Modifying Columns, Rows, and Cells

In Excel column width can be modified, as can row height and width in Excel. Learn to modify Excel cells in this free Excel 2016 lesson.

Introduction

By default, every row and column of a new workbook is set to the same height and width. Excel allows you to modify column width and row height in different ways, including wrapping text and merging cells.

Optional: Download our practice workbook.

Watch the video below to learn more about modifying columns, rows, and cells.

To modify column width:

In our example below, column C is too narrow to display all of the content in these cells. We can make all of this content visible by changing the width of column C.

  1. Position the mouse over the column line in the column heading so the cursor becomes a double arrow.
    positioning the mouse over the column line
  2. Click and drag the mouse to increase or decrease the column width.
    increasing the column width
  3. Release the mouse. The column width will be changed.
    the resized column

With numerical data, the cell will display pound signs (#######) if the column is too narrow. Simply increase the column width to make the data visible.

To AutoFit column width:

The AutoFit feature will allow you to set a column's width to fit its content automatically.

  1. Position the mouse over the column line in the column heading so the cursor becomes a double arrow.
    autofitting the column width
  2. Double-click the mouse. The column width will be changed automatically to fit the content.
    the autofit column width

You can also AutoFit the width for several columns at the same time. Simply select the columns you want to AutoFit, then select the AutoFit Column Width command from the Format drop-down menu on the Home tab. This method can also be used for row height.

autofitting column width for multiple columns

To modify row height:

  1. Position the cursor over the row line so the cursor becomes a double arrow.
    hovering over a row line
  2. Click and drag the mouse to increase or decrease the row height.
    decreasing the row height
  3. Release the mouse. The height of the selected row will be changed.
    the new row height

To modify all rows or columns:

Instead of resizing rows and columns individually, you can modify the height and width of every row and column at the same time. This method allows you to set a uniform size for every row and column in your worksheet. In our example, we will set a uniform row height.

  1. Locate and click the Select All button just below the name box to select every cell in the worksheet.
    selecting all cells in a worksheet
  2. Position the mouse over a row line so the cursor becomes a double arrow.
  3. Click and drag the mouse to increase or decrease the row height, then release the mouse when you are satisfied. The row height will be changed for the entire worksheet.
    the new, uniform row height

      Inserting, deleting, moving, and hiding

      After you've been working with a workbook for a while, you may find that you want to insert new columns or rows, delete certain rows or columns, move them to a different location in the worksheet, or even hide them.

      To insert rows:

      1. Select the row heading below where you want the new row to appear. In this example, we want to insert a row between rows 4 and 5, so we'll select row 5.
        selecting row 5
      2. Click the Insert command on the Home tab.
        clicking the Insert command
      3. The new row will appear above the selected row.
        the newly inserted row

      When inserting new rows, columns, or cells, you will see a paintbrush icon next to the inserted cells. This button allows you to choose how Excel formats these cells. By default, Excel formats inserted rows with the same formatting as the cells in the row above. To access more options, hover your mouse over the icon, then click the drop-down arrow.

      choosing more insert formatting options

      To insert columns:

      1. Select the column heading to the right of where you want the new column to appear. For example, if you want to insert a column between columns D and E, select column E.
        selecting column E
      2. Click the Insert command on the Home tab.
        clicking the Insert command
      3. The new column will appear to the left of the selected column.
        the newly inserted column

      When inserting rows and columns, make sure you select the entire row or column by clicking the heading. If you select only a cell in the row or column, the Insert command will only insert a new cell.

      To delete a row or column:

      It's easy to delete a row or column that you no longer need. In our example we'll delete a row, but you can delete a column the same way.

      1. Select the row you want to delete. In our example, we'll select row 9.
        selecting row 9
      2. Click the Delete command on the Home tab.
        clicking the delete command
      3. The selected row will be deleted, and those around it will shift. In our example, row 10 has moved up, so it's now row 9.
        the shifted rows after deleting

      It's important to understand the difference between deleting a row or column and simply clearing its contents. If you want to remove the content from a row or column without causing others to shift, right-click a heading, then select Clear Contents from the drop-down menu.

      clearing the contents of a row instead of deleting

      To move a row or column:

      Sometimes you may want to move a column or row to rearrange the content of your worksheet. In our example we'll move a column, but you can move a row in the same way.

