Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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: Controlling Entry Order on Unprotected Cells.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 30, 2014)
Rob has a number of worksheets that are used to score assessments. The first worksheet has cells for name, date, etc., then several columns to enter the multiple-choice responses. The sheet is protected, so only input cells can be changed. When the user finishes the last cell in a column, the focus will jump to the next unprotected cell, which may be the first cell in the next column, or it might be the "date" cell. Rob wonders how he can control the focus so that when the value is entered into the last (bottom) cell in a column, it will then move to a cell that he specifies.
There is no built-in way to do this in Excel, as the program determines its own order of choosing which cell is next selected. You can modify which cell is selected next when you press Enter in a worksheet, but you cannot modify what happens when you press Tab in a protected worksheet. By default cells are selected left to right and then top to bottom in the worksheet.
If you want to modify what happens when the Tab key is pressed, then you'll need to resort to using a macro to control the selection order. The following macro is an example; it moves to cell D5 when leaving cell C10 and to E5 when leaving cell D10:
Private Sub Worksheet_Change(ByVal Target As Range) Application.EnableEvents = False If Target.Address = "$C$10" Then Range("D5").Select If Target.Address = "$D$10" Then Range("E5").Select Application.EnableEvents = True End Sub
The problem with using a VBA solution like this is that it can make your spreadsheet—particularly if it is a large one—a bit more sluggish. By their nature, macros also mean that the Undo feature is disabled.
If your tab order needs are more complex, then you may be interested in the code discussed at this web page:
As you can tell, the code can get rather complex at times. Of course, such an approach, since it stipulates all cell-to-cell movement, makes it more difficult to make changes to the design of the worksheet itself.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10314) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Controlling Entry Order on Unprotected Cells.
Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!
Excel allows you to protect your worksheets so they can only be changed as you want to have happen. If you unprotect a ...Discover More
Excel provides some great tools that allow you to limit what is entered into a worksheet. This tip looks at how those tools ...Discover More
The protection features built into Excel can help you to make sure that only things are changeable that you want changed. ...Discover More
FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."
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.