Excel Basics:
Format Columns

Title: Jan's Illustrated Computer Literacy 101
Did you want Working with Numbers: 2007,2010,2013,2016  or españolIcon: Change web

You can apply almost every kind of formatting to whole columns at once. Just select the column(s) and apply the formatting. This is handy when a whole column should have bold text, for example, or uses Currency formatting for numbers. This kind of formatting is discussed in Project 3.

Column Width: The formatting that is unique to columns is Column Width. There are several methods in the Step-by-Step below that you can use to adjust the width of your columns. Each is most useful in certain circumstances, so you do need to be aware of them all.

Column Width is measured in characters. A column's width can be from 0 to 255 characters, which is a REALLY wide column! Decimal values are allowed. In fact the default size is 8.43 characters (= 64 pixels where a pixel is the smallest dot on the screen).

A width of 12, for example, means the column is wide enough for 12 average characters, using whatever you chose as the Standard font. The default is Arial 10 pts. This is set in  Tools  |  Options  |  General  |  Standard font 

TipHide column:  A width of zero hides the column. The column is still there.

TipUnhide a hidden column: Select the hidden column, by dragging across the visible columns on either side. Then set the column width for all the selected columns to something besides zero with one of the methods shown below.

TipIn older versions of Excel, like Excel 97, if you select several columns and the selection contains merged cells, you cannot format the columns at the same time. You have to do each column separately.

Where you are:
JegsWorks > Lessons > Numbers

Before you start...

Project 1: Excel IntroTo subtopics

Project 2: Excel Basics  
Getting StartedTo subtopics      
    Arrange arrow to open subtopics
      Icon - FootprintSort
      Icon - FootprintColumns Table
      Icon - FootprintRows Table
    AutoFillTo subtopics
    FinishTo subtopics
    ExercisesTo subtopics

Project 3: Format & ArrangeTo subtopics

Project 4: Groups & FormulasTo subtopics

Project 5: DesignTo subtopics


Icon Step-by-Step 

Step-by-Step: Format Columns

 Icon Step-by-Step

What you will learn:

to adjust column width with AutoFit
to adjust column width by dragging
to adjust column width with dialog

Start with: Class disk trips2.xls (saved in previous lesson)

Column Width: AutoFit selection

You sometimes want a column to be wide enough for a particular cell's contents, but want other cells to wrap any longer lines in them. You will learn about the wrap command later.

  1. Menu: Format | Column | AutoFit SelectionSelect cell A1,  World Travel Inc. 
  2. From the menu select  Format  |  Column...  |  AutoFit Selection . The column is resized just wide enough to hold the text  World Travel Inc. 
    Column A sized with AutoFit to width needed to show cell A1Note that cell A2 still overlaps its neighbor and several cells further down the sheet are cropped by the non-empty cells to the right.

Column Width: AutoFit all

  1. Popup tip shows width of column AMove your pointer to the right edge of the heading of Column A until it changes to Pointer: Resize Column the Resize Column shape.
  2. Press the left mouse button down. (Don't release it yet.)

    The popup tip appears, showing the current width of Column A.

    Column A after AutoFit
  3. Release the left mouse button and double-click in the same spot (the right edge of Column A's heading). The column width changes to display the longest text in any cell in the column as a single line.

    Tip Sometimes you want text to wrap inside certain cells. For example a column of short numbers might have a label that is several words long, like  Number of People . If you don't wrap such a label, there will be a lot of white space around the short numbers below it.

    Warning Be careful when you set a column's width with AutoFit. The column may wind up wider than you expected. Any text will be on a single line in its cell. No matter how long the text is! If you accidentally find you've widened a cell out of sight to the right, use Undo. (Such a wonderful invention!) Then resize the column with another method.

Column Width: Drag

Dragging is a natural method of adjusting column width. But since you can't see the change until you release the mouse button, it may take you several attempts to get a satisfactory width.

  1. Column B resized to show all of New ZealandMove the pointer to the right edge of column heading B.
  2. When the pointer changes to Pointer: Resize Column the Resize Column shape, drag to the right until  New Zealand  shows entirely.

    Since column is not resized until you release the mouse button, you may need several tries to get the width right. (The popup tip in the illustration is a big hint!)

  3. Click and hold again on the right edge of Column B to see the new width.

Column Width: Dialog

  1. Select a cell in Column C.
  2. Menu: Format | Column | WidthChoose  Format  |  Column...  |  Width...  The Column Width dialog appears.

  3. Dialog: Column Width - set to 9Type a new width of 9 and click OK. Now Column C is just large enough to hold the label # of People.
    Column C width set to 9

    Note that these 9 characters and 2 spaces fit in the width of 9 average characters. It takes some practice to make good guesses for widths.

    When you are having trouble dragging to get the width you need, use the dialog to set an exact width. This dialog is also good to use when you want several columns to be the same width.

  4. Class disk Save As  trips3.xls .
    full floppy diskHow to handle a full disk

    Trips3.xls - after formatting columns


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Last updated: 02 May 2012