How to select one or more cells in a spreadsheet program

Updated: 11/13/2018 by Computer Hope

In a spreadsheet program, like Microsoft Excel, it is possible to select or highlight one or more cells, allowing you to apply formatting to those cells or copy the cells. To learn more about how to select cells, continue reading.

Select a single cell

To select a single cell in a spreadsheet, left-click on the desired cell with your mouse. Once a single cell is selected, it becomes the active cell and will appear bold or have a box surrounding the cell.

Tip: You can also use the keyboard arrow keys to move the selected cell (active cell). If nothing is contained in the cell you can begin typing to insert text into the cell. If you want to modify pre-existing data in that cell you can press the F2 key on the keyboard.

If you need to select more than one cell continue reading the next sections.

Select multiple individual cells

To select multiple individual cells in a spreadsheet, follow the steps below.

  1. Press and hold the Ctrl key.
  2. While holding the Ctrl key, left-click on each cell you want to select.

Selected cells in a spreadsheet

As shown in the picture above, each selected cell will be shaded, to indicate it is selected.

Tip: If you want to change the properties of the selected cells once highlighted (e.g., changing the cell color), right-click on any of the highlighted cells and click Properties.

Note: When highlighting multiple cells the active cell is also part of the highlighted cells. In our above example, cells B1, A2, C4, and B5 are all selected. Even though B1 is not shaded because it is active it is considered a selected cell.

Select a range of cells

Follow either of the below options to select a range of cells in a spreadsheet.

Option 1 - Drag mouse

  1. Left-click with your mouse on the first cell in the range you want to select.
  2. While holding down the left mouse button, drag the mouse cursor to the last cell in the range.

For example, if you want to select cells A1 through A5, left-click the A1 cell, then drag the mouse to the A5 cell while still holding the left mouse button.

Select cells by dragging mouse

Option 2 - Shift click

  1. Left-click with your mouse on the first cell in the range you want to select.
  2. Press and hold the Shift key.
  3. While still holding the Shift key, left-click the last cell in the range.

For example, if you want to select cells A1 through E1, left-click the A1 cell, press and hold the Shift key, then click the E1 cell.

Select cells with Shift click

By using either of the above options, you should have a selected range of cells, as shown in the pictures above.

Additional information