Here you will find instructions on how to incorporate the smartsheet template into your tool, including best practices for delivering a high-quality product.


Incorporating a standard introductory tab to your smartsheet tool will solidify the Penn State Extension brand, and bring a sense of quality and confidence to our audience. It also provides users with a similar experience across all smartsheet tools so that they can expect clear instructions and details regardless of the product.


The smartsheet template is easy to incorporate into your existing Excel spreadsheet tool by following the steps below.

Verify the Correct Excel Version

Smartsheets should be saved as a .xlsx (Office 2007+) file format.

If you receive an error message similar to:

Excel cannot insert the sheets into the destination workbook because it contains fewer rows and columns than the source workbook.

this may indicate that the source worksheet is saved in .xls (Office 97-2003) format rather than the newer .xlsx format.

To prevent this error, save your source workbook in .xlsx format, and close and re-open it.

Download and Copy the Template

  1. Download the template from this page, and open in Excel. Also be sure to have your Excel smartsheet open.
  2. Right-click on the "Penn State Extension - ReadMe" tab from the template. Select "Move or Copy" from the tab menu.
  3. In the Move or Copy dialog box, select your file from the "To Book:" dropdown. In the "Before Sheet:" box, select the first tab. Also, check the "Create a Copy" box at the bottom of the dialog box. These actions will copy the entire ReadMe tab into your spreadsheet as the first tab.
  4. Download the Smartsheet Example to see how this template was successfully incorporated to a tool.

    Complete the Template

    Complete the information in the "Penn State Extension - ReadMe" tab with the end user in mind. The audience needs to know why this tool is relevant to them, how to use it, and what outcomes to expect. Here are the expectations for completing each field in the template:

    1. Tool Name: Enter the name of the tool in the blue heading area.
    2. Metadata: As best as possible, complete the relevant data for the Extension Team, Author, Email, Website, Version, and Last Updated fields. This is pertinent information that helps the end user feel confident that they are using a current tool, and have a resource to consult for further information.
    3. Description: Using clear and concise language, explain the purpose of your tool. Do not use acronyms or advanced technical terms that your audience may not understand.
    4. User Instructions: This is the most important section. It is suggested that you provide clear step-by-step instructions and purpose for each tab in your smartsheet. The user should understand what inputs to enter and where (including formatting or required fields), and also know where to find the results.
    5. References: Here you will give proper acknowledgement to anyone that provided assistance; and/or list expert resources used to develop theories and formulas.

    Submit your Smartsheet to Publish

    Follow these steps to make your smartsheeet a successful product on the Extension website.

    1. Protect the "Penn State Extension - ReadMe" tab! Before your smartsheet is uploaded, be sure to make the ReadMe tab Protected in order to prevent a user from modifying, copying, or deleting this important information: Right-click on the ReadMe tab and select, "Protect sheet..."; In the Protect Sheet dialog box, make sure all boxes are unchecked; A password is not required.
    2. Upload your smartsheet to Plone. If a previous version already exists, select to edit this version and replace with the new one. Create a new file in Plone if this is a brand new tool.
    3. Save your work in Plone, and Submit for publishing using the "State:" dropdown in the top right menu area.
    4. The Web Services team will review the file for compliance with the template and web best practices. If edits are necessary, the web team will provide feedback in Plone and the status will be updated to require modifications.
    5. Once everything is approved to publish, the Web Services team will change the status in Plone to Publish and your smartsheet tool will soon be available on the site.

    Best Practices

    Here are tips and things to consider as you create your tool and prepare it for success on the website.

    • Think about your audience and the various levels of knowledge they might have regarding your tool and the topic. Don't assume that they are experts.
    • Provide common terminology and useful tips to help guide the user to success. An example goes a long way, and helps the user feel confident that they are interacting with the tool properly.
    • Use clear, but concise tab names in your smartsheet. They should correspond to the action the tab is taking and also be referenced in the User Instructions.
    • Do not change the tab name, "Penn State Extension - ReadMe."
    • Do not change the template colors. You may use some color in the User Instructions section to differentiate between multiple tabs, however, keep it simple. Use as little variation in color and formatted text as possible.
    • Do not modify the logo or risk statement.
    • When submitting your file in Plone, enter a clear and concise description for the tool. Use keywords the audience might type into a search for this tool or topic.

    Additional Resources

    Submit a request to the Web Services group if you have questions or need assistance with the smartsheet process.

    Smartsheet Template

    Excel 2007 spreadsheet, 89.8 KB

    Download this Excel spreadsheet template to incorporate as the first tab in your tool.

    Smartsheet Example

    Excel 2007 spreadsheet, 93.0 KB

    This example shows the template incorporated into a smartsheet, with clear user instructions and Penn State branding.