Excel: Wrap it Up

Here’s the situation, you enter data in an excel table and the information is larger than the cell. Then, once information is added the cell is either too long to fit the window or the next cell covers up the information. In either case it is unreadable. You need to ‘wrap it up’.

Default Excel Format

Oh No! Default formatting!

This is the standard format of Excel Cells. Width is 65 pixels and height is 16 pixels. This is an unpleasing ratio. Additionally, it is unlikely that your data will fit this default. Don’t live your life in the default. First let us adjust the column width. Excel can determine how big the cells need to be to fit your data – this is called AutoFit Width.Cursor Change

  1. If there is only one column on which to adjust the auto-width, move the cursor to the right edge of the column. (On the spreadsheet above, to change column D, move the cursor to the vertical line between the D and the E) The cursor will change. Once the cursor changes, double click and the column will adjust.
  2. For multiple columns, select the ones to change (or Ctrl+A for the entire spreadsheet). On the Home Ribbon find the ‘Format’ button – usually all the way on the right, below ‘Insert’ and ‘Delete’. If your window is small it will be under the ‘Cells’ button. Click it and select ‘AutoFit Column Width’

AutoFit Column Width

The ribbons on the top are meant to have easy access to the tools most commonly used

Now everything in the cells can be read. This gets to be a bit dense and if there is additional text to add, those columns can get very wide.  This becomes unnatural when trying to read the spreadsheet for two reasons; we are accustomed to long lines of text being broken by the end of a page, and scrolling up and down is common and most mouses have a scroll wheel to quickly go up and down. So do your users a favor and shorten those columns.

So to shorten the columns and have them be readable use ‘Wrap Text’. This tells the data within each cell to wrap to the next line if the input is longer than the width of the cell.

Select the cell or cells you want the information to wrap in. For my example, I want all of Column D to wrap. I will click on the header of that column – the ‘D’ at the very top to select the whole column. Since word wrap is a common formatting option, there is a button for it right on the Home Ribbon.

Adjusting WrapWrap Text Button

 What you need is this right here

Find that button and click it to reformat the entire selection to wrapping text. With this one click, Excel also assumes that the row height should also be adjusted to match the wrap. Unless you have otherwise manually set the row height, the rows will also be formatted to automatically adjust row height based on the contents of the cells.

This works great but does not allow you to determine where the first line ends and second begins. To have a little more control on how your text is displayed, manually enter a ‘New Line’ break within a cell. To enter a New Line, hold ‘alt’ and press ‘enter’. (This key combination is the same in nearly all programs – try it in your instant messaging)

Highlight the cell you wish to change and either press ‘F2’ or double-click to edit the text within. Get your cursor to the place you want the break to be (in my case I moved the cursor to right before ‘of’. Hold down the ‘alt’ button (if you are on a Mac this button is called the ‘option’ button) and press ‘Enter’ (Mac users look for ‘Return’). The text after the cursor will move to the next line. Press ‘Enter’ again to save the change and the text will be wrapped and the row height will adjust.

New Line

The ‘Wrap Text’ button would have split the line at ‘of’. Take back control of your wrap.

Occasionally the row height will not auto-adjust. Usually this happens if you previously manually set the row height to something. Formatting a row to ‘AutoFit Row Height’ is done in the same way a column is set to auto-width. Once set the row height will adjust up and down based on the data in the cell.

  1. To adjust only one row, move the cursor to the bottom edge of the row, double click and the row will adjust.
  2. For multiple rows, select the ones to change (or Ctrl+A for the entire spreadsheet). On the Home Ribbon find the ‘Format’ button – click it and select ‘AutoFit Row Height’.

So ‘Wrap it Up’ to keep your spreadsheets clean and pretty.


Casey Love

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