Excel Cells Basics – A Beginner’s Guide

A cell is the smallest unit of an Excel worksheet. Each cell has a unique address. Cell address is a combination of a column letter and a row number.


Excel cell


Selecting Cells
Insert and Delete Cells
Resize Excel Cells
Editing Cell
Refer to a Cell in Formula
Copy, Cut, and Paste Cells
Select, Copy, and Paste Visible Cells Only
Lock or Protect Cells
Navigate Between Cells
Move or Shift Cells
Swapping Cells
Merge and Unmerge Cells
Split Data of a Cell
Edit Cell Content

What Is a Cell in Excel?

The cell is the smallest unit of the Excel worksheet. It is the intersection point of a row and column and is referred to as the combination of a letter and a number e.g., A1.

Cell address is shown in the Name Box

We can see the address of the active cell in the Name Box.

The currently selected cell in the worksheet is called the Active Cell.

How to Select Cells in Excel?

You can select a cell, a range of cells, and non-contiguous cells using your mouse. There are also some keyboard shortcuts available.

Selecting a Single Cell:

Click the cell to select it.

Select single cell

Selecting a Range of Contiguous Cells:

Select a single cell. Left-click and drag the cursor in any direction to select multiple contiguous cells.

Selecting range of cells by dragging

Or hold Shift and press the arrow keys on the keyboard to drag the selection cursor over the cells.

Selecting Non-Contiguous Cells:

To select multiple non-contiguous cells, press and hold Ctrl and select cells one by one.

Selecting range of cells using keyboard shortcut

Selecting All Cells:

Select any cell of a range or table and press Ctrl+A twice.

Select all cells using Keyboard shortcutor hover your mouse to the place where row and column headers merge and click.

Select all cells using mouse

How to Insert and Delete Cells in Excel?

Inserting Cells:

To insert a new blank cell after C6 in the same column:

Select the existing cell to insert new cell

Steps to follow:

  • Place the cursor over C7 and right-click.
  • Select Insert in the Context Menu.
  • Choose Shift cells down in Insert.

Insert cell down from the context menu

Content in C7:C14 will be moved one cell down, and a new blank cell will be created in C7.

To insert N cells, select N cells. Right-click and follow the the same procedure described above.

If you choose Shift cells right, the existing cells will be shifted rightwards.

Deleting Cells:

To delete C7:

Select a cell to delete

Steps to follow:

  • Select C7. Right-click and choose Delete.
  • Choose Shift cells up in Delete.

Delete cell from context menu

C7 is deleted, and the other cells in column C are shifted up

How to Resize Excel Cells?

You can resize cells in Excel by resizing the rows and columns. To resize B4:

1. Use the Resize Cursor

  • Place the cursor on the right edge of column B.
  • Left-click and drag the mouse to the right or left to increase or decrease the width.
  • To modify the height, place the cursor on the bottom edge of row 4.
  • Left-click and drag the mouse up or downwards to decrease or increase the cell height.

Resize cell using Resize cursor

2. Resize a Cell in the Context Menu

  • Place the mouse on the heading of column B and right-click.
  • In the Context Menu, select Column Width.
  • Insert the width and click OK.
  • Place the mouse on the heading of row 4.
  • Select Row Height in the Context Menu.
  • Enter the height and click OK in Row Height.

Resize cell from context menu

How to Edit a Cell in Excel?

1. Double-clicking the Left Button of the Mouse

Select a cell and double-click the left mouse button.

Edit a cell a using mouse

2. Using Keyboard

Select a cell and press F2.

Edit a cell using keyboard shortcut

On a laptop, press Fn, and then F2.

How to Refer to a Cell in an Excel Formula?

We refer to a cell in an Excel formula using a cell reference. A cell reference is the address of a cell.

There are 3 types of cell references available in Excel: relative, absolute, and mixed.

Relative Cell Reference: In relative cell referencing, both the column and row change when you drag or copy the formula to another location. Example: =A1

Absolute Cell Reference: In absolute cell referencing, both the column and row remain unchanged. The absolute sign ($) is used before the column and row number. Example: =$A$1

Mixed Cell Reference: Every components of a cell will change. The absolute sign is used before the column or row number. Example: =A$1. If you copy this cell reference, only the column letter will change its relative position.

Different types of cell reference in Excel

How to Copy, Cut, and Paste Cells in Excel?

Copying and Pasting Cells:

Use Ctrl+C (copy) and Ctrl+V (paste).


  • Select the cell or range (E5:E14) and click Copy in Clipboard.
  • Go to F5 and click Paste in Clipboard.

Copy and paste in Excel

Cut and Paste Cells:

To cut, press Ctrl+X. Press Ctrl+V to paste.


  • Select E5:E14 and click Cut in Clipboard.
  • Go to F5 and select Paste in Clipboard.

Cut and paste in Excel

How to Copy Visible Cells Only in Excel?

In the dataset below, rows 9 and 13 are hidden. To copy and paste B5:E14 to another location excluding rows 9 and 13:

Worksheet with hidden rows

1. Applying a Keyboard Shortcut

Select B5:E14 and press Alt + :. only visible cells are selected.

