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: Pulling AutoShape Text from a Worksheet Cell.

Pulling Text from a Cell and Placing It in a Shape

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 16, 2021)


Shapes are a great way to easily add simple graphics to your worksheets. Better still, shapes are like text boxes, in that they can contain text.

If you know how to add text to a text box, you already know how to add text to a shape. What you may not know how to do is to make that text dynamic, so that it is based on the text stored in a cell of your worksheet. Follow these steps:

  1. Select the shape that you want to contain the text. When it is selected (by clicking it once with the mouse), you'll see small selection handles around the exterior of the shape.
  2. Click once in the Formula bar.
  3. Type an equal sign and then click on the cell that contains the text you want in the shape.
  4. Press Enter.

That's it; the text in the shape is now tied to the text of the cell you specified in step 3. If you change that text, then the text in the shape changes, as well.

You should note that it is only the text of the cell that appears in the shape; Excel doesn't reflect, in the shape, any formatting that you may have applied to the text in the worksheet. If you want to format how the text appears in the shape, you'll have to use the formatting tools that Excel provides for working with shapes.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9840) 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: Pulling AutoShape Text from a Worksheet Cell.

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 more than 6?

2021-10-18 16:06:23

Mike D.

Click on a shape you wish to format and look at your Tab menus and you will notice a new tab, Shape Format.
Click on it and all of your object formatting tools will appear.

This tab is only visible when an object is selected.

2021-10-16 09:59:54


"... you'll have to use the formatting tools that Excel provides for working with shapes."

Um, yes. And... where are those formatting tools?

Experimenting some, I found a couple ways to format. Intriguingly, both seemed to require I delete the cell reference.

Once deleted, the last text it had shown remained as pure text. If I either cleared that out (shapes are testy about the precise way that's done, almost as bad as PDF's are), I could directly apply formats via right-click|format. And once I put the cell reference back in, it applied to everything that put in.

If I left the text, I could NOT get right-click|format to work at all, not even anything coming up with right-clicking. But if I highlighted it all and pressed Ctrl-1, I got lots of formatting options. After choosing and saving them, putting the reference back in restored it to lovely, lovely working AND with the formatting.

But nothing at all worked without the reference being removed first.

New and wonderful for me. Fixes a major hassle for me with a document the boss wanted to be as identical to a program's produced output as possible and that has some objects that may or may not be Shapes, but apparently act like them in some ways as this worked in one of them. So, while I now have 100% of what I ever wanted due to this Tip, thoughts for experiments come to mind and hopefully I shall get the chance to do them, and more soon. If so, I'll report back anything I find interesting and/or useful.

One, I just ran. Was wondering how to use a formula. Of course, it does turn out a formula in the referred to cell works as it is doing the standard thing of taking the formula's output as the value of the cell reference and putting ITS text in the Shape. But a formula in the place of a simple cell reference generates an error that does not let one save said formula. Putting the formula in a Named Range and referring to the Named Range for the reference does not work either as Excel refuses to recognize the Named Range in the Shapes cell/editing bar/whatever.

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