Alt+Enter Stopped Working Correctly

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 17, 2017)


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, 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.)

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.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (5653) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 7 - 1?

2017-10-10 17:17:59

Kat Kaczmarczyk

I tried all the suggestions and none worked. I ended up rebooting and the function works again.

2017-03-14 06:43:00

Amit Bains

using the left "Alt" worked for me.

2017-01-18 06:58:50


just restarting computer solved the issue.

2017-01-16 20:29:46


LEFT ALT worked for me also! thanks!

2016-12-24 00:45:09


Try it with both Alt buttons

2016-12-15 17:56:55

Scott Keeler

Tried all of the above excellent suggestions to no avail... then I pulled out my last option... rebooted my PC.

When things start acting abnormally, more times than not, a system reboot fixes the problem, which luckily fixed my alt+enter problem.

2016-11-28 06:22:25


Well - it drove me nuts... tried absolutely everything here - then I found the one that no one else has mentioned.... ctrl alt enter. If everything else fails you, hold down ctrl as well. Who knows why!

2016-07-12 02:46:47


Using Left Alt worked for me. Seems a UK Keyboard. Thank you !!

2016-06-29 08:56:40


using the left "Alt" worked for me.

2016-03-14 00:58:49


Under control panel, keyboards and languages, change keyboards, my UK keyboard does not allow the right ALT to work, only the left ALT. Only US keyboard has both. Possible reason, at least it was for me.

2016-02-01 09:52:18


I was using the "wrong" Alt button. When I switched to the other one it worked perfectly. Thanks so much!

2016-01-06 18:33:46

Robert Winslow

I have the same trouble, however it is in embedding a file (<iframe>) where the centering text in a wrapped cell that contains line breaks does not work. It worked on office 2010 but not on office 2016. I've been embedding files on canvas (LMS for my college) without problem ever since I 'discovered' onedrive.



2015-09-12 16:40:16



2015-07-29 14:39:04


It worked only after I closed Word. Restarting Excel did not. I never would have thought of this fix. It's strange that Word causes this problem. Thanks for the tip!

2015-05-15 00:25:20

Dragana Miljkovic

Closing Word solved it for me. (Restarting Excel didn't.) I've had other Excel issues in the past where Word was the culprit. So now I just always close Word.

2015-04-19 04:23:53


Following the info in the last paragraph regarding keyboard languages: apparently if the keyboard is set to English (UK) the Alt+Enter combination doesn't seem to work, whereas in English (US) it seems to work fine

2014-09-24 12:24:34


Restarting worked for me. Weird. Thanks.

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