by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 15, 2018)
Mary has been using Excel for years, and she often uses Alt+Enter to start a new line within a cell. All of a sudden this has stopped working. She made sure that the cells she is editing have wrapping turned on, but still no luck. She wonders if there is some other setting she is missing that has made Alt+Enter all of a sudden quit working as it always has in the past.
There are any number of things that could be causing this aberrant behavior. Strange as it may sound, it could just be that your computer is "confused." (That isn't an effort at humanizing computers; sometimes some setting, internal to the computer, can just get out of kilter.) To rule this out, start by exiting other programs you may have open, particularly other Office programs, such as Word. If that doesn't work, it is best to just restart your system. If this fixes it, you are lucky and can go on your way.
There are a couple of things that must be in effect in order for Alt+Enter to work properly. First, as Mary noted, text wrapping has to be turned on for the cells. Beyond this, you also need to be in edit mode. In other words, you cannot just select a cell and press Alt+Enter. You need to do something to cause Excel to believe you are editing the cell; the easiest way is to press F2 or start typing something else into the cell.
Next, you should consider that there is possibly some macro running, when the workbook was opened, that is changing how Alt+Enter is supposed to work. The easiest way to check if this is the case is to see if Alt+Enter works on other workbooks. (Get out of Excel and restart it with another workbook.) You should also try opening the problem workbook on a different system. If (1) Alt+Enter works on other workbooks or (2) the problem workbook doesn't work properly on other systems, then chances are good that it is something within the problem workbook. (Besides a macro, it could also be that the workbook has a corruption issue.)
Another thing to check is if your system has multiple Alt keys. If it does, how the keys are interpreted by the keyboard and by Excel may differ. Try using Alt+Enter with one Alt key and then with the other to see if you get different results.
If the Alt+Enter problem is exhibited on all the workbook on your system, then try using Alt+Enter in other programs, such as Word. If it doesn't work there, then chances are good that there is a hardware problem—your keyboard is malfunctioning. Check to see if the issue is with both Alt keys on the keyboard or with only one. You might also want to try a different keyboard with your system.
Finally, speaking of keyboards, you might want to check to make sure that your keyboard, within Windows, is not set to a foreign language. If it is, then it might not understand what you are pressing when you press Alt+Enter.
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