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Selecting Multiple Cells by Mistake

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: Selecting Multiple Cells by Mistake.

Lester notes that sometimes when he clicks on a single cell in a worksheet, more than one cell gets selected. Only by clicking various other cells at random in another part of the worksheet does it go back to normal where only the single cell he clicked on is selected. He wonders why this is happening.

There could be any number of causes for a problem like this. First of all, when it happens you should let go of the mouse and switch to the keyboard. With the multiple cells still selected, press the Up Arrow key once and then the Down Arrow key once. If there are still multiple cells selected, it could be that the cells are actually merged. You can unmerge the cells, if desired, or simply accept that you can't select individual cells in the merged range.

If the cells are not merged, it could be that the extend mode is currently turned on. Take a look at the status bar at the bottom of the worksheet. If you see the letters EXT in bold, then extend mode is active. Double-click the EXT letters to turn it off or simply press F8. (When Excel is in extend mode, one end of a selection is "anchored" and the selection extends from there to where you click or move next.)

If the problem still continues, it could be because of a hardware problem with the mouse. Try changing to a different mouse to see if that fixes the issue. If it doesn't, then it is also possible that it is a problem with the keyboard. If the keyboard has a sticky Shift key, then that key could be "engaged" longer than desired, resulting in a selection of a range of cells, similar to the extend mode problem mentioned earlier. If you suspect this is the cause, then you'll need to either thoroughly clean your keyboard or replace it.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (7881) 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: Selecting Multiple Cells by Mistake.

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Comments for this tip:

Pam    22 Jul 2016, 10:22
I was having this same problem and I was in Page Layout view. When I switched to Normal view the multiple cells were no longer a problem.,
Jon    03 Dec 2015, 04:22
I came across this while searching for solutions to a problem that I am getting creating a program in Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 that uses the Windows Forms "DataGridView" GUI widget. This widget is what you use to display large tables and looks quite like Excel. Multiple cells sometimes get selected when you click in a single cell (usually below the clicked cell). In my case it has nothing to do with extend mode, sticky keys or zoom.

It's possible that Excel might use the DataGridView widget, or something very similar, and that this is a Microsoft bug in the widget.
Janine    30 Sep 2015, 16:06
Hours later, I finally stumble upon the right site to answer my question. Thank you so much. Such a simple solution. Amazing.
Steve Sywak    05 Jun 2015, 15:36
Son of a gun, RAOLIVIERI! That's the solution!

Thank you!

(And...it's a bug, Microsoft; how about fixing it?!?)
Steve Sywak    05 Jun 2015, 15:35
I ave the same problem. It doesn't happen with EVERY file, only with some.

If it happens with a given file, it continues to happen with that file.

I tried toggling F8--did not fix

I tried zooming in and out (both via the ribbon above, and the slider below)--did not fix

I tried saving as XLSM and then going back to XLSX--did not fix.

I have to assume it's a file corruption issue. The question is: How to save the file in a format that doesn't lose anything OTHER than whatever is corrupted!
RAOLIVIERI    18 Mar 2015, 16:54
Saw this response in another forum at seems to work at least forExcel 2010

"When you're in page view, if even a sliver of the next page is visible, then the multiselect thing happens. If you scroll up, cutting off the next page, it seems to be fine."
Doris    15 Jan 2015, 13:20
Changing the zoom setting works! Thanks because that multiple selection was so very frustrating!
Lisa    07 Jan 2015, 09:39
I occasionally have this issue with Excel 2010 found a simple workaround on another site: I changed and then changed back the zoom level. For instance, my zoom level was 100%, so I changed it to 125% and then back to 100% again. Works for me.
Sanford Schuman    03 Jan 2015, 19:57
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Exiting and opening new document would not cure. Frustration and panic.
In 2013, I saw no status bar, but tried F8 (Fn+F8 for me) and it worked.

I already own a very used copy of Walkenbach's VBA for Excel.

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