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: Understanding Cell Indenting.

Understanding Cell Indenting

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 25, 2017)


When you think of indenting information, you normally think of a word processor. It is not unusual to indent paragraphs or specific lines of information on the screen. Excel, while definitely not a word processor, allows you to easily indent information within a cell.

To set the indent to be used in a cell, follow these steps:

  1. Select the cells you want to format.
  2. Choose Cells from the Format menu. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Alignment tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Alignment tab of the Format Cells dialog box.

  5. Using the Indent control, specify the number of characters by which the cell contents should be indented. You can pick any whole number between 0 and 15.
  6. Click on OK.

Each number of indent moves the contents of the cell about one character width to the right. (There goes that strange character measurement system in Excel again.) You can also control the indentation of cell contents by using the two indent tools on the Formatting toolbar. Each click of a tool moves the cell contents one position to the left or right.

If you have set up a cell so that text wraps within the cell, then indentation affects all the lines of text within the cell—not just the first line.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3270) 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: Understanding Cell Indenting.

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. ...


Inserting the Total Number of Pages in Your Document

Word keeps track of many statistics for each of your documents. One statistic is the total number of pages in the printed ...

Discover More

Limits on Path Length in Word

When you organize your hard drive, it is easy to go hog-wild with folders and subfolders. You need to know that how you ...

Discover More

Fonts in the Font Drop-Down List

Ever wonder how to customize which fonts appear in the Font drop-down list? Making changes to this list is not easy. This ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Underlining Text in Cells

Want a quick way to add some underlines to your cell values? It's easy using the shortcuts provided in this tip.

Discover More

Using Custom Number Formats

Most formatting needs are met by using the predefined formatting options in Excel. The program also allows you to move ...

Discover More

Referencing External Cell Colors

If you want to reference cell colors external to your current workbook, there is no way to do it using Excel functions. ...

Discover More

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

View most recent newsletter.


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 4 + 4?

2017-04-06 13:28:45


Perhaps we should just disregard my comment about indenting below...I can't even demonstrate what I'm talking about here as the web page won't let me do a simple indent LOL

2017-04-06 13:26:42


Is there no way to do proper indentation within a cell in Excel? I seem to be only able to indent the entire cell, and not just the individual text within a cell. For instance:

1. When I add a number or bullet I want that number to be where the block of text begins (like you can do in MS Word). So in Excel, when the line continues to the next line it looks like this, and the number overlaps the text.

2. However, when I do this in MS Word it allows me to indent individual lines of text (it will do this automatically with bullets and numbering, but one
can do it manually too if needed). The text is not overlapped by the number in this case. It just makes one's report appear cleaner and is easier to
follow. I could add a new column too I suppose (i.e. one just for numbering and bullets), but it would be so much easier I could just do this in the cell
itself. Very strange that I have not been able to find a way to do this in Excel.

2016-10-17 00:47:36


Hi Allen
I know how to do this, however I'd like the indent to be part way between 0 and 1. However when I try to enter a decimal (0.5) Excel informs me it's not valid.

Is there a way to do this simply?

Thank you

2015-11-11 08:57:42

John R

I use 'Format Cells' everyday, and I mean every day. I didn't even notice this Ident button. I knew it was there but like wallpaper you accept it as it is and just carried on without it. Thanks for the quick bullet point guide

2015-07-29 10:59:46


Really helped- thank you!

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

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.