All Types of Alignment in Excel (Explained in Detail)

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While working with data in Excel, you may need to organize your data in the cells. One of the key elements that contribute to effective data presentation is alignment. Proper alignment not only enhances the visual appeal of your Excel sheets but also ensures clarity and readability. For organizing your text or numbers into cells, you need to be familiar with all types of alignment in Excel.

In this Excel tutorial, you will learn all types of alignment in Excel and ways to apply them.

Here’s an overview of the types of alignment options in the “Alignment” group in the “Home” tab of the Excel ribbon.
Types of alignment in Excel


What Is Cell Alignment?

Alignment is the position indicator of your text or number. In Microsoft Excel, cell alignment refers to the way the contents (text, numbers, or other data) within a cell are positioned or oriented.

The default alignment for cells is typically set to “General.” This means that the content in the cells is aligned based on the data type. The default alignment of numbers is on the bottom right corner; for text, it is on the bottom left corner of a cell in Excel.

Default alignment in Excel

The “Home” tab of the Excel ribbon has a dedicated section for different types of alignment options. Besides, you will find some more alignment features in the “Format Cells” dialog box. Here are two ways to get different alignment features:


1. Types of Alignment in Alignment Group of Excel Ribbon

To access the alignment options in the Excel ribbon, go to the Alignment group under the Home tab. Basically, there are two major types of alignment in Excel. One is “Horizontal Alignment” and the other is “Vertical Alignment”. Besides, there are some other alignment options like “Merge & Center”, “Orientation”, “Wrap Text”, “Indent” etc.

Alignment types in Home tab of Excel

1.1. Horizontal Alignment

Horizontal alignment in Excel refers to the positioning or orientation of the content (text, numbers, or other data) within a cell along the horizontal axis. Mainly, the horizontal alignment consists of Left, Center, and Right.

Here are the details of each type of horizontal alignment:

♦ Align Left

The Align Left command shows the content on the left side of the Excel cells. You can align both text and numbers to the left of a cell border.

To make the cell content left-aligned in Excel:

  1. Highlight the range of cells.
  2. Go to the Home tab > Alignment group > Left Align.
    Left align

♦ Center

The Center alignment command will align the text in the center. It also exists in the Alignment group in between the Align Right and Align Left commands.

To align the cell content horizontally center:

  1. Highlight the range of cells.
  2. Go to the Home tab > Alignment group > Center.
    Center

♦ Align Right

Align Right will shift the text to the right edge of your cells. This option exists in the Alignment group, just right beside the Center command.

To make cell content right align:

  1. Highlight the range of cells.
  2. Go to the Home tab > Alignment group > Right Align.
    Right align

Here are the shortcut keys for different types of horizontal alignment:

Types of Horizontal Alignment Shortcut Key
Align Left ALT + H + A + L
Center ALT + H + A + C
Align Right ALT + H + A + R

Read More: How to Apply Center Horizontal Alignment in Excel


1.2. Vertical Alignment

Vertical alignment in Excel refers to the positioning or orientation of the content (text, numbers, or other data) within a cell along the vertical axis. The Vertical Alignment comprises Top, Middle, and Bottom alignments.

Here are the details of each type of vertical alignment:

♦ Top Align

The Top Align option moves your text to the top of the cell.

To make the cell content top-aligned in Excel:

  1. Highlight the range of cells.
  2. Go to the Home tab > Alignment group > Top Align.
    Top align

♦ Middle Align

The Middle Align option will align your text in the middle of the cell, which is between the top and bottom of the cell.

To align the cell content vertically in the middle:

  1. Highlight the range of cells.
  2. Go to the Home tab > Alignment group > Middle Align.
    Middle align

♦ Bottom Align

The “Bottom Align” option is always enabled for any type of cell content by default. When you select any horizontal alignment option (left, center, or middle), the Bottom Align option is also activated in that case.

To align your cell content to the bottom:

  1. Highlight the range of cells.
  2. Go to the Home tab > Alignment group > Bottom Align.
    Bottom align

Here are the shortcut keys for different types of vertical alignment:

Types of Vertical Alignment Shortcut Key
Top Align ALT + H + A + T
Middle Align ALT + H + A + M
Bottom Align ALT + H + A + B
However, you can combine different types of alignment options to organize your cell content differently. See the image below for an illustration:

Combination of different types of alignment


1.3. Wrap Text

You can make your cell content visible within its boundaries. So, you can use the Wrap Text feature of Excel. It’s useful for handling lengthy text or labels, ensuring that it displays on multiple lines without adjusting row height manually.

