Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Choosing Direction after Enter On a Workbook Basis.

Choosing Direction after Enter On a Workbook Basis

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 16, 2016)


When you press Enter after typing information into a cell, Excel normally saves your information and then moves to the next cell beneath the one where you pressed Enter. You can modify this behavior, however:

  1. 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.)
  2. At the left of the dialog box click Advanced. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The advanced options of the Excel Options dialog box.

  4. Under Editing Options, make sure that the checkbox for "After pressing Enter, move selection" is checked (it should be by default).
  5. Using the Direction drop-down list, change the direction as desired. Changing the direction affects how Excel behaves in all workbooks.

If you have a need to vary the Enter key behavior on a workbook-by-workbook basis, you might think you are out of luck. You can, however, use a little creative macro code to specify which direction you want to go after Enter, and have that code run whenever a workbook is activated.

For instance, let's say that you had a particular workbook, and you always want to move the selection up after pressing Enter. In this particular workbook, you can add the following code to the thisWorkbook object in the VBA editor:

Private Sub Workbook_WindowActivate(ByVal Wn As Excel.Window)
    bMove = Application.MoveAfterReturn
    lMoveDirection = Application.MoveAfterReturnDirection

    Application.MoveAfterReturn = True
    Application.MoveAfterReturnDirection = xlUp
End Sub

Private Sub Workbook_WindowDeactivate(ByVal Wn As Excel.Window)
    Application.MoveAfterReturn = bMove
    Application.MoveAfterReturnDirection = lMoveDirection
End Sub

There are two separate subroutines here. The first one runs whenever the window for the workbook is activated. In this case, it stores the settings associated with the MoveAfterReturn and MoveAfterReturnDirection properties into variables. (You will learn about these variables shortly.) The macro then sets the MoveAfterReturn property to True and sets the direction to xlUp. If you want to go a different direction by default in this particular workbook, simply use a different Excel constant, such as xlDown, xlToLeft, or xlToRight.

The second subroutine runs whenever the workbook window is deactivated. In this case, the values of the MoveAfterReturn and MoveAfterReturnDirection properties are reset to what they were before the workbook was first activated.

The two variables used in these routines, lMoveDirection and bMove, need to be defined in the declaration portion of any module. This allows the variables to be accessed from both of the above routines.

Public lMoveDirection As Long
Public bMove As Boolean

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (7220) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Choosing Direction after Enter On a Workbook Basis.

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 six less than 6?

2016-08-12 16:10:32

Lynn Martin

I agree with Graham...I also turn off the "After pressing enter". Usually I'm working on a formula in a cell & don't want it to go up/down/left or right..very frustrating!

2016-07-16 11:00:09


For those who would like a Quick Access approach, add the following code to a module in your Personal.xlsb file and identify with icons. I use fat down arrow, small right-facing arrow and pin-wheel. (Wish MS would include an icon editor so proper icons could be designed.)

Sub MoveCursorDown()
Application.MoveAfterReturn = True
Application.MoveAfterReturnDirection = xlDown
End Sub

Sub MoveCursorRight()
Application.MoveAfterReturn = True
Application.MoveAfterReturnDirection = xlToRight
End Sub

Sub ClearCursorDirection()
Application.MoveAfterReturn = False
End Sub

2016-07-16 07:00:35


For basic operation I turn off the 'After pressing Enter' option. This has the effect of no movement.

However the 4 'Arrow' keys can be used for BOTH data entry (instead of the Enter key) and movement to another cell.

Because I can never be certain in which direction I want the 'selection' to move, I prefer to use these 4 'Arrow' keys to move up, down, left or right as desired.

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