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 a Range's Starting Point.

Adjusting a Range's Starting Point

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 21, 2013)

When I select a range of cells in a worksheet, the most common method I use is to hold down the Shift key as I use the cursor-control keys to move to the ending point in the range. Sometimes, after selecting a range, I realize that I should have started a bit earlier in my selecting. For instance, I may originally select the range C3:H12, and then realize that I should have started the selection at B2 instead of C3.

While I can start the selection all over again, there is a much simpler way to extend my selection so that it includes the revised starting point. The key is to remember that when you hold down the Shift key, selections are always expanded (or contracted) in relation to the "currently selected cell." Try these steps, and you will see what I mean:

  1. Using the keyboard, select the range C3:H12. Notice that the selected range is shaded, but one cell (C3) is a different color than the others. This tells you that C3 is the selected cell.
  2. Release the Shift key, then press Ctrl+. (that's the period) two times. Notice that the selected cell moves first to H3 (the top right corner of the selection) and then to H12 (the bottom right corner of the selection).
  3. Hold down the Shift key as you press the Up Arrow once and the Left Arrow once. Notice that the selection is extended on the top-left corner, opposite of the selected cell.

See how easy that was? All you needed to do was to modify the selected cell, without getting rid of the original range. There is another way to accomplish the same task, which involves one less keystroke. All you need to do, in step 2, is continue to hold down the Shift key as you press the Tab key. H12 immediately becomes the selected cell.

This alternative method of accomplishing the task actually brings up some interesting possibilities that you can experiment with. Again, remember that all range extending is done relative to the currently selected cell. With your initial range selected, you can press Tab or Shift+Tab to step through the cells in the range, one at a time. When you press Tab, you cycle through them from left to right and top to bottom; when you press Shift+Tab, you cycle through them in reverse order.

The interesting part comes in when you select a cell that isn't on a corner of your original range, and then try to expand your selection. Try different combinations of "active cells" and holding down the Shift key while pressing the arrow keys. You will find the different permutations rather interesting.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2100) 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 a Range's Starting Point.

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. ...

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