To wrap up your text:

  1. Select the cell range
  2. Go to the Home tab > Alignment group > Wrap Text.
    Wrap text in Excel

1.4. Merge & Center

To combine and center the content of multiple cells into a single and larger cell in Excel, you can use the Merge & Center feature. This feature is commonly used to create headings or titles across multiple columns. When you apply Merge & Center, it keeps the content of the first cell only.

To merge cells with center alignment in Excel:

  1. Select the cells
  2. Go to the Home tab > Alignment group > Merge & Center.
    It will combine the selected cells into a bigger cell and show the cell content in the middle position.
    Merge & Center in Excel

Note: The Merge & Center feature keeps only the content of the first cell in the combined cell.


1.5. Orientation

The Orientation feature allows you to rotate the content within a cell. You can angle text or numbers to create a specific visual effect.

To apply orientation in Excel:

  1. Select the range of cells.
  2. Go to the Home tab > Alignment group > Orientation drop-down.
    It provides multiple options, such as:
    • Angle Counterclockwise: To rotate the text in a cell counterclockwise at a specified angle.
    • Angle Clockwise: To rotate the text in a cell clockwise at a specified angle.
    • Top to Bottom: To align the text vertically in a cell from top to bottom.
    • Bottom to Top: To align vertically the text in a cell from bottom to top.
    • Vertical Text: To rotate the text in a cell 90 degrees.

    Orientation in Excel


1.6. Indent

The Indent feature in the Alignment group refers to the indentation of the text within a cell. There are two types of Indent options:

  1. Increase Indent: Moves your content further away from the cell border.
  2. Decrease Indent: Moves your content closer to the cell border.
    Indent in Excel

Read More: How to Align Columns in Excel


2. Types of Alignment in Format Cells Dialog Box

In Microsoft Excel, the Format Cells dialog box provides various alignment options to control how the content of cells is displayed within the cell. It provides some extra features for aligning content in a cell.

To access the Format Cells dialog box:

  1. Just press Ctrl + 1.
    It will launch the Format Cells dialog box.
  2. Go to the Alignment tab to access alignment options.
    Alignment tab in Format Cells dialog box

Here are all the alignment features in the Format Cells dialog box:


2.1. Fill

The Fill feature shows the content at the edge of the cell border. If the cell is too wide, it repeats the content until it reaches the cell border.

To apply the Fill feature in the Format Cells dialog box:

  1. Go to the Alignment tab.
  2. Expand the “Horizontal” drop-down of the Text alignment section in the Format Cells dialog box.
  3. Click OK.
    Fill option in Format Cells dialog boxSee the image below for an illustration of changes after applying the Fill command.
    Fill option showing content up to cell border

Note: The “Fill” option shows change only for the “Currency” format, not for the “Accounting” format.


2.2. Justify

The Justify command is helpful if a word is too long to fit within a cell border. You will find the Justify command both in the Horizontal and Vertical drop-down of the Alignment group of the Format Cells dialog box.

The horizontal Justify command adjusts the spacing between words in a cell to align both the left and right borders. That means Excel will stretch or compress the text within the cell. On the other hand, the vertical Justify command adjusts the spacing between lines in a cell to spread the text evenly from top to bottom.

To apply the Justify command in the Format Cells dialog box:

  1. Select the Alignment tab.
  2.  Go to the Text alignment section > Horizontal or Vertical drop-down > Justify.
  3. Click OK.
    Justify option in Format Cells dialog boxTo notice the difference between horizontal and vertical Justify commands, see the image below. For the horizontal Justify command, the text of the second line is shifted to each side of the cell border.
    Justify for default row heightWhen the row height is not the default height, the Justify command doesn’t increase the row height further. You may find some words missing in the cell after applying the Justify command.
    Justify for increased row height

Note: Justify is different from Wrap Text because the Justify command focuses on adjusting the spacing of words or lines to achieve alignment along the cell border within a cell. However, the Wrap Text command primarily deals with accommodating multiline text by expanding the row height.


