Excel 2003 - Wrapping Text in Spreadsheets


Excel was developed first and foremost as a tool to make creating tables of figures and calculations easier and quicker. Key to this end is the grid design of the main work space in Excel.  However, this same feature can make formatting labels, titles, non-numeric data, and explanatory paragraphs problematic.

This guide aims to help you overcome these problems.  It begins by outlining the steps needed to 'wrap text' in a cell -- that is, how to make text typed into a cell stay within the cell's boundaries. Subsequent sections discuss the steps needed to centre a heading over the width of a spreadsheet, and what to do if subsequently you need to insert additional cells or columns in the area covered by the title.  The guide finishes by outlining the steps needed to create a paragraph centred across the width of a selected section of a spreadsheet.

Wrapping Cell Contents

"Wrapping" makes text which exceeds the width of a cell move automatically onto a second or subsequent line(s) within the cell it is in. 

To wrap cell contents:
1. Type the required text into the cell.

2. Move out of the cell by pressing Enter, by clicking into another cell or by using Tab or an arrow key to move elsewhere.

3. Right click on the cell you want to wrap text in and select Format Cells.


4. On the Alignment tab, click in the tick box next to Wrap Text.  If desired, also change the Horizontal Text Alignment to Center


5.  Press Enter or click on OK. The format of the cell's contents are adjusted accordingly, and the row that the cell is in automatically is made deeper to accommodate as many lines as required to make the text fit the width of the cell's column.


To perform this operation on more than one cell at a time: 
6. Click on the first cell.

7. Hold down CTRL and select each of the additional cells required.

8. Right click in one of the selected cells and follow steps 4 and 5 above.

NOTE: If the column's width is reduced, the row depth automatically will be adjusted as required.  If the width is increased, row depth can be adjusted manually by double clicking on the bottom border line of the row number (to auto-size it) or by dragging this border to the depth required.


Creating a Title Centred Across a Spreadsheet

It is possible to centre text across a selected group of cells.

To centre a title across a section of a spreadsheet:

1. Type the entire title into the cell at the left edge of the area you wish to centre it across. 


2. Select all of the cells across which the title should be centred.

3. Click on the Merge and Centre icon . 


The borders between the selected cells will disappear, showing that they have been merged into a single cell, and the text will be centred in the middle of this single merged cell.


Turning Off Merge and Center

Once cells have been merged, columns or cells cannot be inserted into or deleted from the merged area unless it is first unmerged.  Note that when the merged cell is selected, the Merge and Centre icon can be used as a toggle switch to turn the feature on or off at will.

To turn off Merge and Centre:
1. Select the merged area

2. Click off the Merge and Centre icon.  You can now insert or delete as needed.  Follow the steps above to merge and centre once again if required.  

Wrapping a Paragraph Across Cells

When a sentence or paragraph is typed into a cell in Excel, initially it appears as a single line running the length of the row in which the cell is located.  If information is typed into the cell in the next column on the left, only the text which fits into the first cell is displayed; the rest is hidden.  It is possible, however, to change this so that the text is displayed as paragraph wrapped across a selected set of cells.

To format text as a paragraph across a selected set of cells:
1. Type the entire paragraph into the single cell at the top left edge of the area in which it is to appear.


2. Select all the cells which the paragraph should be merged across. NOTE: if the paragraph is very long, it may be necessary to click out of the cell in which the paragraph has been typed, and start by selecting the cell at the opposite edge of the area across which the paragraph is to appear.


3. Right-click anywhere into the selected cells and select Format Cells.

4. On the Alignment tab, click in the tick boxes next to Wrap Text and Merge Cells.  If required, also adjust the Horizontal and/or Vertical Text Alignment.

5. Click OK.  Then move to another cell.  The selected area now appears as a single merged cell, but only as much of the paragraph appears as fits into the first row of that cell.

6. Move the mouse pointer onto the border just below the number of the row the paragraph is in, and drag down until the row is deep enough to display the entire paragraph.