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What is a cell in Excel

what is a cell in excel

Figure 1. What is a cell in Excel

cell in Excel is an individual box for data entering and storage, located at the intersection of a column and a row. Cells are where Excel users perform all calculations, enter all data inputs and observe all results of their analysis. Since cells are positioned at the intersection of rows and columns, their default names are combinations of row names and column names: B2, D2, C5, etc. The name of the active cell is always displayed in the name box under the ribbon (see Figure 1).

Quick examples

How to select cells in Excel

excel go to screen

Figure 2. Excel go to screen

There are several ways to select a cell in Excel:

  1. The mouse: Just click on the cell you need, and it will be activated
  2. Navigation buttons: On your keyboard, you can use Up, Down, Left, and Right buttons to navigate the worksheet and select the cells you need
  3. Go To command:
    • While in Excel, press F5 button on your keyboard
    • Go To screen will appear
    • Type the name of the cell you want to select in the Reference field (Figure 2)

While the first two methods are by far the most common, the last one comes in very handy when you work with huge worksheets and want to quickly just to a specific location.

How to select multiple cells in Excel

excel select multiple cells

Figure 3. Selecting multiple cells

There are at least four ways to select multiple cells in Excel:

  1. Ctrl + Mouse:
    • Press and hold Ctrl on your keyboard
    • With your mouse, left-click on all the cells you want to select. You can either
      • Click on them sequentially – this way you can create a selection of any possible form and distribution (Figure 3)
      • Or hold the left button on your mouse and drag the pointer to select a rectangle containing several cells at once (Figure 4)
    • Release both Ctrl key and the mouse button
  2. Shift + Mouse (rectangular selections only)
    excel select rectangle

    Figure 4. Selecting a rectangle of cells

    • Click on the top left cell of your desired selection (e.g., B2 in Figure 4)
    • Press and hold Shift on your keyboard
    • Click on the bottom right cell of your desired selection (e.g., D4 in Figure 4)
    • Release both Shift and your mouse button
  3. Shift + Navigation buttons (rectangular selections only)
    • Use Up, Down, Left, and Right buttons to select the top left cell of your desired selection (e.g., B2 in Figure 4)
    • Press and hold Shift on your keyboard
    • With Up, Down, Left, and Right buttons, drag the selection to its bottom right cell (e.g., D4 in Figure 4)
    • Release Shift
  4. Go To command:
    excel go to multiple cells

    Figure 5. Go To multiple cells

    • While in Excel, press F5 button on your keyboard
    • Go To screen will appear
    • Type your desired selection in the Reference field:
      • Separate individual cells with a comma (Figure 5)
      • Describe a rectangular area with a semicolon between its top left and bottom right cells (Figure 6)
      • Use a combination of cell names, commas, and semicolons to specify any selection you need (Figure 7)
excel go to select rectangle

Figure 6. Select a rectangle with Go To

excel go to select cells and rectangles

Figure 7. Varied selection with Go To

If you want to know more…
excel cell jump across worksheet

Figure 8. Jumping across worksheet with Ctrl

Jumping across the worksheet with Ctrl

When your worksheet already includes some data, it’s really helpful to move quickly along the blocks of non-empty cells. In this case, you might consider using Ctrl key in combination with one of the navigation buttons. That would make the selection jump in the direction specified by the navigation button:

  • To the last consecutive non-empty cell in that direction – if both your current cell and at least one cell next to it are not empty
  • To the next non-empty cell in that direction – otherwise

Figure 8 demonstrates how the combination of Ctrl and Navigation buttons would work in both cases described above.

The same way, the combination of Ctrl + Shift + Navigation button would help you select a block of cells between the active cell and the last consecutive non-empty cell – or the next non-empty cell.

Test yourself...

Excel Cells Quiz

Take a quick quiz to test how well you understand Excel cells:

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