Different Cell Movement in a Single Worksheet

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated April 24, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


Patrick wonders if there is a way to have the cell movement move to the right on one worksheet in a workbook and down on another worksheet in the same workbook. The only thing he can find is a global setting for all the worksheets in the workbook.

Patrick is correct; this setting is something that is handled globally in Excel. You can change the setting by following these steps:

  1. Display the Excel Options dialog box. (In Excel 2007 click the Office button and then click Excel Options. In Excel 2010 or a later version, display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left of the dialog box click Advanced. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Advanced options of the Excel Options dialog box.

  4. Under Editing Options, make sure that the "After Pressing Enter, Move Selection" check box is checked. (It should be checked, by default.)
  5. Using the Direction drop-down list, change the direction as desired.
  6. Click OK.

This changes the direction of movement for all workbooks you open in Excel. If you want the movement to vary for a single worksheet, you can accomplish this through the use of a few event handlers. Two of these are attached to the worksheet you want to be handled differently; just right-click on the worksheet's tab and select Code from the resulting Context menu. You can then paste the following into the Code window:

Private Sub Worksheet_Activate()
    Application.MoveAfterReturnDirection = xlToRight
End Sub
Private Sub Worksheet_Deactivate()
    Application.MoveAfterReturnDirection = xlDown
End Sub

These event handlers are triggered, respectively, when the worksheet is activated and when you deactivate the worksheet by selecting a different worksheet. Note that upon activation, the direction is set to xlToRight, which means that movement will by to the right. When the worksheet is deactivated, the direction is set to xlDown, which is assumed to be the default direction.

You will also need a third event handler; this one should be added to the ThisWorkbook module:

Private Sub Workbook_BeforeClose(Cancel As Boolean)
    Application.MoveAfterReturnDirection = xlDown
End Sub

This is necessary because if you close Excel while the "move right" worksheet is active, then the movement direction remains set to xlToRight. This means that the next time you start Excel, that becomes the default direction. By including the BeforeClose event handler, you ensure that the default is set as it should be.

There is only one small potential gotcha with this approach: When you first open a workbook, the Activate event is not triggered for whatever worksheet is first displayed. This means that if your "move right" worksheet is displayed for the workbook, by default, the movement won't be changed to xlToRight; it will still be set to the default, which is presumably xlDown. To force the event handler to run, you'll need to display a different worksheet in the workbook and then come back to the original worksheet. If you would rather not do this manually, you could add a fourth event handler, this one also in the ThisWorkbook module:

Private Sub Workbook_Open()
End Sub

This macro selects the worksheet named Sheet2 and then immediately selects the one named Sheet1. You should, of course, change the worksheet names to reflect the ones appropriate for your workbook—just make sure that the last worksheet selected is the "move right" worksheet.


If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (13640) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365.

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 1?

2019-06-10 02:56:22


@Willy: It's a matter of personal preference, and it depends on the data. My reason is that if one is entering a row or column of numbers using the numeric keypad for entry, the Enter key is quick and easy to hit; the arrow keys are further away, and one has to hit the correct one each time. If the work is not that repetitive, I often use the arrow key to end the entry in a cell and move on.

2019-06-09 11:12:31

Willy Vanhaelen

Why not uncheck "After pressing Enter move selection" and simply press the arrow key for the direction you want. And when you press Enter the cellpointer stays put (what I often want). I already work more than 20 years with Excel and I never checked this option.

2019-06-09 04:30:35

Chris van Zyl

@Allen: Thank you for the reference to the other tip - it contained the answer to my question about the use of variables.

@Roger: The following code will trap a right arrow key movement (The other keys are, as one would expect, {UP}, {DOWN} and {LEFT} ). Hopefully you will be able to modify it using the knowledge in this tip to get at least this aspect of Supercalc back. I don't remember this aspect , but I do miss the way the row and column of the currently active cell stood out, so that it was very easy to see where one was.

Sub Trap_Right_Arrow()
Application.OnKey "{RIGHT}", "Do_Right_Arrow"
End Sub

Sub Do_Right_Arrow()
MsgBox "Right arrow pressed"
' Turn trapping off
Application.OnKey "{RIGHT}"
SendKeys "{RIGHT}"
End Sub

2019-06-08 10:40:48


How about the way SuperCalc used to handle this (by default): whichever way the cursor LAST moved is used after ENTER, until the direction is changed. So if I use the RIGHT arrow to move from any cell, anytime I hit ENTER after that - the cursor would move right; if I then used the UP arrow the cursor would be moved up until the direction changed.

It may sound wierd, but it really is handy once you get used to it, and it is the one thing that I (still) miss most after I switched from SuperCalc to Excel.

How would you code that?

2019-06-08 08:53:22



This tip (as it says) deals with modifying movement after Enter on a worksheet basis. If you are wondering how to do things on a workbook basis (as you imply), see the following:



2019-06-08 08:46:25

Chris van Zyl

Thanks, as ever, Allen. My understanding of how the different kinds of variables work in VBA is imperfect, hence the following question:

Would it be possible to have the Workbook_Open sub store the movement direction in force when a workbook is opened in a variable, and then have a Workbook_Close sub restore that movement direction using the value stored in the variable when the workbook was opened?

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