Excel Cells Basics – A Beginner’s Guide

Get FREE Advanced Excel Exercises with Solutions!

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

In this Excel tutorial, you will learn everything about Excel cells in detail, including selecting, inserting, deleting, and customizing.

In the following image, you can see an Excel cell.

Excel cell

After reading this article, you will learn-

  • Ways to select, insert, delete, edit, and resize cells
  • Referencing a cell
  • Hiding, unhiding, protecting, merging, and unmerging cells
  • Navigating between cells
  • Swapping and splitting data within cells
  • Editing cell contents

Note: We have worked with Excel 365 in this article.

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. We insert, modify, delete, and perform other activities in the Excel cell. It is the intersection point of a row and column and is denoted as the combination of a letter and a number e.g., cell 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 Single Cell:

Simply click on the desired cell in the worksheet to select a cell in Excel.

Select single cell

Selecting a Range of Contiguous Cells:

Select a single cell. Hold the left key of your mouse and drag the cursor in any direction to select multiple contiguous cells.

Selecting range of cells by dragging

Or, you can select contiguous cells using the keyboard. After selecting a cell, hold the Shift key 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 the Ctrl button 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 shortcut]oor, hover your mouse where the row and column headers merge (see the image below). Then click on it.\]

Select all cells using mouse

How to Insert and Delete Cells in Excel?

Inserting Cells:

Suppose we want to insert a new blank cell after cell C6 in the same column.

Select the existing cell to insert new cell

Steps to follow:

  • Right-click after placing the cursor over cell C7.
  • Select the Insert option from the Context Menu.
  • Choose Shift cells down from the Insert dialog box.

Insert cell down from the context menu

As a result, the contents in cells C7:C14 will be moved one cell down, and a new blank cell will be created at the C7 position.

If you want to insert N cells, then select N cells first, then right-click and follow the rest of this workaround,

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

Deleting Cells:

Suppose we want to delete cell C7.

Select a cell to delete

Steps to follow:

  • Select cell C7. Right-click, and choose the Delete option from the Context Menu.
  • Choose Shift cells up from the Delete dialog box.

Delete cell from context menu

We will see that cell C7 along with its content is deleted, and the remaining cells of column C have been shifted up

How to Resize Excel Cells?

You can resize cells in Excel by resizing the rows and columns they are made with. Say, we shall resize cell B4. So we have to resize column B and row 4 to resize this cell.

1. Using Resize Cursor

  • Place the cursor on the right edge of column B.
  • After left-clicking, drag the mouse to the right or left to increase or decrease the width.
  • To modify the height, move to the row bar and 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 Cell from Context Menu

  • Place and right-click the mouse on the heading of column B in the column bar.
  • In the Context Menu, select the Column Width option.
  • Insert the width and press OK in the Column Width dialog box.
  • Bring the Context Menu after placing the mouse on the heading of row 4 in the row bar.
  • Select the Row Height in the Context Menu.
  • Input the height and press OK in the Row Height dialog box.

Resize cell from context menu

How to Edit Cell in Excel?

We can easily edit a cell by double-clicking and keyboard shortcut in Excel.

1. Double-clicking the Left Button of the Mouse

After selecting a cell, double-click the left mouse button.

Edit a cell a using mouse

2. Using Keyboard

After selecting a cell, press the F2 key.

Edit a cell using keyboard shortcut

If you are on a laptop, press Fn, and then F2.

How to Refer to a Cell in Excel Formula?

We refer to a cell in the Excel formula using a cell reference. A cell reference is the address of a cell, and it is used in Excel functions, formulas, etc.

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 we drag or copy that formula to another location. Example: =A1

Absolute Cell Reference: In absolute cell referencing, both the column and row remain unchanged. For that, we use the absolute sign, which is the dollar ($) symbol before the column and row number. Example: =$A$1

Mixed Cell Reference: In mixed cell referencing, any one component of a cell will change. Here, the absolute sign will exist either before the column or row number. Example: =A$1. If you copy this cell reference, the column letter will change its relative position, but the row number won’t.

