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: Switching Editing Location.

Switching Editing Location

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 10, 2019)


Nick knows that he can edit the contents of a cell either in the Formula bar or directly in the cell itself. He wonders if there is a way, while editing, to switch where the editing is taking place. For instance, if Nick is editing directly in a cell and he decides that he would rather be editing in the Formula bar (or vice versa), he would like to press a key to switch to the same exact place in the opposite editing location.

Excel does not provide a way to switch from one location to the other, nor can you set up a macro to do the switching for you. The reason is because of the three major modes that Excel uses—Navigation mode, Enter or Point (depending on which version of Excel you are using) mode, and Edit mode.

Navigation mode is when you can do things like use the arrow keys to move around the worksheet. When you press a shortcut key (either built-in or defined by you), Excel runs the command or macro associated with that shortcut.

Enter or Point mode is entered as you start typing something into a cell. You can use the arrow keys to move around the worksheet in this mode.

Edit mode is entered by pressing F2 or by double-clicking on a cell. When you are in edit mode, key presses don't work the same way as when you are in navigation mode. For instance, the right-arrow key doesn't move you to the cell to the right, it moves you a single character to the right within the cell contents. Similarly, you can't press a shortcut key to initiate a macro while you are in edit mode.

Because of these operational modes, the only way to switch your editing location when you are in edit mode (already editing cell contents) is to click the mouse pointer in the other location. Thus, if you were editing directly in the cell, you could click within the Formula bar to start editing there, and vice versa.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10202) 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: Switching Editing Location.

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 seven minus 4?

2018-11-26 16:57:13

Denis Gibbs

Sorry i missed this topic when it was raised. This is one of my favourite tips. It is a real shame that Excel defaults to Edit-in-cell being ticked.

Switching Edit-in-cell OFF has a number of great benefits:
1. press F2 and the cursor is always blinking in the formula bar. So if you are updating cells - the cursor is always in the same place. (you do not need to scan the sheet to remind you where the characters will be echoed when you type).

2. double click on a cell and EXCEL jumps to the first cell referenced in the formula in that cell.
It will even open a file linked if the referenced file has not been moved.

3. the Fx button is right there next to the formula.
if position the cursor on a specific function within the cell's formula, then
> a pop-up formula box shows the parameters, their values and the function's result.
> It also describes the current parameter (where the cursor is) and shows the help description for that function.

4. When you type, you get used to seeing Excel guessing the formula until the moment you enter the "(".
I discovered COUNTIFS this way.

I have another handful of reasons, but making this Edit-in-cell change is the second one i recommend when i am giving training on Excel.

2018-06-22 13:21:29

Willy Vanhaelen

If you prefer to allways edit in the formula bar, you can disable "editing directly in cells".
In that case, by pressing F2, the cursor jumps immediatly to the formula bar.
To do so, uncheck "Allow editing directly in cells" (see figure 1: Excel 2007).
(see Figure 1 below)

Figure 1. 

2018-06-22 09:24:54


Great stuff, this is a small thing that's never bothered me enough to actually look it up so I am thrilled that it bothers other people too! Thanks Mark and Tom - I believe later versions say "Enter" instead of "Point" but otherwise they behave the same.

2018-06-22 08:53:46

Tom Watkins

Mark, we might have different versions of Excel. I'm using 365. And when I'm typing in a cell, the word on the left end of the status bar is "Enter" until I press Enter.

2018-06-22 05:36:13

Mark Watson


You stated "Edit mode is entered as soon as you start typing something into a cell or when you choose to edit a cell".

Actually there are two modes when you are in a cell: Point and Edit.

Point Mode: When you start typing in a cell you're in Point mode and the arrow keys navigate you around the sheet and not the formula.

Edit Mode: You're in Edit mode when you use F2 or click in the cell or click in the Formula bar and the arrow keys navigate you around the formula and not the sheet.

There is an indicator at the left end of the Status bar. It's "Ready" when you're blankly staring at the screen trying to figure out what you need to do ;-). Start typing in a cell and it shows Point. Press F2 and it shows Edit.

This difference drove me crazy until I learned about it. Excel didn't seem to be consistent in its behavior. Now knowing this it does.

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