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 Row Height when Wrapping Text.

Adjusting Row Height when Wrapping Text

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 28, 2015)

Matt asked if there is a way to format a merged cell so that when the content of the cell exceeds the width, the row height is automatically adjusted to display the additional lines necessary.

Unfortunately, AutoFit (which Excel uses for row height) doesn't work with merged cells. There are ways around this problem, but none of them are easy or automatic. For this reason, you might consider re-designing your worksheet so that it doesn't use merged cells. If you must use them, then you might try this little trick, assuming the merged cells are in A2:M2:

  1. Select a cell that is distinct and apart from your data table. For instance, if your data table is in A2:M45, select a cell such as P55.
  2. In the cell, enter the formula =A2. Cell P55 should now contain the same text that was in the merged cells (A2:M2).
  3. Make sure that the formatting of cell P55 is the same as the formatting of cells A2:M2. The only formatting that should be different is that cell P55 should not be merged with any other cell in any manner. Make sure, as well, that the cell's Wrap setting is turned on.
  4. Calculate the combined width of all the cells that make up the merged cell. For instance, if columns A through M have individual widths of 9, then the combined width would be 117 (9 x 13). Subtract 2 from this sum (117 – 2 = 115).
  5. Set the width of column P to the calculated width you determined in step 4. Your text should now be wrapped to multiple lines, and the row height automatically adjusts.
  6. Check the row height of row 55 (Format | Row | Height).
  7. Manually set the height of row 2 to the same row height you determined in step 6.
  8. Delete column P and row 55.

You might wonder why, in step 4, you subtracted 2 from your original calculated width. This is just a "fudge factor" used to force a slightly narrower column width, and therefore slightly different word wrapping. This comes in handy when you are later viewing your worksheet using a different zoom factor or when you are using a different printer driver.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2602) 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 Row Height when Wrapping Text.

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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