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Understanding Cell Indenting

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: Understanding Cell Indenting.

When you think of indenting information, you normally think of a word processor. It is not unusual to indent paragraphs or specific lines of information on the screen. Excel, while definitely not a word processor, allows you to easily indent information within a cell.

To set the indent to be used in a cell, follow these steps:

  1. Select the cells you want to format.
  2. Choose Cells from the Format menu. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Alignment tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Alignment tab of the Format Cells dialog box.

  5. Using the Indent control, specify the number of characters by which the cell contents should be indented. You can pick any whole number between 0 and 15.
  6. Click on OK.

Each number of indent moves the contents of the cell about one character width to the right. (There goes that strange character measurement system in Excel again.) You can also control the indentation of cell contents by using the two indent tools on the Formatting toolbar. Each click of a tool moves the cell contents one position to the left or right.

If you have set up a cell so that text wraps within the cell, then indentation affects all the lines of text within the cell—not just the first line.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3270) 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: Understanding Cell Indenting.

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Comments for this tip:

Jenni    17 Oct 2016, 00:47
Hi Allen
I know how to do this, however I'd like the indent to be part way between 0 and 1. However when I try to enter a decimal (0.5) Excel informs me it's not valid.

Is there a way to do this simply?

Thank you
John R    11 Nov 2015, 08:57
I use 'Format Cells' everyday, and I mean every day. I didn't even notice this Ident button. I knew it was there but like wallpaper you accept it as it is and just carried on without it. Thanks for the quick bullet point guide
Amy    29 Jul 2015, 10:59
Really helped- thank you!

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