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: Clearing and Deleting Cells.

Clearing and Deleting Cells

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 13, 2017)

As you are editing your Excel workbooks, one of the most common actions to take is to clear or delete cells. Clearing cells means erasing everything within them, whereas deleting actually deletes the entire cell (or cells). This may sound like an odd distinction, but it is not really. If you compare the cells in your worksheet to paper cups, you can either remove a cup entirely (deleting the cup) or simply remove any contents from the cup (clearing the cup). When you delete a cell, the other cells around that cell move to fill where the cell used to be.

To clear the contents of cells you have selected, choose Clear from the Edit menu or, if you are using Excel 2007, display the Home tab of the ribbon and click the Clear tool in the Editing group. When you do, you will see a submenu asking what you want to clear. Your choices allow you to clear any of the following:

  • All. Everything related to the cell except the cell itself.
  • Formats. Any formatting applied to the cell.
  • Contents. The information in the cell. Any formatting and comments remain in place.
  • Comments. The comments attached to the cell.

    You should make your selection based on what you want cleared and then choose the appropriate menu item. If you like, you can also use the Del key to clear a cell. When you use this shortcut key, it is the same as choosing Contents from the Clear submenu.

    Deleting is done by selecting the cells you want to delete and then choosing Delete from the Edit menu. When you do this, Excel attempts to determine how the remaining cells in the worksheet should be moved to close up the hole that will be created by deleting the cells. If it can figure it out (for instance, if you are deleting an entire row or column), then the operation is completed. On the other hand, if it is not obvious how the remaining cells should be moved, Excel displays the Delete dialog box, which allows you to specify whether cells should be moved up or to the left.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2098) 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: Clearing and Deleting Cells.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Setting User Information

Need to change the information that Word stores about you? Here's how to find the info.

Discover More

Problem with Missing Context Menu Option

When you right-click a cell, does it seem that the Context menu is missing an item or two? Here's how to get those items ...

Discover More

Selectively Find and Replace Page Borders

Using Find and Replace you can both find and replace graphics in your document. Replacing graphics selectively is a bit ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Removing Duplicate Cells

If you need to often delete duplicate items from a list, then you'll love the macro presented in this tip. It makes quick ...

Discover More

Deleting Every X Rows without a Macro

Grab some info from a source other than Excel, and you may find the need to delete a certain pattern of rows from a ...

Discover More

Deleting Blank Columns

Import data from another program, and you could end up with a lot of blank columns in your data. Here's the quickest way to ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is five minus 4?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.