Insert Arrows in Excel

Arrows are a great way to show trends and movements in your data set. It also helps make your data easier to comprehend (especially when presenting your data).

While you have the arrow keys on your keyboard, you cannot use them to insert the arrow symbol in a cell in Excel.

But worry not… there are multiple ways you can get the different kinds of arrows in Excel (such as arrow symbols, shapes, and icons).

In this article, I will show you some easy ways to insert arrow symbols in cells in Excel.

Different Types of Arrows in Excel

Before I show you some ways to insert arrows in Excel, let me quickly explain the different kinds of arrows.

Arrow Symbols

Arrow symbols are like text characters that you can insert in a cell in Excel. These can be inserted using the symbol dialog box, keyboard shortcuts, or formulas.

Below are the arrow symbols that you can use in Excel:

Arrow NameArrow Symbol
Upward Arrow
Downward Arrow
Leftward Arrow
Rightward Arrow

Arrow Shapes

If you are working with shapes in Excel and want to use arrows, you can use the arrow shape.

This could be useful when working with flow charts or org charts where you want to show the direction of flow with an arrow.

Excel allows you to insert line arrows and block arrows as shapes.

Arrows inserted as shapes in Excel

Arrow Icons Using Conditional Formatting

You can also insert arrow icons through Conditional Formatting, where pre-defined rules are used to analyze the value in the cell and then apply an arrow.

For example, if I am looking at the difference between the scores of students in Exam 1 and Exam 2, I can use a green arrow if the student’s score has increased and a red arrow if the score difference is negative.

Arrows in Excel using conditional formatting

I find these Conditional Formatting arrows quite helpful when creating dashboards or when I want to make my data-heavy reports less boring.

Now that you know about different arrow types in Excel, let’s see how to insert these in Excel.

Insert Arrow Symbols in Excel

Let’s look at some ways to insert the arrow symbols in Excel:

Copy and Paste the Arrow Symbol into Excel

If you want to get the arrow symbol in a cell, the easiest way would be to copy it from somewhere else and paste it into a cell in Excel.

Below, I have provided all the symbol arrows that you can copy and paste into a cell in Excel.

→ ↑ ↓ ← ↔ ↕ ↖ ↗ ↘ ↙

Keyboard Shortcut to Insert Arrow Symbol in Excel

Below are the keyboard shortcuts you can use to insert the different arrow symbols in Excel:

Arrow SymbolALT Shortcut
Upward ArrowALT + 24
Downward ArrowALT + 25
Left ArrowALT + 26
Right ArrowALT + 27

To use these shortcuts, hold the ALT key and then press the numbers one after the other.

For these shortcuts to work, you need to use the numeric keypad on your keyboard. Also, the Num lock on your keyboard needs to be enabled.

These ALT keyboard shortcuts would work in Excel as well as other office applications such as MS Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook. It would also work in Notepad and other applications.

Formula to Get the Arrow Symbol

Below are some formulas you can use to get the arrow symbol as the result of the formula.

Upward Arrow

=UNICHAR(8593)

Downward Arrow

=UNICHAR(8595)

Right Arrow

=UNICHAR(8594)

Left Arrow

=UNICHAR(8592)
Insert arrow in Excel using formulas

The benefit of using a formula is that you can combine it with other formulas to enhance your analysis.

For example, below, I have the difference in the scores of students in two exams in column D.

Students scores in two different exams and the difference

This is done using a simple subtraction formula in column D:

=C2-B2

I can make this more visual by using the formula below instead, which would show an upward arrow if the score difference is positive and a downward arrow if the score difference is negative.

=IF(C2-B2>0,UNICHAR(8593),UNICHAR(8595))
Arrow formula combined with IF function

Inserting Arrow Symbol Using the Symbol Dialog Box

Below are the steps you can use to insert the Arrow symbol in Excel:

  1. Select the cell where you want to get the arrow symbol.
  2. Click on the Insert tab in the ribbon.
Click on the insert tab in the ribbon
  1. Click the Symbol icon (which is in the Symbols group). This will open the Symbol dialog box.
Click on the symbol icon in Excel Ribbon
  1. In the Symbol dialog box, select the Arrows option from the Subset drop-down.
Select the arrows subset in the symbol dialog box
  1. Select the arrow icon you want to insert
Select the arrow you want to insert in Excel
  1. Click the Insert button.

If you want to insert more than one arrow symbol or different kinds of arrows, you will have to repeat the same process of selecting the arrow in the symbol dialog box and clicking the insert button

Insert Arrow Shapes in Excel

Below are the steps to insert arrow shapes in Excel:

  1. Click the Insert tab in the ribbon
  2. In the Illustrations group, click on the Shapes option. This will show all the shapes that you can insert in Excel.
Click on the shapes option in the illustration group
  1. Click on the arrow you want to insert. This could be the arrows in the Line category or the arrows in the Block Arrows category.
Select the arrow in the line category or blocks arrow category
  1. Once you have selected the arrow you want to insert, bring the cursor anywhere in the worksheet area and then click anywhere. This will insert the arrow.

Once you have the arrow shape inserted in the worksheet, you can move it, change its rotation, and format it, such as changing the color or size of it.

Also read: How to Insert/Draw a Line in Excel (Straight Line, Arrows, Connectors)

Insert Arrows Using Conditional Formatting

Arrows inserted using Conditional Formatting work a bit differently as they are dependent on the value of the cell.

Let’s say I have the below data set where I have this course of students in two different exams and the difference in scores in column D. Now I can use conditional formatting to show arrows that would visibly tell me whether the difference in this course is positive or negative.

Here are the steps to get the arrows based on the cell value:

  1. Select the cells based on which you want to insert the arrows
  2. Click the Home tab
  3. Click on the Conditional Formatting option in the Styles group.
Click on the conditional formatting option in the ribbon
  1. Hover the cursor over the Icon Sets option. This will show you all the icon sets available for you to use
Bring your cursor over the icon sets option
  1. Select any of the arrow icon sets to apply to your data set. For this example, I will select the 3 Arrows (Colored) option.
select the three colored arrows option

Below is the result that I got where arrows are inserted in column D based on the difference in exam scores.

Condition formatting showing arrows using cell values

Note that this may not exactly be what you want. In the above example, Excel considered the highest and lowest values in the difference column, created three tiers of scores, and assigned the arrow accordingly.

If you want to customize it, for example, have the green upward arrow first for more than zero and the red downward arrow for a score less than zero, you can do that as well.

To do this, click on Conditional Formatting in the ribbon, click on the Icon Sets, and then click on More Options. This will open the New Formatting Rule dialog box, where you can make the customization.

For example, below are the customizations I made:

Customizations made in edit formatting dialog box in conditional formatting

And this is the result I got.

Final result with arrows showing the difference in scores

Note: There’s also an option to Show icon only, and if checked, it would hide the values in the cell and only show you the arrows

So, these are some methods you can use to insert arrows in Excel. You can insert an arrow symbol in a cell, which is considered like a text character, insert the arrow shape illustration, or use conditional formatting to insert arrow icons based on the cell values.

I hope you found this article helpful.

If you know of any other method to insert arrows in Excel or you have any feedback or suggestions for me, please do let me know in the comments section

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Sumit Bansal
Hello there! I'm Sumit Bansal, founder of trumpexcel.com and an Excel MVP. I started this website in 2013 with a simple goal: to share my love for Excel through easy to follow tips, tutorials and videos. I'm here to help you get the best out of MS Excel to save time and boost your productivity.