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.
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:
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.
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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.