How to format rows and columns in Excel

Written by david nield Google
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How to format rows and columns in Excel
Excel is part of the Office suite released by Microsoft. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

While the primary function of a spreadsheet is to crunch numbers, it's also important that the sheet is formatted appropriately. The right formatting can help users pick out the key information in a spreadsheet and makes an otherwise daunting mass of formulas and figures a little more accessible. Entire rows and columns can be formatted at once by selecting the relevant headings from the borders of the spreadsheet, and you can also copy formatting styles from other parts of the file.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Select the row or column you'd like to format by clicking on its row or column heading. Column headings appear as letters at the top of the spreadsheet, while row headings appear as numbers down the side. Click and drag using the mouse to select multiple rows or columns. You can also hold down the "Ctrl" key while clicking additional headings to select multiple sections.

  2. 2

    Configure the formatting options as required from the Font and Alignment sections of the Home tab on the ribbon menu. You can adjust font size and style, background colours and text colours, cell alignment, borders and indentation. Changes are previewed instantly as you move the mouse cursor over them.

  3. 3

    Open the drop-down menu on the Number section of the Home tab to choose a number or text format for the chosen rows and columns. Choose one of the options shown (such as "Currency" or "Fraction"), or select "More Number Formats" to see the full range of formats available in Excel.

  4. 4

    Select one of the formatting options in the Styles section of the Home tab to apply it to the selected rows and columns. These styles include text and background colours as well as cell borders. Click the drop-down arrow to the right of the Styles box to see more options. Select "New Cell Style" to create a formatting template of your own.

  5. 5

    Select "Conditional Formatting" from the Styles section to automatically change the formatting of your chosen cells based on specific criteria. A number of preset rules and examples are available to pick from, or you can select "New Rule" to configure your own rule (the highest value in a column is marked in yellow, for example). Conditional formatting is adjusted automatically as the cell values change.

Tips and warnings

  • The Format Painter option (in the Clipboard section of the Home tab) enables you to copy the formatting of one group of cells to another. Select the cell, row or column with the formatting you want to copy, then click the "Format Painter" button and select a new cell or group or cells. The painted format includes all of the formatting settings on the Home tab, including font size, alignment, borders and cell colours.

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