Cells are the building blocks of a worksheet in Excel.
Most Excel users spend the majority of their time working with the cells in Excel – be it entering data or formulas or editing the already entered formulas/text.
In this tutorial, I will cover everything you need to know about editing cells in Excel.
While it’s a straightforward process, knowing the right way to edit cells and all the keyboard shortcuts you can use to edit cells in Excel would be quite useful in making you more efficient.
2 Ways to Edit Cell in Excel (with Shortcuts)
When you select any cell in Excel and start typing, it would override anything that is already there in the cell.
If you already have some text/numbers or formula in the cell, and you want to edit the content of this cell, you would first have to get into the edit mode and then make the changes.
There are two ways you can edit the content of the cell in Excel:
- Making the changes directly in the cell
- Making the changes in the formula bar
Edit the Cell by Entering Data/Formula Directly in the Cell
To edit the content of a cell by making the changes directly within the cell, you first need to get into the ‘Edit’ mode.
The edit mode is where your cursor starts blinking within the cell so that you can place it anywhere and make changes.
The easiest way to get into the edit mode in the cell is by using the keyboard shortcut F2 (in Windows) or Control + U (in Mac)
When you select a cell and you use the keyboard shortcut F2, you will see that your cursor starts blinking within the cell and you can move the cursor or select part of the content in the cell and make changes there.
Note: If you have the Function key disabled, F2 may not work in your system. In that case, try the keyboard shortcut Fn + F2 (hold the Function key and press the F2 key)
Once you’re done making the changes, hit the Enter key or select any other cell in the worksheet.
Another way to get into the edit mode is by double clicking on the cell that you want to edit. This will again bring the cursor to the cell that you use to edit the cell
Pro Tip: Most advanced Excel users use the F2 shortcut to edit cells instead of using a mouse to double-click and get into the edit mode. Once you get used to using the keyboard shortcut, you will find using the mouse to edit the cell a bit tedious and inefficient.
Edit Cell Using the Formula Bar
While most Excel users prefer to edit the cell content by getting into the edit mode and doing the changes right within the cell, some users (especially the ones that are working with long complex formulas) prefer doing it the other way – by using the Formula bar.
A Formula bar is a bar that you see below the ribbon in your Excel worksheet.
As you can see, a formula bar is a lot longer than a cell and offers a better user experience while editing long Excel formulas.
Whenever you select any cell in the worksheet, you would notice that the content of the cell would become visible in the formula bar.
And if you now want to edit the cell by making changes in the content or the formula within that cell, you can do that from the formula bar directly. Just select the cell you want to edit and then click anywhere in the formula bar.
Note: In case you select a range of cells, the formula bar would only show you the content of the active cell
Add Line Break in the Cell While Editing
When you are entering any text in Excel, and you hit the Enter key, it would move you to the next cell.
In case you want to go to the next line in the same cell, you need to use ALT + Enter instead of using the Enter key. Doing this is called inserting a line break in Excel.
To use this, place your cursor in the position where you want to insert the line break, hold the ALT key, and then hit the Enter key.
This would take your cursor to the next line (along with any text after the cursor, if you have it)
Delete the Content of the Cell in Excel
Deleting the content of a cell is really easy – just select the cell from which you want to delete the content and hit the Delete key.
You can also select a range of cells and then hit the delete key to delete the content of all the selected cells.
Delete/Cut Partial Text from Cell
When you select a cell or a range of cells and hit the delete key, it would delete the entire content of the selected cells.
But what if you only want to delete or copy a part of the text in the cell?
Below are the steps to delete or copy/cut part of the text in Excel:
- Select the cell from which you want to delete or copy or cut the partial text
- Press the F2 key on your keyboard to get into the edit mode (or double-click on the cell)
- Place the cursor at the beginning or end of the text that you want to delete or copy
- Use your mouse to drag and select the part of the text (or you can hold the Shift key and then use the arrow keys to move left or right while selecting the text in the cell)
- Once the text is selected, use the Delete or Backspace key to remove the text or use the keyboard shortcut Control C to Copy or Control X to cut the text
Undo/Cancel the Editing You Have Done in the Cell
When editing a cell in Excel, what if you made some changes but you want to undo them or you want to cancel it completely so that you get the original cell content back?
Here is how to do it:
- To cancel all the changes you have done in the cell while editing it – press the Escape key.
- To undo the change that you have done while editing the cell – use Control + Z (hold the control key and press the Z key)
When you use control Z to undo the changes, it will undo all the changes that you have made to the cell since you started editing it.
So if you enter say five extra words after you started editing the content of the cell, and then you hit the control Z keyboard shortcut, all the five words would be gone.
Control Z would still work after you have made the changes in the cell and hit the enter key (which applies the changes to the cell).
Edit Multiple Cells in Excel
Normally, when you select a range of cells and start typing, it would only be entered in the active cell. And once you’re done and you hit the Enter key, the entered text would only appear in the active cell (even if multiple cells were selected).
However, there is a workaround that allows you to select multiple cells, and then enter the same text of formula in all the selected cells.
