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Formatting Numbers in Excel

How can I add brackets e.g. (£50) instead of -£50 in an Excel spreadsheet?Celeste Stewart

Microsoft gave Excel a major facelift with its introduction of Excel 2007. Depending on which version you have, there are different options available for formatting numbers in Excel. I'll go over the universal step first and then cover some of the other ways to do this.

Format Numbers in Excel

In order for Excel to show negative numbers in parentheses, you have to instruct Excel to do so. This is done in the "Format Cells" dialog. No matter which version of Excel you have, you should be able to quickly access this dialog box by selecting the cell or range of cells that you want to format and then right-click on Format Cells. This will open a dialog box with the following tabs: Number, Alignment, Font, Border, Fill, and Protection. Obviously, you will want to use the Number tab.

Format Cells

In the Category section, click on the type of number you are working with such as number or currency. Since you mentioned currency in your question, let's look at currency as an example. Once you select currency, you'll see the main part of the pane now displays several options. It shows you a sample and provides you with three editable fields: decimal places, symbol, and negative numbers.

Select the number of decimal places you want to display. If you select 2, then the numbers will display two decimal places such as £50.00 whereas if you select five decimal places, the numbers will look like this: £50.0000000.  If you want to change the currency symbol from £ to $ or even ¥, do so in the Symbol field.

Finally, the answer to your question lies in the next field, negative numbers. You have four choices for displaying negative numbers:


£50 (red text)


(£50) (red text)

Choose the third or fourth option to place your negative numbers in parentheses. If you want your negative numbers to be displayed in red text, choose the fourth option.

Format Numbers in Excel 2003

While it's easy to simply right-click a set of numbers, Excel offers other ways to access the Format Cells dialog. If you have Excel 2003, select the cells you want to format, go to the menu bar, and click on Format > Cells. From there, follow the above directions to format your numbers.

Format Numbers in Excel 2007

Excel 2007 does not have the handy menu bar. In its place is the infamous "ribbon." You must have the Home tab active and then find the area of the ribbon labeled "Number." A drop-down box allows you to quickly change the basic number type such as from General to Currency. However, if you want to change the way negative numbers display, you'll need to click on the tiny square found in the lower right corner of the Number section. This will open the Format Cells dialog box.

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Trouble Installing Office Accounting

My computer recently crashed, and I had to re-install Windows XP. I've been able to recover most of my files and programs, except Office Accounting 2008. I've tried downloading it from a CD and from the site and have not been successful. What should I do next?      Celeste Stewart

Windows Updates

Since you've had to reinstall Windows XP, you have the original version of XP that came out when your computer was brand-new. Since then, Microsoft has issued numerous updates that add functionality and security. Hopefully you have already applied the necessary updates, but if you haven't, then do so ASAP. While the updates aren't likely to affect the installation of Office Accounting, they are important - and who knows, maybe they will solve the installer problem. Do this by going to Control Panel > Windows Updates. This will be time consuming and you will need to reboot your computer once the updates have been installed.

Office Updates

The same is true of Microsoft Office. Go ahead and update your version of Office before moving forward. If you use Office 2007, this is done by going to the Office button in an Office program and clicking the program's Options button. Click the Resources link followed by the Check for Updates button.

Cleanup the Microsoft Office Accounting Installation

Since you've already tried to install Office Accounting and something went awry, it's not a bad idea to clean up the installation. Microsoft offers a free "Windows Installer Cleanup Utility" that you can use to clean up after a failed installation. It will remove the installation files so that you can start over from scratch.

Because Office Accounting is considered a Microsoft Office 2007 product, the preferred method is to use Add and Remove Programs (if possible). Since the program didn't install in the first place, it's unlikely that you'll find in Add and Remove programs. However, it may have partially installed, so check to see if it's listed there. If so, remove it before trying to reinstall it. If not, use the Windows Installer Cleanup Utility.