Different types of cell reference in Excel

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

Copy or cut cells means to copy or cut the data of that cell to a different location.

Copying and Pasting Cells:

The most frequently used copy-paste commands in Windows are Ctrl+C (copy) and Ctrl+V (paste).


  • Select the desired cell or range (E5:E14) and click on the Copy option from the Clipboard group.
  • Move to cell F5 and click on the Paste option in the Clipboard group.

Copy and paste in Excel

Cut and Paste Cells:

The keyboard shortcut to cut cells is Ctrl+X. Then press Ctrl+V to paste the cell contents.


  • Select range E5:E14 then click on Cut in the Clipboard group.
  • Go to cell F5 and select Paste in the Clipboard group.

Cut and paste in Excel

How to Copy Visible Cells Only in Excel?

When you copy cells that have hidden rows or columns (not filtered, but specifically “hidden”), and then paste them elsewhere, you’ll find that the hidden content is also pasted. This isn’t always what you would expect.

In the given scenario, rows 9 and 13 are hidden. We want to copy and paste the range B5:E14 to another location excluding cells of rows 9 and 13.

Worksheet with hidden rows

1. Applying a Keyboard Shortcut

Select range B5:E14 and press Alt + ;. You will notice that only the visible cells are selected.

Select visible cells using keyboard shortcut

  • After selecting visible cells, press Ctrl+C to copy.
  • Then, move to cell B18 and press Ctrl+V to paste the visible cells.

Copy and paste visible cells only using the keyboard shortcut

2. Using Go To Special Feature

We can use the Go To Special feature to select only the visible cells. After that, we can copy and paste them by applying the same procedure mentioned in the previous section.

  • Select range B5:E14 > Click on Find & Select drop-down menu of Editing group > Select Go To Special option from the menu.

Select Go To Special feature from the ribbon

  • From the Go To Special dialog box, click the Visible cells only button from the Select section.
  • Press OK.

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

You can see only visible cells are selected.

Select visible cells using the Go To Special feature

After that, copy and paste the visible cells only using Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V.

How to Protect Cells in Excel?

To protect a specific range of cells in Excel, first, unmark the Locked checkbox from the Protection tab of the Format Cells dialog box. Afterward, lock the desired cells from the Format Cells dialog box, and then protect the sheet from the Review tab.

Steps to follow:

  • First, select all cells by selecting the Select All button.
  • Press Ctrl+1 to bring out the Format Cells dialog box.

Select all cells

  • Go to the Protection tab of the Format Cells dialog box.
  • Uncheck the Locked option and click on the OK  button.

Uncheck lock option

All the cells are unlocked. Now, we will lock only range B5:B14 here.

  • Now, select range B5:B14 to protect.
  • Open the Format Cells dialog box shown previously. Check Lock from the Protection tab.
  • Finally, click on OK.

Lock selected cells from Format Cells dialog box

  • Go to the Review tab > Click on the Protect Sheet option of the Protect group.
  • In the Protect Sheet window, check two options: Select locked cells and Select unlocked cells.
  • Finally, click OK.

Protect the locked cells

We will get the warning shown below when clicking on any protected cell of range B5:B14 in the worksheet.

Warning on clicking protected cell

To protect the entire worksheet, first, lock all the cells from the Protection tab of the Format Cells dialog box. Then, protect the sheet as shown previously.

How to Navigate Between Cells in Excel?

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

The use of arrow keys is the easiest way to navigate in Excel. With the four arrow keys, you can move up, down, left, and right.

There are other keyboard keys to navigate in Excel 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?

We can easily move or shift cells by dragging.

  • Select range E5:E14 and move the cursor on the border of the selection area.
  • When the cursor turns into the move cursor, press and hold the left mouse button.
  • Drag the cursor and select any location to move the cells.

Move cells in Excel

You can also move cells by cutting and pasting which has been shown previously.

How to Swap Cells in Excel?

We can easily swap adjacent cells in Excel using a combination of the keyboard and mouse. However, when swapping between non-adjacent cells, we need to apply the same operation twice.

