Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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: Picking a Group of Cells.

Picking a Group of Cells

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated December 19, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


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Excel allows you to define a group of cells in preparation for doing an action, such as formatting the cells. This is different than picking a range of cells, however. A range of cells is contiguous in nature—every cell between a starting and ending point is selected. A group of cells does not need to be contiguous. Instead, they can be anywhere on the worksheet.

In some Microsoft documentation, a group of cells is called a selection set. To put together your own group of cells, you need to use the mouse. Click on the first cell in the group. As you click on each subsequent cell in the group, simply hold down the Ctrl key. Each cell you click on is added to the group. If you click on any cell without holding down the Ctrl key, that cell is selected and the selection set is gone.

This behavior in Excel is no different than the process for putting together a selection set in any other Windows program. There is one major difference, however—you cannot remove a cell from the selection set by clicking on the cell a second time while the Ctrl key is still depressed. If you try this, then the entire selection set is unselected and you have to start putting your selection set together again.

This limitation has apparently been corrected in the latest versions of Excel. If you are using Excel 2019, Excel 2021, or the version of Excel in Office 365, then you can click to remove. If you are using an older version of Excel, then you'll have to rely on a macro to do the removal, as discussed in this tip:

https://excelribbon.tips.net/T012457

It is interesting that Excel provides a shortcut key for putting together your selection set, and it doesn't have the drawback that the Ctrl-key method does. When you are ready to put together your selection set, click on the first cell in the group. Then, press Shift+F8. You'll note that Excel places the text "Add or Remove Selection" on the status bar. At this point you can click on any other cells you want in your selection set and Excel shows that cell as selected. Keep clicking away, and you continue adding cells. Click on a cell you previously clicked on, and it is removed from the selection set. When you are done putting together your selection set, press Shift+F8 again. The text on the status bar goes away, and your selection set remains selected.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12362) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Picking a Group of 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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Comments

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What is three less than 9?

2022-12-18 08:20:14

Willy Vanhaelen

In Excel 2019 if in a selection you [Ctrl]+left click a cell and/or a sub range of cells they are now (finally) removed from the selection.


2022-12-17 10:00:35

Allen

That's very odd, James. I tested this tip earlier this week, before updating it, and it worked as described above in my version of Microsoft 365. Now, this morning, it works as you describe. I don't think my system updated in the past few days, but you are right--Ctrl clicking works as it should.

Huh.

-Allen


2022-12-17 09:51:40

J. Woolley

Perhaps this Tip applies to an older version of Excel: "...you cannot remove a cell from the selection set by clicking on the cell a second time while the Ctrl key is still depressed. If you try this, then the entire selection set is unselected."I use Excel 365. When I Ctrl+Left-click a cell in the selection, only it is removed from the selection. If I Ctrl+Left-click-and-drag across several cells in the selection, all of those are removed from the selection after the mouse button is released.


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