Reinstall Microsoft Office Accounting 2008

Once your computer's been updated with Windows updates and you've cleaned up the first installation, try reinstalling the program one more time from the CD or by downloading it from Microsoft.


If you are still having trouble installing Office Accounting, try updating your installation of InstallShield. Instructions for doing this are provided here by InstallShield.

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Adjusting Excel Headers

I have Windows Vista. I'm working in Excel and trying to put a header. I want it to be the same size as my margins that I made. How do I get it that way?Celeste Stewart

Since you have Windows Vista, I'll assume that you are also working with Excel 2007 so I'll give you instructions for working with your header using Excel 2007 as an example.

Setting Headers in Excel 2007

In order to create a header in Excel 2007, open your spreadsheet and click on the Insert tab. Find the Header & Footer icon located in the Text section of the Ribbon and click on that. A blank header will be inserted at the top of your spreadsheet. It will have three different sections (one justified to the left, one center justified in the middle, and one justified to the right) where you can then add your desired header information such as title, file name, number of pages, date, and so forth.

You'll notice that when you are editing the header, a new tab opens on your Ribbon called the Header and Footer Tools tab. In addition, new rulers appear on your screen. You'll use a combination of these tools and the ruler to fine tune the width of your spreadsheet's header or footer.

Making Excel's Headers Match the Margins

First, enter your header text so that we have something visual to see. Next, take a look at the ribbon and find the Options section. See the area labeled Align with Page Margins? Place a check mark in the box there if there isn't one already in it. This will make the header the same size as the page's margins!

While it would seem that's the end of the story, you may need to fine tune the column widths of your spreadsheet to get it to look right. The left side of the header is flush with the left margin and the right side has a slight overhang. Use your mouse and the ruler tool to drag the columns if needed. It looks as though there's about 1/8" of overlap on the right that you can't do much about, even with the Align with Page Margins option selected. Hopefully this is something you can live with.

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Cannot Print from Microsoft Word

After replacing ink cartridges, now my printer won't print any document from Microsoft Word program. It prints from everything else, but not Word. What do I need to do?Kat Delong

I think that something happened to the printer drivers, although I'm surprised that it happened when you replaced the ink cartridges. Because Word is so printer-intensive, a minor problem with the printer driver will affect Word more quickly than it will other programs. You can try to use the generic, default printer driver to see if that works.

Install Printer Driver

The first thing to do is try to install a new printer driver from the manufacturer's website. Most printer manufacturers will make it easy to find and download the new drivers for your model on their websites. Often, once you have downloaded the driver, there will be an option to delete the old driver - choose yes. If you want, you can also go to Printers and Faxes, find the driver and manually delete it before you download a new one.

Install the Generic Driver

You can also test the driver by reinstalling the generic printer driver. Go to Start and then Printers and Faxes. Click on Add a Printer under Printer Tasks. You will see the Add a Printer wizard. Click Next. Click on "Local printer attached to this computer" and make sure "Automatically detect and install my plug and play printer" is not checked. Click Next. Chose File for the port and click Next. Under Manufacturers, click Generic and next. You will be asked whether the printer is the default. Choose Yes and then Next. Do not opt to print a test page. Click on Finish. After the drivers have installed, go to a Word document and try to print it.

Detect and Repair

If reinstalling the printer drivers doesn't work, you can use Microsoft's Detect and Repair feature to reinstall missing or damaged program files. Get into Word and go to Help. Click on Detect and Repair and choose Start. You may be prompted to install the Word CD ROM. Do so and click OK. If you have Word 2007, Detect and Repair has been replaced with Microsoft Office Diagnostics. Go to the Office button, click Word Options > Resources > Microsoft Office Diagnostics and follow the prompts.

If you find that you are still having problems, there are other, more involved methods to find the problem such as clean boot troubleshooting. I really think new drivers will solve your problem, but if you need more help, please let us know.

