Unable to Format Cells

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 1, 2017)

10

Bill has a large worksheet that he can no longer format cells within. When he right-clicks on a cell and selects Format, the Format Cells dialog box never appears. Likewise, if he chooses Cells from the Format menu, the dialog box never shows up.

This, obviously, is not the way that Excel is supposed to behave. Since the problem occurs with only a single workbook, the problem is most likely not with Excel itself, but with the workbook. There are a few things you can try to track down the problem.

First, make sure that you open the workbook with macros disabled. Hold down the Shift key as you double-click the workbook in Windows Explorer, then indicate that you don't want to enable the macros. If the problem persists, you can rule out it being rooted in a macro. If the problem goes away, then you know you need to examine the macros to see which one is causing the problem.

Second, the file (which Bill mentions is both old and large) could have so many formats defined within it that you can no longer do formatting. This problem has been covered in other issues of ExcelTips, and you can find related information, including a way to free up formats, here:

http://www.j-walk.com/ss/excel/eee/eee007.txt

Look for the macro entitled DeleteUnusedCustomNumberFormats; it can help clean up the no-longer-used custom formats.

Another thing to try is to save the worksheet as an HTML file, get out of Excel, get back into the program, and then load the HTML file. Sometimes the "round trip" for a worksheet will clear up some quirks that may be confusing Excel.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3344) 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

Viewing Comments

Adding comments to a document is a normal activity when writing and editing. Once comments have been added, you may ...

Discover More

Controlling Sorting Order

When you sort information in a worksheet, you have control over the order in which that information is sorted. Here's a ...

Discover More

Using an Exact Number of Digits

Excel allows you to format numeric data in all sorts of ways, but specifying a number of digits independent of the ...

Discover More

Save Time and Supercharge Excel! Automate virtually any routine task and save yourself hours, days, maybe even weeks. Then, learn how to make Excel do things you thought were simply impossible! Mastering advanced Excel macros has never been easier. Check out Excel 2010 VBA and Macros today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Conditionally Formatting an Entire Row

Need to conditionally highlight an entire row based on the contents of a single cell in each row? This tip explains how ...

Discover More

No More Custom Formats Can Be Added

If you make too many formatting changes to your workbook, you could end up with a situation where you cannot make any ...

Discover More

Handling Negative Numbers in a Complex Custom Format

Custom formats are great for defining how a specific value in a cell should look. They aren't that great at doing complex ...

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 4 + 1?

2018-05-10 14:22:28

Robert Bériault

Thank you. Your advice helped.


2018-01-19 07:15:00

Doysen

OR, in my case you unknowingly have more than one sheet selected in the workbook. Occam's Razor and all that.


2017-03-16 17:23:28

Chadwick Taylor

This tip just worked for me!! Do we know the cause of the problem tho?


2015-09-18 06:45:15

victor

It worked for me, also. Thank you!


2015-08-20 04:16:57

Tasos

Thank you. The .HTML worked.


2015-05-18 02:24:03

Marlu

Works! Thanks


2015-01-09 03:58:09

Eelco

Super!
Save as html and back to Excel did make the file better.


2014-10-08 10:55:45

Cezar

It worked, thank you.


2013-07-10 08:22:12

BT

Excellent; change to .HTML and back again worked for me also.


2013-03-26 07:02:25

Rob

Nice one Allen. The saving to .HTML and then resaving to .XLS was the answer.


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.