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10 Core Formatting Techniques in Excel

Microsoft Excel Free Tips & Tutorials

In this guide, we review the top 10 formatting techniques you need to know to present clean and polished work. We cover these formatting techniques along with other Excel fundamentals in our beginner Excel course

1) How to Access Commands for Changing Fonts, Sizes, and Styles

PC Users / MAC Users

  1. a) The Ribbon a) The Ribbon
  2. b) Mini Toolbar (Right Click) b) Menu Bar (FORMAT >> Cells)
  3. c) Format Cells Dialog Box (CTRL + 1) c) Format Cells Dialog Box (CMD + 1)

2) Alignment Options

Align Top, Center, Bottom, Left, Right, Middle, or Angled

HOME >> Alignment group

3) Resize Columns and Rows

  1. a) Specify exact size

HOME >> Cells Group >> Format >> Row Width/Column Height or use the Right Click menu

  1. b) Autofit

Double click on the line separating two column letters

or use HOME >> Cells Group >> Format >> Autofit

  1. c) Drag to adjust

Click on the line separating two columns and drag left or right, as desired

Note: Whenever you see ##### in a cell it means there is not enough space to display the value and you need to increase the width of the column. Text will just cut off and show what fits.

4) Indent

HOME >> Alignment group >> “Increase Indent”/“Decrease Indent”

5) Wrap Text

Wraps and adjusts the cell text based on the width of the column.

  • Click on a cell or select a range of cells
  • HOME >> Alignment group >> Wrap Text

6) Number Formats

In Excel, the data is stored separately from the format. Data formats include text, currency/accounting, percentage, date/time, special, custom and others. By default, cells are formatted with a general category format, which allows any type of data.

HOME >> Number group >> dropdown box

7) Natural Keyboard Shortcuts

  1. Bold : CTRL + B (CMD + B for MAC)
  2. Italic : CTRL + I (CMD + I for MAC)
  3. Underline : CTRL + U (CMD + U for MAC)

8) Borders

Apply borders below headings, column labels, subtotals or grand totals to both draw attention and section your model to facilitate the reader’s comprehension. You can apply borders to any side of any cell, or range of cells.

The first method limits you to black solid borders. The second method allows you to select a variety of colors, styles and apply them to any line in the area.

Method 1 – Using the Ribbon

  • Click on a cell or select a range of cells
  • From the Home tab ribbon, Font Palette, select a border from the Borders drop down

Method 2 – Using Format Cells

  • Click on a cell or select a range of cells
  • Click on the bottom right corner of the Font Palette on the Home Ribbon
  • Select the Border tab.
  • Select the Color of the border
  • Select the Style of the border
  • Select a Preset (None, Outline, Inside) or Individual Borders

9) Merging Cells

Merge multiple, adjacent cells into a single cell

  1. a) Merge and Center
  • Select the horizontal range of cells to be merged
  • The contents of the first cell will be centered across the rest of the selected cells
  • HOME >> Alignment group >> Merge & Center
  1. b) Merge Across
  • Select the horizontal range of cells to be merged
  • The contents of the first cell will not be centered across the rest of the selected cells
  • HOME >> Alignment group >> Merge & Center >> Merge Across
  1. c) Merge Cells
  • Select the horizontal and vertical range of cells to be merged
  • The contents of the first cell will not be centered across the rest of the selected cells
  • HOME >> Alignment group >> Merge & Center >> Merge Cells

10) Line Break

Insert a line break inside a string of text within a single cell

  • Type the contents for the first line
  • Hold down the Alt key and press Enter to force a line break
  • Type the contents for the second line

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NYIM offers several Microsoft Excel courses & on-site training programs to boost your productivity. Since 1998, we've helped tens of thousands of business professionals like you enhance their skills and master advanced Excel techniques.