How could you use a font to enhance your Excel spreadsheets?

I know that it’s tough to believe but special fonts actually offer a ridiculous amount of possibilities when it comes to building visual displays of any nature in Excel.

The more you begin to understand Excel and how objects interact, the more use you will find of these silly fonts.

When it comes to the office, you’ll be able to take some of these tactics and apply them to your spreadsheets and I’ll guarantee you end up turning some heads (hopefully the people that truly matter).

# 1 – Build a Stoplight Feature Using the Wingding Font to Monitor a Project Status

drop down option

You can pretty much use any special Wingding character for this one but I thought it would be fitting to mimic the icon set (stoplight) features that are currently already available in Excel conditional formatting.

This is a great way to visually manage and enhance your spreadsheets for projects statuses, order statuses or pretty much any type of status you can think of in the business world.  You can follow along through the video or simply follow the basic steps below to implement this tactic:

# 1 – Use data validation to create a drop down list of available statuses.

# 2 – In the cell next to your drop down list, insert the stoplight character from the wingding insert menu.

# 3 – Use conditional formatting formula for each status to set the color of the Wingding character to match the corresponding status.

That’s it! 3 steps and you’re done.  Make sure to take a peak at the video for more details.


# 2 – Use “Insert Symbol” with Custom Number Formatting to Visually Enhance Your Data

heat chart

I’ve covered this topic before but it’s well worth running through it again.  Custom number formatting is one of the best ways to visually enhance your spreadsheets.

Using Unicode symbols allows you to copy and paste the symbols into your custom number formatting area so that you can have positive values be displayed with an up arrow and negative values be displayed with a down arrow (of course you can use any other Unicode symbol you’d like).  In this case I use the characters available with the Yu Gothic font.

# 1 – Select any cell on your spreadsheet outside your data set.  Go to the insert symbols in the quick access ribbon.  Find the increase/decrease arrows as show in the screen shot to the left / above into the cell (both the up and down arrow).

# 2 – Copy the symbols that were inserted into the selected cell using CTRL + C. Now select the data set that you’d like to apply the custom number formatting to (see highlighted).

# 3 – Once we’ve selected the data set (type CTRL + 1), this will open the format cells window.  Head down to custom number formatting.  Paste the symbols where necessary in your custom number formatting input box.  Adjust and follow the syntax that I’ve used in the screen shot to the left / above.

If you haven’t done a whole lot of work with custom number formatting, I’ve included a few amazing resources below that you can use to get acquainted with this feature of Excel.



I use custom number formatting all of the time and it’s important to truly understand its functionality to really enhance your Excel Spreadsheets.

Here is one of my favorite guides for beginners on Excel custom number formatting.  It’s great especially when you’re just starting out and it’s also something that you can continue to use as a reference as you become a seasoned user.

The Definitive Guide to Custom Number Formats in Excel by Excel Tactics 

I’ve also compiled a short list of other links that are interesting in their own way and will also show you how you can apply custom number formatting in Excel:

5 Incredible Number Formatting Tricks that Will Impress Your Boss

20 Custom Number Format Disguises from My Online Training Hub

A Technique to Quickly Develop Custom Number Formats from Chandoo

# 3 – Create a Product Review Data Chart in Excel Using the Wingding Font

star icon

Creating a product review in Excel is something that’s fun but in building one, you’ll also realize that you can use some of the same techniques in other aspects of your work or business.

You can use the REPT formula to repeat a specific character a specified numbers of times (in this case stars) based on the review provided for the associated product.  Let’s see how you can do this.

# 1 – Use data validation to create a drop down for each product with a value of 1 through 5.

# 2 – Insert and find the special Wingding star character in a cell using the insert symbol and copy the text value from the formula bar.

# 3 – Use the REPT formula to generate and create the star rating in the last column of your data chart.  Use the screenshot I’ve provided to the left / above.


Clearly the Wingdings font is a useful tool especially when it comes to being able to visually enhance your spreadsheets.  As your skills in Excel mature you’ll be able to think of other ways to use these crazy characters. On the other side, we also have the REPT formula.  This is a great tool for using those Wingding characters.

Let’s have a look at some slick resources that you can use to learn what you can do with this font and this formula:

Wingdings and Webdings Font Icon Sheet from the Spreadsheet Guru

Replace Radar Charts with Tables to Make Comparison Easy from Chandoo 

Dashboarding Fun: Display Smiley Faces in Your Excel Dashboard from Chandoo

Use the Playbill Font to Make Your In Cell Charts More Realistic from Chandoo

Excel Dot Plot Charts for Stock Price from Contextures

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Learn how to apply data validation to your Excel forms – See below.

Data Validation

How are you Going to Use these Special Fonts to Enhance Your Spreadsheets?


Challenge yourself right now to come up with some creative ways to implement some of these visual Excel tactics to your spreadsheets and in your work.

I honestly use these characters often in my Excel dashboards but you can also think about implementing them into timelines or even custom / self made Gantt charts (i.e. clue it has to do with using the REPT formula).

Be sure to leave a comment letting me know how and where you may have used some of these special fonts to enhance your spreadsheets.  I’m seriously looking forward to hearing from you.

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