Below I have a range of cells that I have selected all the blank cells and I want to enter the text “Data not available” in all these cells.
Here are the steps to edit multiple cells simultaneously in Excel:
- Select the cells in which you want to enter the text or the formula
- Enter the text or the formula that you want to enter (note that as of now it would only be entered in the active cell)
- Hold the Control key and press the Enter key
When you hold the Control key and then press the Enter key, the content of the active cell is entered in all the selected cells.
And in case you entered a formula in the active cell, the same formula would be entered in all the selected cells (and at the same time Excel would also automatically adjust the reference in the formula, in case you have used relative references)
One situation where this is quite useful is when you select all the blank cells in a column or in a data range, and you want to fill all these blank cells with a zero or dash or some other meaningful text.
Important Keyboard Shortcuts to Edit Cells in Excel
While editing a cell is a simple concept, there are a number of keyboard shortcuts to know about that will make you more efficient in your day-to-day work.
|What it DoesKeyboard Shortcut||Keyboard Shortcut|
|Finalize the changes done after editing the cell||Enter|
|Delete the content of the cell (you need to select the cell and then use this shortcut)||Delete|
|Adding a line break. Place the cursor where you want the line break and then use this keyboard shortcut||ALT + Enter|
|Delete the content in the cell and places the cursor in the active cell||Backspace|
|Moves the cursor to one character left or right. You need to be in the edit mode||Left/Right Arrow Keys|
|Enter the text/formula entered in the active cell in all the selected cells||CTRL + Enter|
|Selects one character to the left/right of the cursor. You need to hold the Shift key and then use the arrow keys||Shift + Left/Right Arrow Keys|
Unable to Edit Cells in Excel – How to Fix?
The ability to edit a cell is an absolute must if you need to get anything done in Excel.
But what if you’re not able to edit some or all of the cells in a worksheet in Excel?
In my experience, it is not uncommon to find yourself in such a situation, but there’s nothing to worry about. I will tell you exactly why it happens and how you can bring back your cells to become editable again.
Check If In-Cell Editing is Disabled
Excel has a setting where it disables editing in the cell while only allowing the editing to be done from the formula bar.
While this is not the default setting, if it has been changed on your system, you won’t be able to get into the edit mode by using the F2 key or double-clicking on a cell.
And the simple fix here is to change this setting.
Below are the steps to enable in-cell editing in Excel:
- Click the File tab
- Click on Options
- Select the ‘Advanced’ Option in the Excel Options dialog box
- Make sure the option ‘Allow editing directly in cell’ is checked
- Close the Excel Options dialog box
If the ‘Allow editing directly in cell’ option was unchecked earlier and you check this, you should be able to edit the cells in your worksheet.
Check If the Cells are Protected/Locked
When a worksheet or a range of cells in the worksheet are protected, you won’t be able to make any changes to it.
So, if you try to get into the edit mode by using the F2 key or by double clicking on the cell, you will see a prompt as shown below:
The prompt clearly says that the sheet or the cells are protected, so you can stop guessing, and start working on how to unprotect the sheet to regain the ability to edit cells.
Below are the steps to unprotect/unlock a sheet in Excel:
- Click the Review tab
- In the ‘Protect’ group, click on the ‘Unprotect Worksheet’ option
In case the worksheet has been protected using a password, you would see a prompt that asks for the password, and you would need that password to unprotect the sheet.
Check If the Excel File is Read-Only
Another possible reason that may prevent you from editing cells in Excel is when your Excel file has been set to open a read-only Excel file.
As the name suggests, a read-only file is only meant to be read and not to be tinkered with.
As soon as you open a file that has been saved as read-only, you would see a yellow bar that would inform you of this.
And in case you want to edit the cells in this file, all you need to do is click on the Enable button in that yellow bar.
Once you do that, the yellow bar would disappear, and you would be able to edit the cells in your worksheet.
Note: Making an Excel file Read-only is by no means a way to protect the file so that users can’t make changes to it. it just adds an extra step where the user needs to opt-in to edit the file, which helps in making sure users don’t end up making inadvertent changes
In this tutorial, I’ve covered everything you need to know about how to edit cells in Excel.
I’ve covered the keyboard shortcuts that you can use to edit one cell as well as a keyboard shortcut you can use to enter the same text or formula in multiple selected cells simultaneously.
I’ve also covered situations where you may not be able to edit a cell in MS Excel, and how you can fix it.
Other Excel tutorials you may also like:
- Best Shortcuts to Fill Color in Excel (Basic & Advanced)
- Copy and Paste Multiple Cells in Excel (Adjacent & Non-Adjacent)
- Using A1 or R1C1 Reference Notation in Excel (& How to Change These)
- Working with Gridlines in Excel: How to Add, Remove, Change, and Print Gridlines
- Fill Down Blank Cells Until the Next Value in Excel
- How to Use Flash Fill in Excel (2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel 365)
- How to Customize the Ribbon in Excel
- How to Cut a Cell Value in Excel (Keyboard Shortcuts)