Select visible cells using keyboard shortcut

  • Press Ctrl+C to copy.
  • Go to B18 and press Ctrl+V to paste.

Copy and paste visible cells only using the keyboard shortcut

2. Using the Go To Special Feature

Use the Go To Special feature to select  the visible cells only.

  • Select B5:E14 > Click Find & Select in Editing > Select Go To Special.

Select Go To Special feature from the ribbon

  • In Go To Special, click  Visible cells only in Select.
  • Click OK.

Select Visible cells only option from the Go To Special dialog box

Only visible cells are selected.

Select visible cells using the Go To Special feature

Copy and paste visible cells only using Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V.

How to Protect Cells in Excel?


  • Click Select All.
  • Press Ctrl+1 to open the Format Cells dialog box.

Select all cells

  • Select Protection.
  • Uncheck Locked and click OK.

Uncheck lock option

All cells are unlocked. To lock B5:B14 only:

  • Select B5:B14.
  • Open the Format Cells dialog box.
  • Check Lock in Protection.
  • Click OK.

Lock selected cells from Format Cells dialog box

  • Go to the Review tab > Click Protect Sheet in Protect.
  • Check Select locked cells and Select unlocked cells.
  • Click OK.

Protect the locked cells

The warning shown below will be displayed when clicking any protected cell in B5:B14.

Warning on clicking protected cell

To protect the entire worksheet, lock all cells in Protection. Protect the sheet as shown above.

How to Navigate Between Cells in Excel?

You can move in four directions in Excel using different keyboard keys.

Use arrow keys to navigate in Excel: move up, down, left, and right.

There are other keyboard keys with more features.

Key Function
Tab Move rightward
Shift + Tab Move leftward
Ctrl + Home Go to the first cell of the sheet, A1
Page Up Go to the previous page
Page Down Go to the next page

How to Move or Shift Cells in Excel?

Move or shift cells by dragging.

  • Select E5:E14 and move the cursor to the border of the selection area.
  • The cursor becomes a move cursor. Press and hold the left button of the mouse.
  • Drag the cursor and select a location.

Move cells in Excel

You can also move cells by cutting and pasting.

How to Swap Cells in Excel?

Swap Adjacent Cells:

To swap cells column-wise, here E6 and E7.

  • Select E6 and press and hold Shift.
  • Move the cursor to the bottom edge of E6.
  • Slowly drag the mouse downward to E8. Release Shift and mouse.

Swap adjacent cells column-wise

E6 and E7 were swapped.

To swap cells row-wise, here C9 and D9.

  • Holding Shift and place the mouse at the right border of C9.
  • Drag the left-mouse button rightward to E9. Release Shift and mouse.

Swap adjacent cells row-wise

C9 and D9 were swapped.

Swap Non-Adjacent Cells:

To swap two non-adjacent cells, here E7 and E12:

  • Swap E7 to E12.
  • E12 will be shifted to E11.
  • Swap E11 to E7.

Swap Non-Adjacent Cells


How to Merge and Unmerge Cells in Excel?

Merging cells means combining multiple cells to behave like a single cell.

You want to write a sentence in B4 that exceeds its borders.

Data exceeds cell boundary

Merge B4 and C4.

Steps to follow:

  • Select B4 and C4 and click Merge & Center.
  • Choose an option.

Merge cells in Excel

  • Cells are merged.

Cells are merged

  • To unmerge cells, select Unmerge Cells in Merge & Center.

Unmerge cells in Excel

How to Split Data in an Excel Cell?

Use the Text to Columns feature.

In column B, the brand and device type are combined. To split the brand and device type into separate columns:

  • Select B6:B14.
  • Go to the Data tab > Text to Columns in Data Tools.

Go to Text to Columns feature in Excel

  • The Convert Text to Columns Wizard is displayed.
  • Check Delimited in Choose the file type that best describes your data:
  • Click Next.

1st step of Convert Text to Columns Wizard

  • In Convert Text to Columns Wizard, check Space as Delimiter.
  • Click Next.

2nd step of Convert Text to Columns Wizard

  • In Convert Text to Columns Wizard, select General in Column data format.
  • In Destination, select C6.
  • Click Finish.

3rd step of Convert Text to Columns Wizard

Brand name and device type are split into two different columns.

Dataset after split

How to Edit Cell Content in Excel?

Insert Content in an Excel Cell:

Enter content in a selected cell. Press Enter and data will be inserted.

Insert content in Excel cell

Delete or Clear Cell Content:

  • Select B4 > Click Clear > Select Clear Contents.

Clear cell contents in Excel

Content is deleted.

Cell after clearing contents

You can also select a cell containing data and press Delete.


Excel Cells: Knowledge Hub

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Alok Paul
Alok Paul

Alok Paul has completed his B.Sc. in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering from East West University. He has been working on the ExcelDemy project for more than 2 years. He has written 220+ articles and replied to numerous comments. He is experienced in Microsoft Office, especially in Excel. He also led some teams on Excel and VBA content development. He has a keen interest in Advanced Excel, Data analysis, Excel Pivot Table, Charts, and Dashboard. He loves to research... Read Full Bio

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