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Adjusting Cell Margins for More White Space

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Adjusting Cell Margins for More White Space.

Serena asked if there is a way to adjust the text margins with a cell so that there is more white space within a cell. The answer is that there is no intrinsic Excel command to add more space, as you can do in Word tables or with the CELLPADDING attribute in an HTML table. However, there is a way you can accomplish the desired goal, although it is somewhat more manual in nature. Follow these general steps:

  1. Select the cell you want to adjust.
  2. Click the Cells option on the Format menu. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Alignment tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Alignment tab of the Format Cells dialog box.

  5. Using the Horizontal drop-down list, choose Center.
  6. Using the Vertical drop-down list, choose Center.
  7. Click on OK.
  8. Adjust your column width to leave the desired white space on both sides of the cell contents.
  9. Adjust your row height to leave the desired white space above and below the cell contents.

The drawback to this approach, of course, is that it affects the width of not just one cell, but of the entire column and row. In addition, your numbers will not line up properly—on the decimal point—if you choose to center horizontally. The way around this last issue is to still center the contents horizontally, but use a custom number format for the cells, as follows:

[???,??0.00;-??,??0.00]

The question marks in the format forces Excel to leave space as if there were a digit, even if there isn't.

You cannot change the vertical white space without adjusting row height. There is, however, one thing you can try if you want to change the horizontal white space: Adjust the indent value used in a cell. All you need to do is display the Format Cells dialog box, and then set the indent on the Alignment tab. If you are using Excel 97 or 2000 you can only adjust the left indent. If you are using a later version of Excel you can adjust either the left or right indent (check out the Horizontal drop-down list), but not both.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2762) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Adjusting Cell Margins for More White Space.

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