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: Automatic Row Height For Merged Cells with Text Wrap.

Automatic Row Height For Merged Cells with Text Wrap

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 15, 2014)

Ernie asked if there was a way for Excel to automatically adjust the row height in cells that are merged. He points out that if a cell is set with text wrapping turned on, that Excel automatically adjusts the row height for the cell so that all the wrapped text is visible. If you subsequently merge that cell with an adjacent cell, even if the adjacent cell has text wrapping turned on, then the resulting merged cell's row height is not adjusted so that all the text is visible.

Exactly why Excel does this is unclear, but there is no intrinsic way around it—Excel just does it. At first blush you may think that you can use the AutoFit feature (Format | Rows | AutoFit) to adjust the height of the row in which the merged cell is located. Doing so, however, apparently has no affect—AutoFit seems to completely ignore merged cells in doing its magic.

One way around the problem is to use a macro to set the row height to the desired height. A good approach is to have the macro determine the column width of the merged area, unmerge the columns, set the first column to that width, and determine the row height required to AutoFit it. The macro could then reset the column width, merge the cells, and set the new row height. (If that sounds like a lot, it is. Such a macro wouldn't be that trivial to create.)

If you don't want to use a macro, you can fool Excel into setting the row height properly. You do this by using a separate column that is created for the express purpose of setting row height. The process is described in the following general steps. (These steps assume you are merging the cells in columns A and B, and that your data table only includes columns A through K.)

  1. Merge the cells in columns A and B as desired.
  2. In column Z (or some other column outside of your data table range, but not immediately adjacent), put a simple formula reference to column A, as in =A1.
  3. Ensure the text formatting of column Z is exactly the same as in the merged cell, with the exception of merging. (Column Z should not be merged with anything, nor should it be marked as merged.)
  4. Make the width of column Z slightly narrower than the combined width of columns A and B.

The effect of these steps is that Excel will set the row height based upon the contents of column Z, which just happen to match the contents of the merged cell in columns A and B. This, of course, allows all the text in the merged cell to be visible. The only thing you will need to do is make sure that you don't print the contents of column Z when you do your printing.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3207) 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: Automatic Row Height For Merged Cells with Text Wrap.

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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