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: Activating the Formula Bar with the Keyboard.

Activating the Formula Bar with the Keyboard

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated October 5, 2019)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


The Formula bar, just above the work area in Excel, shows the formula or value in the currently selected cell. You can click on the formula bar to edit information within a cell, if desired. What if you want to activate the Formula bar by using the keyboard, however?

The quickest way to do this is simply to press F2. This tells Excel that you want to edit the contents of a cell. When you press F2, it is highly possible that Excel will simply expand the information in the cell and allow you to edit the information directly in the cell itself. If you don't like this behavior, but instead want F2 to activate the Formula bar, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Excel displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Edit tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Edit tab of the Options dialog box.

  4. Clear the Edit Directly In Cell check box.
  5. Click on OK.

Now, whenever you press F2, the Formula bar is selected, and you can edit the formula there.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2651) 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: Activating the Formula Bar with the Keyboard.

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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