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When Excel won't accomodate

I have lots to say. But when I am in an Excel spreadsheet, the cell into which I am typing my thoughts does not readily accommodate all that I have to share.

If I begin typing in cell A1, the text can easily overflow its borders, overlapping cells B1, C1, and more. But Excel doesn’t actually consume those other cells when I type. All my text is still effectively a part of cell A1, but it is just “sitting large” on my worksheet. As soon as I select B1, for example, and begin to type, my lengthy prose stored in cell A1 slips behind the new content of cell B1. This can be very frustrating.

So, I have learned a few of Excel’s features that help me deal with text.

One option is to change the format of the cell that contains my text. In my example, if I select cell A1, then choose “Format” from the menu options at the top of my screen, then select “Cells…” from the drop-down list, a “Format Cells” window will display in the middle of the screen. After selecting the tab labeled “Alignment,” there are three Text Control options displayed in the middle of the window. 

The first option is to “Wrap Text.” By checking this box, all of the text I began in cell A1 will now wrap to the width of the cell, pushing the row height to accommodate all the text. If I resize the cell, the wrapped text will adjust to the new size.

The second option is “Shrink to Fit.” By checking this box, Excel will adjust the font size of the text small enough to fit the entire string within the width of the cell. This can result in some pretty fine print, so you might want to reserve this option for less long-winded dissertations. The larger I resize the cell width, the larger the text becomes, and vice-versa.

The last option is “Merge Cells.” This is one of my favorite options, and one I use quite frequently. I typically reserve this option for when I am in need of placing a descriptive label across a number of columns. 

Given the example I have used here, if I wanted to use this option, I would start by selecting cells A1, B1, plus C1. Then I would choose, Format, Cells, Alignment tab, then click the box next to the Merge Cells option. This effectively combines all three cells together into one large cell in order to accommodate the string of text started in cell A1. The merged cells now become known simply as A1 (B1 and C1 having been consumed in the merge). 

It is such a useful tool, and so commonly used, that there is a shortcut button at the top of the screen on the Format toolbar. The button is just to the left of the dollar sign, and has a small letter “a” in the center of the button. This shortcut not only merges selected cells together, but also centers the text in the middle of the new merged range. If you make a mistake, just click on the shortcut button once again to return the cells to their un-merged state.

If you find yourself in need of including long-winded strings of text in your spreadsheets, I have some additional thoughts. Next time, I will explore text boxes and comments.

As always, if you have any comments or questions, email me at melody(at)netw.com

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Author info

Melody Martz

Tagged as:

computers, software, Microsoft Excel

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