Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Excel-lent April Fool’s Pranks For the Hated Spreadsheet Jockey in Your Life

You know the feeling—some days Excel totally has a mind of its own. Fortunately rebooting your computer will get Excel back in line again. If not, your next course of action is to install the latest service packs for Excel 2013, Excel 2010, Excel 2007, or Excel 2003 (act fast if you’re still using this version, support ends April 8, 2014 and you're only a decade behind).

With that useful information out of the way, let’s see how you can punk your coworkers by making subtle changes to their Excel settings.  No, you’re not wasting company time, you’re testing your colleague’s Excel moxy. Feel free to charge prank time as "training" if necessary.

Disrupt cursor movement: It’s the first thing we all notice about Excel—the cursor moves down when you press Enter.  Pick a victim, any victim, and in their version of Excel:

Choose File, Options, and then Advanced.

As shown in Figure 1, change the direction from Down to Up, Left, or Right, or get subtle and clear the checkbox so that the cursor doesn’t move when they press Enter. Those stuck in Excel 2003 quicksand will find this under Tools, Options, and then the Edit tab.

Figure 1: This option determines the direction the cursor moves when you press Enter

Disable double-click: This one’s for your mouse-happy colleagues who double-click cells to edit the underlying formula. Under the Advanced Options (or Edit tab) clear the checkbox for Allow Editing Directly in Cells, shown in Figure 2. Don’t try this with keyboard ninjas, as they just press F2 and edit in the formula bar instead.

Figure 2: Clear the checkbox to disable formula editing by double-clicking worksheet cells

Change Excel’s Default Font: You can go subtle or outrageous with this one. As shown in Figure 3, change the default font that new workbooks and worksheets will be based on. You are particularly cruel if you choose Wingdings. Existing workbooks will still use their previous font. You gotta love random computer problems!

Figure 3: You can easily change the default font to be used with new workbooks and worksheets

Make them flip: In the Advanced section of Excel’s options, choose Right to Left in the Display section. As shown in Figure 4, any new worksheets or new workbooks will display the worksheet frame and tabs on the opposite side of the screen, while existing workbooks will still function normally. This twisted trick will only apply to new workbooks and worksheets as well.

Figure 4: Flip Excel’s worksheet frame from left to right

Turn off a ribbon tab: Back in Excel 2003 caveman pranksters could choose Tools, Customize, drag let’s say the Edit menu off of the main menu, and then click OK with a flourish. Once they got done laughing at their prey, such predators would click Worksheet Menu Bar on the Toolbars tab of the Customize dialog box and then click Reset. Now fast-forward to modern time, which means Excel 2010 or later. Right-click anywhere on the ribbon, choose Customize the Ribbon, then unclick whichever tab or tabs you think they can get by without—or even better, disable the tabs they CAN’T do without. Reverse the steps once you start feeling sorry for your patsy.

Figure 5: You can remove any tab from the ribbon

Randomize Months and Days of the Week: This one might not get noticed on April 1, but it’ll make your DYNAMIC colleagues question their CHOSEN MARKETS. In any version of Excel, type January or Sunday in a worksheet cell, and then drag that little notch in said cell across or down. Excel will present you with a series of months or days, respectively.  These lists are hardwired into Excel, but you can still subvert them:

Create a randomized list of months or days of the week, but be sure to start with January or Sunday, respectively, as shown in Figure 6. Go hog wild and add a thirteenth month or eighth day of the week!

Select the series and then:

  • Excel 2007: Click that happy little circle in the top-left corner of your screen, choose Excel Options, and then click Custom Lists.
  • Excel 2010 and later: Choose File, Options, scroll all the way to the bottom of the Advanced section, and then click Custom Lists.
  • Excel 2003 (Seriously? OK, here you go): Choose Tools, Options, and then Custom Lists.

Now, no matter what version of Excel you’re using, click Import, and then press OK twice. Test your handiwork by typing January in a cell and dragging the Fill Handle. Your randomized list of months or days of the week should appear onscreen. When you’re ready to save your victim’s sanity due to threat of workplace violence or termination, return to the Custom List dialog box, select your spoof, and then click Delete.

Figure 6: Custom lists that you develop supersede the built-in lists within Excel

We hope you enjoy these Excel torture tricks but remind you we are not liable for any consequences should you choose to deploy them at your office.

About the author:
David H. Ringstrom, CPA, heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, teaches webcasts for CPE Link, and writes freelance articles on Excel for AccountingWEB, Going Concern,