Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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: Editing Individual Cells.

Editing Individual Cells

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 19, 2020)


If you have been using Excel for any length of time, you probably already know how to enter information into cells and later change that information. If you are new to Excel, however, editing information quickly and efficiently can take a while to master. Fortunately, Excel allows you to quickly and easily edit information you previously entered into a cell.

There are three ways you can edit the information, once you select the cell you want to edit. The first is to just begin typing. If you do this, the information you type replaces the current contents of the cell.

The second way to edit a cell is to use the mouse to point to the contents of the cell on the formula bar. As you move the mouse pointer over the cell information, notice that it changes to an I-beam. Position the I-beam where you want to make an edit and then click the mouse button. The cursor appears at that point within the cell contents, and you can begin editing. Whatever you type is added to the line (you can also drag the I-beam across several characters with the mouse; then what you type replaces the selected text). You can also use the cursor-control keys, as follows:

Key Alone With Ctrl Key
Home Start of line Start of cell
End End of line End of cell
Left Arrow Left one character Left one word
Right Arrow Right one character Right one word
Up Arrow Up one line Up one line
Down Arrow Down one line Down one line

As with many word processors, you can also use the Shift key with the cursor-control keys. This will result in selecting adjacent characters within the cell contents. If you then release the Shift key and type any other information, what you type replaces the selected characters. When you have finished editing the contents of the cell, press Enter.

The final method of editing information is to do it directly within the cell. This is done by either using the mouse to double-click on the cell you want to edit, or by selecting the cell and pressing the F2 key. When you do this, the full contents of the cell appear right in the middle of your worksheet, and you can edit those contents.

When you are editing cells in this manner, all the editing keys function as described earlier. The only difference is where the editing occurs, not how it occurs.

Notice, as well, that if you use cell or range references in a formula that is being edited in the cell, the cells reference in the formula are highlighted in blue in the worksheet. This makes it easy for you to locate references within your worksheet.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12003) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Editing Individual Cells.

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 five minus 3?

2020-08-19 05:39:37


There's an important difference between just typing in a cell and clicking into the cell or pressing F2.

- Typing in a cell: Puts Excel in the "Enter" mode
- Clicking into the cell or pressing F2: Puts Excel in the "Edit" mode

The mode is shown on the left side of the status bar.

Enter mode means that the cell navigation keys actually work as the Enter key - your cell entry is stopped and the cursor moves to other cells based on which key you pressed. For example, pressing the down arrow moves the cursor the cell below the one you were in.

Edit mode means that the navigation keys work as Allen describes above.

You can toggle between Enter and Edit mode by pressing F2.

Since I learned this I work to remember to toggle before attempting to edit what I've been entering information thereby reducing my frustration that's caused by forgetting which mode I'm in.

2016-10-09 20:14:03

phil holt

a while ago in frustration I wound up pressing command F1 then F2 etc thhrough the hole bunch When I was through I noticesd the up down left right arrow key no longer shifted the active cell, but rather moved the entire SS. I'd totally forgotten what I'd done with the F keys, and so in additional frustration after hours of trying to fix it I went to Microsoft. They had me uninstall MS Office, and reinstall it. WHen that dodn;t work they had me go to Apple, who determined the since the fal function didn;t apply to any other applications or the browsers. that it was a microsoft problem. WHen I went backi to microsoft the sent me to level 2 hep who wanted $99 to fix it. I hung up. I finally rememebeed about the F keys and since I had no ide which one, I repeated my earlier sequence and IT WSA FIXED. WHich Fkey comination changes the arrow key function on Office 2011 for MAC?

2016-10-02 00:04:25

Alex B

In terms of shortcut keys-
Ctrl + right or left arrow
- moves one word to the right or left and
- in the case of a formula from one delimiter to the next.
ie from the "then" to the "else" part of an if statement.

Combine it with the shift key for selecting.

Double clicking the word or section of the formula does the same.

2016-10-01 17:27:16

Denis J

Hi Jerry, just read your comment. if you de-select the "Edit-in-Cell" Excel option these two new behaviours become active when you double click:

if the cell has a comment - you start editing the comment instead.

Better still, if there is no comment but a formula - then Excel jumps to the first cell referenced in the formula. Even if that cell is in a different file, Excel will even try to open that file.

2016-10-01 17:14:23

Denis J

Two less well known editing commands are:

1. ALT+Carriage return - starts a new line within the cell, without exiting edit mode

2. Delete key - deletes everything to the right on the current line in the cell. if you have used ALT+Return, new lines are not deleted

2016-10-01 10:50:58


There is one subtle difference between using the F2 key and double-clicking in the cell. Pressing F2 automatically positions the cursor at the end of the contents of the cell, making it easy to add to or modify the end of the item. Double-clicking inserts the cursor at the point where you double-clicked.

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