Force Excel to open in separate windows

Until its 2010 version, Excel default behavior was to open all spreadsheets in a single window. Happily, there is a way to force your spreadsheets to automatically open in different windows. This way you can freely manipulate them around your monitor and work side-by-side.

Steps below will teach you how to do it. Let’s go!

This post is a short version of How to force Microsoft Excel to open files in new window, published by Ashraf in January 2012. For all the great content, non-trivial tricks, and beautiful images, thanks Ashraf. For the bad stuff, you can gently blame me.

Understand the risks

To force this new behavior in Excel, we’ll need to modify your registry files. There are basically two requirements for that: (1) administrator access to your computer, otherwise you won’t be able to edit registry entries; and (2) attention, care, prudence, ‘ cause any mistake while touching your registry files might break your machine into small pieces (OK, I’m exagerating, but I’m warning you anyways). So I suggest you to accept it as a risky move and face the consequences at your own responsibility.

Modifying your registry files

  • Close all open Excel windows, if any
  • Press <Win+R> on your keyboard, type regedit.exe and <Enter>
  • Scroll the left bar until you find the folder: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.12/shell/Open/command
  • Inside /command, right-click (Default) and select Modify…
  • Add “%1” to the end of the Value data input field.
    Attention! Do not copy and past the value above from this post.

    No, it’s not that I don’t like sharing. It’s just that it won’t work. The quotes on Medium are different from those you’ll type on your computer. You’ll see.

Be sure to include the quotes and to leave a blank space between /e and “%1”. That’s it. Click OK when you’re done.

  • Now right-click the command registry and Rename it to command2.

Be sure you renamed the registry, not the folder.

  • Now right-click the folder ddeexec and rename it to ddeexec2.

Repeat all over again

You’ll have to repeat it all to the following folders:

  • HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.8
  • Excel.SheetBinaryMacroEnabled.12
  • Excel.SheetMacroEnabled.12

In a few words, add “%1” to registry (Default), rename registry command to command2 and rename the folder ddeexec to ddeexec2. Just like before.

  • Close the Registry Editor
  • Done!

For you to keep in mind

Remember every time a new Office update is installed your registry files are replaced during the process. It means you’ll need to whether have your Office up-to-date or reconfigure your registry files after every update.

Despite the risks, what I do is: I just disable auto-update from Windows Update and constantly check if there’s any security update. If there’s any important update, I’ll install it and remake the process. It’s worth it for me.

If you wish the same, open Start Menu and search Windows Update

  • On Windows Update window, choose Change settings on the left panel
  • Finally, change Important Updates so it will “check for updates but let you choose whether to download and install them”.

Keep in mind security updates are important to keep your computer safe. You’re no superhero, my friend. Well, not so far! But we can work on that.

Are you into productivity hot tips for web development? I’m a Brazilian full-stack developer, living and working in Paris, and I regularly share articles like the one you’ve just read. Follow me on twitter to stay tuned.

Brazilian full-stack developer. Living and working in Paris. Sharing productivity hot tips for web development.

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