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Fitting Your Information

It is important to remember that the default size for Excel columns is only a starting point. In fact, one of the most common formatting tasks you will do in Excel is to adjust the width of columns. If you want to make sure that all the information in a cell is visible, try this:

  1. Select a cell in the column you want to adjust, making sure you select the one that has the widest information you want displayed.
  2. Choose Column from the Format menu. This displays a submenu.
  3. Choose AutoFit Selection from the submenu.

The column width is adjusted so that the information in the cell you selected is entirely visible. Another quick way to do a similar adjustment is to simply double-click on the divider bar between the column heading for the column you want to adjust and the column to the right. That may sound confusing, but it is really quite simple. For example, let's say you wanted to adjust the width of column D. All you need to do is double-click on the divider bar between D and E in the gray column headings at the top of the worksheet area.

There is one difference between these two methods. If you use the AutoFit Selection method, the width is set based on the cell you have selected. If you use the double-click method, the width is set based on the widest item in the column, not what you have selected.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (1932) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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Comments for this tip:

Frederik    16 Mar 2012, 01:12
I've found this feature to also work in the grid display windows of many other applications beyond the standard MS file browser windows, -like Explorer and the "save where/open what..." type of dialogue boxes. Try it where ever it looks like it should work.

In Excel you can also select multiple entire rows/columns (with the cursor on the corresponding row/column label headings) and autofit the whole selection with that doubleclick.

An easy way to RAPIDLY hide multiple rows/columns is to grab one of these dividers like you are changing that single cell's width/height, and drag it right on past the other side of the row or column and keep dragging through however many other rows/columns you wish to hide: just like that the rows or columns disappear one by one as you pass through their heading with the cursor.

So If you want to hide Columns E through M, start from the outside of the spreadsheet, in this case taking hold of the divider between M and N, and drag all the way towards the beginning of the worksheet, towards E. This maneuver however does not work the other way around to unhide the cells.

(Initially this was quite a startling accidental discovery. With intrigue and relief I realized how these seemingly random rows and columns would mysteriously disappear, or no longer have that same width/height that I so carefully adjusted just to turn around and find them needing the same readjustment yet again...

robin    23 Feb 2012, 13:18
I appreciate your tutorials. Can you tell me how to adjust the column width of cascading combo boxes? Mine are weirdly large and not the size of the rest of the columns or the size of the list it is based on. Also there are no merged fields involved.

Pandharinath G. Kerkar    18 Feb 2012, 10:15
"Fitting your information" (double-click on the divider bar between the column heading for the column you want to adjust and the column to the right).

I found the above tip very useful, quite simple.

Dave Wolf    08 Nov 2011, 11:50
It should be noted that the auto-fit will not work as expected on a cell that has been set to wrap text. (Wrapped text however should adjust to fit new column widths that do result from an auto-fit use.)

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