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I just put together a spreadsheet to demonstrate how some calculations work. Three of the cells act as inputs. The values in those cells kick off a cascade of calculations in other cells containing formulas. There are also a few cells with constant values (not formulas, but not meant to be modified).

screenshot of spreadsheet

In this case, because the spreadsheet is simple, I don't think people will have much trouble figuring out which cells they're meant to edit. But in general, what formatting should be applied to a cell so that it affords end-user input and experimentation?

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I tend to fill cells with a colour and change the border colour when they need to be edited. Even without a legend (which I include when necessary), for simple sheets this has so far been clearly understood.

This is also the default way that Excel seems to handle things. Note the "Data and Model" formats below.

enter image description here

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Make them look like inputs with thicker border and maybe pre-filled italic grey text that says "fill in".

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Thanks. That won't work in a spreadsheet, unfortunately, because the cell has a default value. – Patrick McElhaney Sep 23 '11 at 13:55

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