting can increase file size

When you apply conditional formatting to a large range of cells or use complex formulas to determine the formatting, it can significantly increase the size of your Excel file. This is because each individual formatting rule added to a cell consumes a portion of the file's memory and can add up quickly, especially in large datasets.

Tips on using conditional formatting more efficiently

  • Limit the number of rules: Instead of applying multiple conditional formatting rules to a single range of cells, try to consolidate your rules or use a single rule to achieve the desired effect.
  • Use simpler formulas: Complex formulas, especially those referencing other parts of the spreadsheet, can contribute to file bloat. Try to use simpler formulas whenever possible to reduce the impact on file size.
  • Apply formatting to specific ranges: Instead of applying conditional formatting to entire columns or rows, consider limiting the range of cells that the formatting is applied to. This can help reduce the overall impact on file size.
  • Remove unnecessary formatting: Periodically review your conditional formatting rules and remove any that are no longer needed. This can help keep your file size in check and improve performance.


In summary, we have covered various strategies to make Excel files smaller, including removing unnecessary formatting, compressing images, and using the XLSB format. By implementing these techniques, you can effectively reduce the size of your Excel files, making them easier to manage and share.

I encourage all readers to implement these strategies in their own Excel files to improve efficiency and organization. Taking the time to optimize your files now will save you time and frustration in the future.

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