      1. Select the desired column heading for the column you want to move.
        selecting a column to move
      2. Click the Cut command on the Home tab, or press Ctrl+X on your keyboard.
        selecting the Cut command
      3. Select the column heading to the right of where you want to move the column. For example, if you want to move a column between columns E and F, select column F.
        selecting an adjacent column to insert the cut cells
      4. Click the Insert command on the Home tab, then select Insert Cut Cells from the drop-down menu.
        inserting the cut cells
      5. The column will be moved to the selected location, and the columns around it will shift.
        the moved column in its new location

      You can also access the Cut and Insert commands by right-clicking the mouse and selecting the desired commands from the drop-down menu.

      accessing commands from the right-click menu

      To hide and unhide a row or column:

      At times, you may want to compare certain rows or columns without changing the organization of your worksheet. To do this, Excel allows you to hide rows and columns as needed. In our example we'll hide a few columns, but you can hide rows in the same way.

      1. Select the columns you want to hide, right-click the mouse, then select Hide from the formatting menu. In our example, we'll hide columns C, D, and E.
        selecting the hide columns command
      2. The columns will be hidden. The green column line indicates the location of the hidden columns.
        the hidden columns
      3. To unhide the columns, select the columns on both sides of the hidden columns. In our example, we'll select columns B and F. Then right-click the mouse and select Unhide from the formatting menu.
        selecting the columns adjacent to the hidden columns
      4. The hidden columns will reappear.
        the unhidden columns

      Wrapping text and merging cells

      Whenever you have too much cell content to be displayed in a single cell, you may decide to wrap the text or merge the cell rather than resize a column. Wrapping the text will automatically modify a cell's row height, allowing cell contents to be displayed on multiple lines. Merging allows you to combine a cell with adjacent empty cells to create one large cell.

      To wrap text in cells:

      1. Select the cells you want to wrap. In this example, we'll select the cells in column C.
      2. Click the Wrap Text command on the Home tab.
        clicking the Wrap text command on the Home tab
      3. The text in the selected cells will be wrapped.
        the text wrapped within column C

      Click the Wrap Text command again to unwrap the text.

      To merge cells using the Merge & Center command:

      1. Select the cell range you want to merge. In our example, we'll select A1:F1.
      2. Click the Merge & Center command on the Home tab. In our example, we'll select the cell range A1:F1.
        selecting cells to merge
      3. The selected cells will be merged, and the text will be centered.
        the newly merged cells

      To access more merge options:

      If you click the drop-down arrow next to the Merge & Center command on the Home tab, the Merge drop-down menu will appear.

      other cell merge options

      From here, you can choose to:

      You'll want to be careful when using this feature. If you merge multiple cells that all contain data, Excel will keep only the contents of the upper-left cell and discard everything else.

      To center across selection:

      Merging can be useful for organizing your data, but it can also create problems later on. For example, it can be difficult to move, copy, and paste content from merged cells. A good alternative to merging is Center Across Selection, which creates a similar effect without actually combining cells.

      1. Select the desired cell range. In our example, we'll select A1:F1. Note: If you already merged these cells, you should unmerge them before continuing to step 2.
      2. Click the small arrow in the lower-right corner of the Alignment group on the Home tab.
        clicking the Alignment group pop-out arrow
      3. A dialog box will appear. Locate and select the Horizontal drop-down menu, select Center Across Selection, then click OK.
        selecting Center Across Selection
      4. The content will be centered across the selected cell range. As you can see, this creates the same visual result as merging and centering, but it preserves each cell within A1:F1.
        the text centered across the selection

      Challenge!

      1. Open our practice workbook.
      2. Autofit Column Width for the entire workbook.
      3. Modify the row height for rows 3 to 14 to 22.5 (30 pixels).
      4. Delete row 10.
      5. Insert a column to the left of column C. Type SECONDARY CONTACT in cell C2.
      6. Make sure cell C2 is still selected and choose Wrap Text.
      7. Merge and Center cells A1:F1.
      8. Hide the Billing Address and Phone columns.
      9. When you're finished, your workbook should look something like this:
        Modifying Challenge