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: Shifting Objects Off a Sheet.

Shifting Objects Off a Sheet

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 24, 2016)

Mudit ran into problems when trying to delete rows and columns in a worksheet. He sometimes gets the message "Cannot shift object off this sheet." Other people report getting the message when they try to insert rows or column.

What is happening is that an object—such as a graph, drawing object, text box, picture, or even comment—cannot be correctly handled by Excel after the deletion or insertion. If the error occurs when inserting rows or columns, it means that the insertion would push the object beyond the right or bottom boundaries of the worksheet. The solution, of course, is to check whatever is at the right or bottom of the worksheet and make changes to those objects (move or delete them) as necessary.

If the error occurs while deleting rows or columns, it is normally because there are objects attached to cells within those rows or columns, and deleting the rows or columns would leave the objects "orphaned" in some way. For instance, let's say you are deleting column D, and there is an object associated with cell D4. The object doesn't need to be situated over column D; it could be several columns away, but still belong to cell D4. If you delete column D, then the object no longer has an anchor point. Excel's solution? Don't let column D be deleted until you do something with the object that would be orphaned by the edit.

The problem can also occur if the objects in a worksheet are formatted so that they cannot be moved or sized automatically by Excel, and then you try to delete columns or rows associated with the objects. In this case, you may want to try changing the formatting of the objects in the worksheet. If you have a lot of such objects in the worksheet, the following macro can be helpful in making the change:

Sub ResetShapes()
    Dim s As Shape
    On Error Resume Next
    For Each s In ActiveSheet.Shapes
        s.Placement = xlMoveAndSize
End Sub

Microsoft provides a Knowledge Base article that can be helpful with this problem. The article specifically addresses the issue of hiding rows and columns, but the solutions work when you are trying to delete them, as well. You can check it out at this page:

If you are using Excel 97, you should reference this page, instead:

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3151) 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: Shifting Objects Off a Sheet.

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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