Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. 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: Easily Entering Dispersed Data.

Easily Entering Dispersed Data

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 3, 2019)


I needed to enter information into many rows of widely dispersed columns, like A, Q, BD, BJ, CF, etc. (I'm sure you get the idea.) I was right-arrowing along and I was thinking: if I were in Word I'd just set some tabs or bookmarks to move around quickly. What is the equivalent in Excel? A little delving into the Help files let me know that it's done like this:

  1. Decide which columns (or rows, or cells) in which you want to enter data.
  2. Highlight the column (or rows or cells).
  3. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  4. Click Format (in the Cells group) and then choose Format Cells. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.
  5. Make sure the Protection tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  6. Figure 1. The Protection tab of the Format Cells dialog box.

  7. Clear the Locked checkbox.
  8. Click on OK to close the dialog box.
  9. Repeat steps 3 through 7 for each column (or row or cell) in which you need to enter data.
  10. Again display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  11. Click Format (in the Cells group) and then choose Protect Sheet. Excel displays the Protect Sheet dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  12. Figure 2. The Protect Sheet dialog box.

  13. Uncheck the Select Locked Cells checkbox. You do not need to enter a password or make any other changes in the dialog box.
  14. Click on OK.

That's it! Excel will only let you go to cells that are still editable, and those are the ones for which you cleared the Lock property before you protected the sheet. Enjoy tabbing to the places on your worksheet that you need to.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9364) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Easily Entering Dispersed Data.

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. ...


Dynamic Headers and Footers

Do you want to change the headers and footers that appear on different pages of your printout? Here's how you can get ...

Discover More

Making Sure Styles Do Not Update Automatically

One of the features of Word that can cause some problems is one that allows styles to be automatically updated based upon ...

Discover More

Inserting a Page Number Field

The PAGE field is used to indicate the current page number on which the field occurs. If you want to add this field to ...

Discover More

Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Moving Cells Using the Mouse

Want to easily move information from one cell to another? A quick way to do it is to simply drag and drop using the mouse.

Discover More

Pasting without Updating References

Do you need to paste formulas without updating the references in whatever you are pasting? You can accomplish this, ...

Discover More

Undoing an Edit

We all make mistakes. Fortunately, Excel makes it rather easy to undo your makes, right after you make them.

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 4 + 0?

2017-01-18 20:09:51

Col Delane

The easiest way is to use a Custom View.
1. Select View / Custom Views / Add
2. Enter "All Visible" (or whatever suits) as the name for the View, then click Ok
3. Hide all the columns in between those in which you need to enter data.
4. Select View / Custom Views / Add
5. Enter "Data Entry" (or whatever suits) as the name for the View, then click Ok.

To switch between the views, select View from the main menu, followed by the desired View, then click Show.

2017-01-17 16:05:54

Beat Rohrer

Awesome idea; this will save me tons of time that I can invest to read more ExcelTips, so I can become even more productive...all the way until I have to take up golf to keep myself occupied.
This only leaves me with one dilemma: How to explain my tanned face when I get home from "work"...

2017-01-17 15:57:57


The tip is useful enough, but mostly because it points up the need for the next generation of input form software. Business cases like this need easily configurable forms to pipe entries into a database from our phones, tablets, and computers--and not be brittle like spreadsheets. It's time to get away from the past 15 years and rise into the 21st century. Microsoft's own InfoPath does some of what I mention, as does Nintex and Outsystems. But they need to be totally user friendly and mobile capable.

2017-01-17 15:53:26

Alec Whatmough

in step 11, you need to uncheck "Select Locked Cells". Then, when the sheet is protected, right arrow takes you straight to where you want to go. Leaving it checked means the arrow key takes you to all the cells you can't edit!

2014-03-16 10:42:46

Surendera M Bhanot

Another easier way is to --> Select the whole sheet by clicking the Button at the intersection of Column Header and Row Numbers at the left top of the work area of the sheet. The whole sheet is Selected.

Now, press <Ctrl> and Click and select each of the Columns in which you want to place data, while the <Ctrl> key is stayed pressed.

Release the <Ctrl> key and Click Format (in the Cells group) on the Home Tab and click <Hide & Unhide> from the drop down menu that appears. Choose <Hide Colomns> from the options that appears. How everything in the Sheet is hidden except the Columns in which you want to fill the data. These columns appear side-by-side and data can be filled in by pressing TAB key. Unhide the sheet after you are done, if required.

2014-03-16 10:18:53

Surendera M Bhanot

How can we hide the sheet except the selected columns in one go?

2014-03-15 14:54:48

E Nora

A simpler, temporary method: Select the first cell needed. With [CTRL] key depressed, select other cells. Release [Ctrl]. [Tab] to return to the first selected cell. Type entry, [Tab] to each successive cell. A single click anywhere outside the selection will unselect.

This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.