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The standard column width in Microsoft Excel is 8.43 characters; however, the actual width you see on the screen varies, depending on the width of the font defined for the Normal style of your workbook. Changing the default font also changes the column width. This occurs because of the way that Excel stores the column width information for individual fonts. This article discusses how column widths are determined.
Excel begins with a default width of 8 characters and translates this into a number of pixels, depending on the Normal style font. It then rounds this number up to the nearest multiple of 8 pixels so that scrolling across columns and rows is faster. The pixel width is stored internally in Excel for positioning data on the screen. The number that you see in the Column Width dialog box is the pixel width retranslated into character units (based on the Normal font) for display.
A column width of 8.43 means that 8.43 of the default font's characters will fit into a cell. The default font for the worksheet is the font that is assigned to the Normal style. Excel defaults to the following fonts depending on the version of Excel:
Excel version 5.0 and later: Arial 10 Excel 4.0: MS San Serif 10 Excel 3.0: Helv 10
To determine the default font on your worksheet, click Style on the Format menu. To change this font, click Modify (version 5.0 and later) or Define (version 4.0 and earlier). You can change the font in the dialog box that appears.
If the default font is a non-proportional (fixed width) font, such as Courier, then 8.43 characters of any type (numbers or letters) will fit into a cell with a column width of 8.43 because all Courier characters are the same width. If the font is a proportional font, such as MS San Serif or a True Type font such as Arial, then 8.43 integers (numbers such as 0, 1, 2, and so on) will fit into a cell with column width of 8.43. This is because numbers are fixed-spaced with most proportional fonts. However, because letters are not fixed-spaced with proportional fonts, more "i" characters will fit and fewer "w" characters will fit.
When you change the width of a column to a fractional number, the column width may be set to a different number depending on the font used in the Normal style. For example, with a Normal style font of Arial, if you attempt to change the width of a column to 8.5, the column will be set to 8.57 or 65 pixels. This behavior is because of the translation of font characters to pixel units. Fractional pixel units cannot be displayed; therefore, the column width rounds to the nearest number that results in a whole pixel unit.
Example of Column Width BehaviorUse the appropriate method for your version of Excel.
Excel Version 5.0 and Later:
Article ID: 73591 - Last Review: November 16, 2006 - Revision: 1.4