Swap Adjacent Cells:

First, we will show how to swap cells column-wise. We will swap cells E6 and E7.

  • Select cell E6 and press and hold the Shift key.
  • Move the cursor at the bottom edge of cell E6 and get the move cursor.
  • Slowly drag the mouse downward and when E8 pops up, release the Shift key and mouse.

Swap adjacent cells column-wise

You can see cells E6 and E7 have been swapped.

Now, we will show how to swap cells row-wise. We will swap cells C9 and D9.

  • Like the previous method, holding the Shift key, place the mouse at the right border of cell C9 to get the move cursor.
  • Drag the left-mouse button rightward, until E9 pops up. Then, release the Shift key and mouse.

Swap adjacent cells row-wise

You can see cells C9 and D9 swapped successfully.

Swap Non-Adjacent Cells:

Here, we will swap two non-adjacent cells E7 and E12. For that, we need to perform swapping twice.

  • First, swap cell E7 to cell E12.
  • Cell E12 will be shifted to E11. Again, swap E11 to E7.

Swap Non-Adjacent Cells

Finally, we will get a dataset after a successful swapping of cells E7 and E12.

How to Merge and Unmerge Cells in Excel?

Merging cells means combining multiple cells in Excel to behave like a single cell. Excel has a dedicated feature for merging cells.

Suppose, we write a sentence in cell B4 that exceeds the border of cell B4.

Data exceeds cell boundary

Now, we will merge cells B4 and C4.

Steps to follow:

  • Select cells B4 and C4, then click on Merge & Center drop-down.
  • Choose any of the first three options of the drop-down menu.

Merge cells in Excel

  • Look at the dataset. We have selected the Merge & Center option to merge cells.

Cells are merged

  • To unmerge cells, select the Unmerge Cells option from the Merge & Center drop-down menu.

Unmerge cells in Excel

How to Split Data of an Excel Cell?

We can split the data of any cell in Excel using the Text to Columns feature. In column B, the brand and device type are combined. We want to split the brand and device type into separate columns.

  • Select range B6:B14.
  • Go to Data tab > Text to Columns from the Data Tools group.

Go to Text to Columns feature in Excel

  • 1st step of Convert Text to Columns Wizard appears.
  • Check the Delimited option under the Choose the file type that best describes your data: section and click on Next.

1st step of Convert Text to Columns Wizard

  • In the 2nd step of Convert Text to Columns Wizard, check Space as the Delimiter.
  • Again, press the Next button.

2nd step of Convert Text to Columns Wizard

  • In the 3rd step of Convert Text to Columns Wizard, select General as the Column data format.
  • Selecting Destination as cell C6, finally, click Finish.

3rd step of Convert Text to Columns Wizard

Brand name and device type have been split into two different columns in the following dataset.

Dataset after split

How to Edit Cell Content in Excel?

Insert Contents in an Excel Cell:

Type something in a selected cell. Then, press Enter and data will be inserted.

Insert content in Excel cell

Delete or Clear Cell Content:

We can easily delete or clear the content of a cell using the ribbon feature and keyboard shortcut.

  • Select cell B4 > Click on Clear drop-down menu > Select Clear Contents from the menu.

Clear cell contents in Excel

You can see content deleted in the dataset.

Cell after clearing contents

After selecting a cell containing data, press the Delete button to delete cell content easily.

Cells are the core elements of the Excel worksheet. After reading this article, you have learned what a cell is, and how to select, copy, paste, move, and swap cells in Excel. We have also shown how to navigate between cells, and how to protect cell content by protecting the sheet. You have also learned how to refer to cells in Excel formula, and how to edit cell content using mouse and keyboard. Any questions left about cells? Please let us know in the comment box.

Excel Cells: Knowledge Hub

<< Go Back to Learn Excel

What is ExcelDemy?

ExcelDemy - Learn Excel & Get Excel Solutions Center provides online Excel training , Excel consultancy services , free Excel tutorials, free support , and free Excel Templates for Excel professionals and businesses. Feel free to contact us with your Excel problems.


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

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Advanced Excel Exercises with Solutions PDF