Active cell

Updated: 04/26/2017 by Computer Hope

Alternatively referred to as a cell pointer or selected cell, an active cell is a rectangular box, highlighting the cell in a spreadsheet. It helps identify what cell is being working with and where data will be entered. In the picture below of Microsoft Excel, you can see that the active cell is D8 and is shown in the top left corner. When a cell is an active cell, it will differ in appearance from other cells such as having a bold border. Also, the column header and row header for the active cell are highlighted, in the example below "D" and "8" are highlighted in gold.


Tip: When you first start Excel the active cell is the first cell, which is always A1.

You can move the cell pointer by pressing the arrow keys or Enter on your keyboard, or you can click on any cell using your computer mouse.

How to change the direction the cell moves when pressing Enter

By default, the Enter key will move the cell pointer one cell down, but this behavior can be changed by following the steps below.

  1. Click Tools and then Options.
  2. In the Options window click on the Edit tab and change the Move selection after Enter option, as shown below.

Changing the cell pointer in Excel

Absolute cell reference, Active, Cell, Name box