Tab Key Won't Move from Cell to Cell in Locked Worksheet

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated November 12, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


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Craig created a form that has unlocked cells. When this form is protected and he is viewing it on his office computer, he can use the Tab key to move from one unlocked cell to another. However, Craig noticed that when he is using his home computer the Tab key will not move from one cell to another. He wonders why this is happening; why Excel doesn't behave as it does at the office.

The fact that Craig's locked worksheet works just as expected on one system but doesn't work as expected on a different system indicates that the problem is rooted in system configuration, not in how the worksheet itself is protected or how the cells within the worksheet are protected. Here's the first thing you need to check:

  1. Display the Review tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the Protect Sheet tool. Excel displays the Protect Sheet dialog box.
  3. Clear the Protect Worksheet and Contents of Locked Cells check box.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Display the Excel Options dialog box. (In Excel 2007 click the Office button and then click Excel Options. In Excel 2010 and later versions, display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  6. Click Advanced at the left of the dialog box.
  7. Scroll through the options until you see the Lotus Compatibility category. (See Figure 1.) (Make sure you don't confuse the Lotus Compatibility category with the Lotus Compatibility Settings category. Both categories should be near the very bottom of the options.)
  8. Figure 1. The advanced options of the Excel Options dialog box.

  9. Make sure the Transition Navigation Keys check box is unchecked.
  10. Click OK.
  11. Protect the worksheet again.

If these steps don't work, then there is one other thing to check on the problem system—the status of the Scroll Lock key. When Scroll Lock is engaged, the Tab key may not advance through unprotected cells as expected. Turn it off, and the problem may go away.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (6250) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

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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Comments

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What is one more than 7?

2023-08-16 10:37:04

Dave

When I attempt #3 (Clear the Protect Worksheet and Contents of Locked Cells check box.) the "OK" goes gray and I can't click it. The Workbook is not protected. (Sorry I didn't write this before clicking "Submit Comment")


2023-08-16 10:35:12

Dave

When I attempt #3 (Clear the Protect Worksheet and Contents of Locked Cells check box.) the "OK" goes gray and I can't click it.


2023-07-26 10:13:19

J. Woolley

@Dave
Your scenario indicates that the workbook is protected; unprotect the workbook first.


2023-07-25 15:11:22

Dave

When I clear the Protect Worksheet and Contents of Locked Cells check box, I am unable to Click OK, because that option is grayed out. Is there a solution?


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