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Office Keeps Crashing

Every time I try to select the color tool for Word or Excel, the program stops working and closes down. Then, when I try to close Word, I get this message: Word cannot open the file ~WRS(7D780A-54B6-4E7F-A073-4DEA6927F7DF). What is the problem and how do I get rid of the message?Celeste Stewart

Office 2007 Service Pack 2

Sounds like we may have two separate issues here. The color selection tool problem may be related to a recent update to the software or damage within the Microsoft Office suite. Microsoft recently issued a service pack for Microsoft Office 2007. Before we begin, think about when the problems began. The Office 2007 service pack was issued on April 24, 2009 as an "important" update, so if your problems began around then, it's possible that the service pack is to blame. If you suspect that the service pack has adversely affected your computer, you can download the Service Pack Uninstall Tool for Microsoft Office 2007.

However, since this service pack is an important update, it's not necessarily automatic, so there's also the possibility that your version of Office is out of date. Installing the service pack could correct your errors with Word and Excel. So, even though I know the advice sounds contrary to what I just said, you might want to download and install it. When it comes to updates and service packs, errors can work both ways. Sometimes the updates cause errors; other times they fix them. When updates cause more problems than they fix, they're eventually updated with yet another update.

Repairing Office

If you think that your copy of Office might have damaged files, then you can "repair" Office easily enough. In Office 2007, go to the Office button while in Word and then click Word Options. Click the Resources link and choose Run Microsoft Office Diagnostics > Diagnose. In earlier versions of Office, use the Detect and Repair Tool which is found under the Help menu. These diagnostics tools will scan your copy of Office and repair or replace any damaged files.

~WRS Files

Now, let's take a look at the ~WRS file. When you see a Word file with the tilde (~) mark at the beginning of the file name, this indicates a temporary file. A similar issue, albeit with a different file name than appears in your error message, involved problems with Word saving temporary files properly when it was closed. This error occurred with Word users who had HP printers set as their default printer. The workaround was to set a different printer as the default until HP eventually released an updated printer driver to solve this issue. If you have an HP printer, updating its printer driver or using an alternative printer as the default should solve this problem.

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Reinstalling Office 2007

After a having new Windows installed to my computer, the Office Home and Student 2007 which I had installed disappeared and was replaced by a trial edition. I have not activated it. Do I uninstall it and run my disk again? I want it back permanentlyCeleste Stewart

Sounds like, yes, you will need to do a little bit of work to get your fully functional version of Office working once again. Since you have the disc and product key, this shouldn't be a problem.

Upgrade the Trial Version or Remove and Reinstall?

Two different approaches to this problem exist: upgrade trial version and uninstall/reinstall. Some versions of the Office Trial version are upgradable to the full version which eliminates the need for uninstalling and reinstalling the software, so this is the first thing to try.

Note that you can only upgrade the trial version for the retail version that you have. For example, since you have Office Home and Student 2007, the trial version on your computer must be the trial version for the Office Home and Student 2007 software. If the trial version is for a different version of Office, then uninstall it and use your disc to install your software.

Assuming the trial version is the Office Home and Student 2007 version (as that's most likely), let's move on. Launch the trial version and see if the Activation Wizard appears. If so, click the option that says, "I do not want to activate my copy. Instead, I want to convert to the full version now." Click the Next button followed by Enter Product Key. From there, enter your 25-digit product key which should be affixed to the CD case of your Office 2007 disc. Click Continue and agree to the terms. Click Install. Now, your trial version is actually the fully functional version!

What if the Activation Wizard doesn't appear? That probably means that you've already activated the trial version so that you can start using Word, Excel, and the other programs. No problem, launch Word and then click the Office button. Click on Word Options and then on the Resources link in the left pane. Click Activate. From there, you'll enter the product key and convert the Office trial version into the fully functional version of Office 2007.

If the trial version is not upgradable, use Add and Remove Programs (Programs and Features in Vista) to remove it before installing the Office 2007 disc.

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