Character Replacement in Simple Formulas

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 15, 2014)

1

Want to try an experiment? Enter something in a cell, but make sure that you start a new line somewhere within the cell. For instance, enter 123 then press Alt+Enter and press 456. You should see two lines within the cell, with three digits on each line. Now, in another cell, put a simple formula that references the first cell, as in =A7.

What happened after you entered the formula? The results of the formula should not look the same as what you typed in the first cell. Instead of being on two lines, the contents should be on one line, separated by a small, rectangular box. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Odd characters: replaced in the formula?

It is interesting to note that this experiment works because when you press Alt+Enter to put in your first cell's value, Excel automatically turns on text wrapping for the cell. You can verify this by selecting the cell and choosing Format | Cells | Alignment tab (pay attention to the Wrap Text check box). When you used the formula, however, the cell into which the results were copied did not have this attribute turned on, so the character created by Alt+Enter was displayed as a text character instead of controlling wrapping.

If you turn on text wrapping for the target cell, then the text in the formula's cell will display on two lines, just like you would expect. Conversely, if you turn off text wrapping in the original cell, then the text folds back up to one line and the small, rectangular box appears.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3206) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Speeding Up Large Worksheets

If your worksheet gets large enough, you may notice a severe slowdown when it is recalculated. This tip provides some ...

Discover More

Quickly Transposing Cells

If you want to turn a range of cells by 90 degrees within a worksheet, you need to understand how Excel can handle the ...

Discover More

Keeping an Image Centered in a Table Cell

Tables are often used in Word documents to help with page layout. This may lead you to inserting images within the cells ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Checking for Proper Entry of Array Formulas

Excel allows you to enter two different types of formulas in a cell: A regular formula or an array formula. If you need ...

Discover More

Using a Formula to Replace Spaces with Dashes

If you need a formula to change spaces to some other character, the SUBSTITUTE function fits the bill. Here's how to use it.

Discover More

Retrieving the Last Value in a Column

Need to get at the last value in a column, regardless of how many cells are used within that column? You can apply the ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 2 + 0?

2014-11-15 06:26:34

Ray Austin

I do NOT see a small black box in the formula cell, all I see is 123456, so one cannot see that the text is in two parts.

However turning on Text Wrapping does put it onto 2 lines.


This Site

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.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.