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How to select cells in Excel

In this lesson, we're going to take a look at the first step in doing almost anything in Excel—selecting one or more cells. Excel will let you select one cell, a range of cells, or any combination of single and multiple cells.

Let's take a look.

The first thing to understand about selecting cells is that there is always at least one cell already selected in the worksheet. To see what is currently selected, check the name box. The name box will display a reference to the current selection.

To select one cell in Excel, just click anywhere in the worksheet.

Notice that the address shown in the name box is continuously updated.

To select more than one cell, click a cell in the worksheet, hold your mouse down, and drag to expand the selection.

If you watch the name box, you'll see the number of rows and columns currently selected. This will change dynamically as you expand or reduce the selection.

When you let go of your mouse, the name window will display the address of the active cell in the selection.  The active cell is always highlighted.

What if you want to select cells that aren't next to one another? For that, we need to use a modifier key to tell Excel to add to our selection.

Make the first selection normally. Then, while holding down the control key, make your next selection. You can add as many selections as you like.

With multiple selections, notice that the name box will display the address of the active cell which will be highlighted in the last selection made.

Why would you want to make multiple selections? The most common reason is to change the formatting in more than one cell at a time. We'll look at how to do this in a future lesson.

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Author 
Dave Bruns

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