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Formatting Google Sheets for Readability

Formatting Google Sheets

Using simple formatting techniques Google Sheets users can create spreadsheets that are easier to read and more effective for viewing and display data. Working with spreadsheet data doesn’t have to be intimidating. As educators, we often need to collect, analyze and visualize data to truly understand trends in our classrooms, schools or districts. I’ve compiled some tips for Google Sheets newbies that will help you navigate sheets and make them easier to view.

  • Alternating Colors: To increase Google Sheets alternating colors readabilitythe readability of data in a spreadsheet, turn on “Alternating colors” so that every other line is highlighted. Access this option by going to “Format” –> “Alternating Colors”. You can change the formatting style or create a custom style. Note: This option is also available through the “Explore” menu, which can be accessed by clicking the “Explore” icon at the bottom right corner of your spreadsheet page.
  • Text Wrapping: A common issue with viewing information in a spreadsheet is the inability to see all of the information contained in a cell. This is particularly true when the cell contains text that could be many words or even several sentences.  Turn on “Text Wrapping” to automatically adjust the cell height to accommodate information. Highlight the column (click on the letter at the top of the column) that contains the data you want to read. Click “Format” –> “Text Wrapping” –> “Wrap”.
  • Freeze Rows / Columns: When scrolling through large sets of data, it can be helpful to freeze rows or columns that contain header information that you want to be able to see at all times. To freeze rows or columns, click “View” –> “Freeze” and make your selection.
  • Conditional Formatting: To more quickly highlight data, such as low scores, you can set rules for conditional formatting, so that if certain criteria are met, cells in the spreadsheet will be highlighted in a color of your choosing. Highlight the range of data you want to apply the conditional formatting to, choose “

Sorting & Filtering

  • Sorting data: Adjust the order that rows appear in your spreadsheet by sorting. Sorting allows you to keep your column headers in place and sort by multiple criteria. The important thing to remember about sorting is that you must select the RANGE you want to sort. Most often you want to sort ALL of the data in the spreadsheet. To do this, click the empty cell in the very top left corner of the spreadsheet to select the entire sheet. Choose “Data” –> “Sort Range” & choose the sort criteria you want to use.
  • Filters: Using filters allows you to hide any data you don’t want to see. By enabling filters, you can easily click the filter icon at the top of any column and set the conditions you want for filtering to adjust what data you are viewing. Turn on filters by going to “Data” –> “Turn on Filter View”

Google Sheets Menus


  1. Jacqueline McGonigal

    Hi Jenn,
    Thanks for going over some of these features. I have been wondering how to make sheets more readable and easy on the eyes.
    I loved the video!
    Jackie McGonigal

  2. Hi Jennifer – Thanks for the post. This is exactly the information I was looking for. Quick question – I can’t seem to find the “Alternating Colors” option anywhere under my “Format” menu. Is this a new update to Sheets? Any suggestions about where else to find this option? Thanks!

  3. Hi Suzanne- Happy to hear that you found this post helpful. Just check a couple of things…if you click “Format” the “Alternating Colors” choice is almost at the bottom of the list. Do you see the entire list or is it cut off? Do you have the “Explore” icon in the very far right corner of the screen (looks like a diamond shape icon)? That is another location you can access this. It may be that I am on “Rapid Release” and your on a gradual release for your Google updates.

    • “Alternating Colors” isn’t listed under “Conditional Formatting” for me. No luck with the Explore option either. So perhaps my Google updates are delayed. It’s definitely a feature I’m looking forward to so I’ll keep my eye out for it. Thanks!

  4. Suzanne- May be worth talking with your Google Admin Console contact person in your district to ask about moving to Rapid Release. No reason to keep great updates from users. Sometimes districts don’t realize they have this turned off. FYI, looks like you should see it on Thursday, see this post https://gsuiteupdates.googleblog.com/2016/09/explore-in-docs-sheets-and-slides-makes.html

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