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: Enlarging the Formula Bar.

Enlarging the Formula Bar

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 22, 2020)


When you select a cell in a worksheet, the contents of that cell are shown in the Formula bar. If the contents are longer than what can be displayed in a single line on the Formula bar, the depth of the Formula bar increases so that the entire formula can be displayed. When you move to another cell, the Formula bar again decreases in depth to a single line.

The problem with an automatically adjusting Formula bar is that it can obscure other elements on the screen. If the Formula bar takes up two or three lines of depth, it overlays the column headers and other cells in the worksheet. This can be distracting, at times.

There are two ways around this. The first is to make the size of the Formula bar static and the other is to turn off the Formula bar completely.

Excel allows you to modify the number of lines used by the Formula bar. That way it will always take a specific amount of space and you won't be bothered by it jumping around as much. To expand the Formula bar (so you can see everything it contains), click the tool at the very right edge of the Formula bar. When you hover the mouse pointer over the tool, the ToolTip says "Expand Formula Bar." (In Excel 2013 and later versions, it'll be the small arrow icon that expands the formula bar.)

Another option is to simply turn off the Formula bar completely. (If you have no Formula bar displayed, then it cannot expand and obscure information in the worksheet.) If you want to turn off the Formula bar completely, follow these steps:

  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.
  3. Scroll through the options until you see the Display section. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Display section of the Advanced options in the Excel Options dialog box.

  5. Clear the Show Formula Bar check box.
  6. Click on OK.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11705) 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: Enlarging the Formula Bar.

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 8 + 2?

2021-08-08 00:45:29


There's a third thing you can do. No help to those who want it to expand — AND contract — automatically, but is definitely of help to those writing formulas that are more than the expansion's three lines.

Expand it, so this only takes place when expanded, not when you want the single line. (or don't, so it's always expanded and adjust to suit as desired).

Then hover your mouse over it and slowly move down. As it reaches the bottom of the white formula bar region, and begins to go overtop the gray that is above the column headings (the column heading divisions only extend partly up to the white region so you could think of it as the hovering mouse reaching the gray bar above the headings, but it's truly just a roof, so to speak), the mouse will suddenly turn into a version of the up/down two-headed arrow one associates with MS's border moving indicator (especially that of Word, though rather different, so "associates with").....

That's lost just as suddenly, so it's a wee bit fiddly, but when you have it, and that happens when its top head is 1-2mm from the border, you can click down and drag the border down, or up, as many rows as you wish. Want 25 lines for viewing your formula? Nice when using LET() and a formal structuring and I bet even nicer when LAMBDA reaches us hoi polloi. Also great for formal structure to enhance one's use of IFS() and related things, even IF() if one has nested many of them.

It sticks, so if you want to return to the standard three line expanded view, you have to do it by hand. If you've a pranky mind, expand a co-worker's formula editor and pull it up to one line, then un-expand. He'll never figure out why he never can get the expanded three lines.

I came across it a couple years back very much by accident and didn't realize it had happened, just thought Excel had listened (for once) and expanded it in the monthly upgrade. Later I saw the two-headed border arrow and experimented. Mentioned it on a website and found the Excel MVP's had known about it for decades and never thought anyone did not know about it.

It's been hugely helpful to me, especially the way I like to give my LET()'s a formal structure to make parsing them later easier. Also led me to put the changeable portions of them on the first line (usually... or two) so the changeable pieces are right at the beginning for a user to find quickly. So it improved my technique just by existing and being known.

Again, no help to those who want them to un-expand automatically, but perhaps of interest to those who'd like to have the use of it.

I'm adding this after following a link from a Tip about how to view full contents of a cell with a great deal of text. It would be helpful for that problem, in general, even if not always that fellow's particular version of the problem.

2016-03-08 09:28:38


How do I get my Excel 2016 to do what this tip is working around? I want the formula bar to automatically expand when the formula is longer than a single line. That's what my old version did. I liked it that way.
I have the arrow at the right end that forces the expansion, but then it stays that size and eats up my work space.

2015-11-14 07:39:48


Or, you could just uncheck Formula Bar in the View Ribbon in Excel 2007 and above :). Can't remember what you have in 2003 and prior.

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