2.3. Distributed

You will find the Distributed alignment type in both the Horizontal and Vertical sections of the Format Cells dialog box. This command also enables the Wrap Text feature.

To apply the Distributed command in the Format Cells dialog box:

  1. Select the Alignment tab.
  2.  Go to the Text alignment section > Horizontal or Vertical drop-down > Distributed.
  3. Click OK.
    Horizontal and vertical distributed commandThe Distributed command is different from the Wrap Text feature. The  Wrap Text focuses on accommodating multiline text by adjusting the row height.
    The horizontal Distributed command distributes the words or characters horizontally across the width of the cell border. The vertical Distributed command distributes multiple lines evenly across the height of the cell border.
    See the image below for proper illustration:
    Difference between Wrap Text and Distributed commands

2.4. Center Across Selection

The Center Across Selection feature in the Format Cells dialog box in Excel is a text alignment option that allows you to center the text horizontally across a range of selected cells without merging the cells.

To apply the Center Across Selection command in the Format Cells dialog box:

  1. Select the Alignment tab.
  2. Go to the Text alignment section > Horizontal drop-down > Center Across Selection.
  3. Click OK.
    Center Across Selection commandThe Center Across Selection command doesn’t affect or change the cell content. It just shows the content in the center position. See the image below for illustration:
    Center across selection

2.5. Shrink to Fit

Shrink to Fit in the Format Cells dialog box is an option that allows you to automatically reduce the font size to fit the content within a cell. This feature is useful when the text in a cell is too long to be fully displayed within the given cell width.

To apply Shrink to Fit in the Format Cells dialog box:

  1. Select the Alignment tab.
  2. Go to the Text control section and mark Shrink to Fit.
  3. Click OK.
    Shrink to Fit commandYou will also find the Wrap Text and Merge Cells command in the Text control section. see the image below to compare the Text control options.
    Wrap Text, Shrink to Fit and Merge Cells

2.6. Text Direction

The Text Direction option includes 3 options:

  • Context: Choosing the appropriate “Context” option ensures that the text is displayed correctly according to the writing direction of the selected language. This is especially important when your Excel sheet has a mix of languages with different writing directions.
  • Left-to-Right: This is the default setting for most languages, where text is read from left to right.
  • Right-to-Left: This option is available for languages like Arabic and Hebrew, where text is read from right to left.

To access the Text direction in the Format Cells dialog box:

  1. Select the Alignment tab.
  2. Go to the “Right-to-left” section > Text direction drop-down.
  3. Select your option.
  4. Click OK.
    Text Direction option in Format Cells

Download Practice Workbook

Download the following practice workbook. It will help you to realize the topic more clearly.


Conclusion

So this is all about types of alignment in Excel. From basic horizontal and vertical alignment to advanced features like Wrap Text, Merge & Center, Center Across Selection, Orientation, Justify, Fill, Distributed, and Shrink to Fit, each tool plays a crucial role in presenting your Excel sheet. Please let us know in the comments section if you have any questions or suggestions.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between “Center Across Selection” and “Merge & Center”?

The Merge & Center command combines multiple cells into one bigger cell, but Center Across Selection doesn’t combine them; it just shows the cell content in the center position of the selected range. If you apply the Center Across Selection command to multiple cells, it shows the content of all the cells in their center position.

What is the difference between “Justify” and “Distributed” command in Excel?

The Justify command adjusts word or line spacing to align both the left and right sides of the cell border. On the other hand, the Distributed adjusts character or line spacing evenly across the cell’s width or height. While Justify focuses on alignment, Distributed evenly distributes content for a more uniform presentation in Excel cells.


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Fahim Shahriyar Dipto
Fahim Shahriyar Dipto

Fahim Shahriyar Dipto is a graduate of Mechanical Engineering at BUET. With over 1.5 years of experience at Exceldemy, he authored 70+ articles on ExcelDemy. He has expertise in designing worksheets at You’ve Got This Math. Currently, He is a Team Leader at Brainor. Dipto's passion extends to exploring various aspects of Excel. Beyond tech, he enjoys creating engaging kids' worksheets using Illustrator. A dedicated employee and innovative content developer, He incorporates a commitment to academic excellence and... Read Full Bio

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