Three tips for formatting cells in Excel 2007 / 2010

August 6, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Even people who have been using Excel for a while might not be familiar with the following three tips for formatting cells.  They can be very handy for tweaking the appearance of your worksheet — and, in particular, of text — so that it looks more polished and professional.

Merging Cells

There might be situations in which you want to merge cells horizontally or vertically.  For example, you might want to type a column heading that encompasses more than one column.  To do so, just select the cells you want to merge, click the Merge and Center drop-down in the Home tab and pick the option you want.

The available options are:

Merge and Center:  Combines the cells and sets center justification.  Can be used for horizontal or vertical merges.

Merge Across:  Combines the cells but doesn’t change the justification.  Used only for horizontal merges.

Merge Cells:  Can be used for vertical or horizontal merges.  Does not change the justification.

Unmerge Cells:  A handy command you can use to undo a merge.

Text Wrapping

If text wrapping is disabled (which it is by default), text you type into a cell might stretch beyond the right-most cell border, hiding adjacent cells.  However, it’s simple to turn on text wrapping.  First, select the cell(s), rows, or columns in which you want the text to wrap automatically, and then do one of the following:

1.  Click the “Wrap Text” icon in the Alignment group on the Home tab; or

2.  Click the dialog launcher in the Alignment group on the Home tab, click the “Wrap textcheckbox, then click “OK” to save your setting; or

3.  Click the “Formaticon in the Cells group on the Home tab, click “Format Cells…,” click the “Wrap textcheckbox, then click “OK”; or

4.  Right-click the selection, choose “Format cells…” from the menu, click “Wrap text,” then click “OK”; or

5.  Press Ctrl 1, click the “Wrap textcheckbox, then click “OK.”

Creating a Line Break / Hard Return within a Cell

As you know, when your cursor is in a cell, pressing the Enter key moves the cursor down to the next cell (or, sometimes, to the first cell in the next row).  So how do you move the cursor down a line within a cell?

There’s a simple way, though it’s not intuitive:  Instead of pressing Enter, use the keyboard shortcut Alt Enter.  That inserts a hard return or, more accurately, a line break in the cell.

When you insert a line break, Excel automatically turns Wrap Text on.  Even so, you might find that you need to adjust the column width (or row height) so that all of the text fits within the cell.

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