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- Basic Excel – How to Activate, Select, and Edit Cells in Excel
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## Basic Excel – How to Activate, Select, and Edit Cells in Excel

All Excel users should be able to activate cells and enter data in an Excel worksheet – these are the most basic Excel operations. However, many Excel beginners do not fully understand the difference between an activated cell and a cell in edit mode. Even the most skilled Excel users are often unaware of all the different ways you can select a range of cells or enter cell editing mode in Excel.

When you click on a cell in an Excel worksheet, the cell is not in edit mode, it just is __activated__. If you start typing when the cell is activated, your typed text __replaces__ the contents of the activated cell. Or if you press the left, right, up or down arrow keys on the keyboard, it will move to the cell adjacent to the activation (left, right, above or below the previously activated cell).

But if your cell is inside __editing mode__, the rules change. A cursor will appear in the cell (or formula bar) and whatever you type will appear __added__ into a cell with the contents of an existing cell. When the cell is in edit mode, the right, left, up, and down arrow keys on the keyboard cause the cursor to move within the cell.

Now we have explained the difference between activated cells and cells in edit mode. How do we actually activate a cell or range of cells? You can use one of the three basic methods listed below.

- One mouse click on a cell
- Use the left, right, up and down arrow keys on your keyboard to move from the current selection to the cell you want to activate
- Enter the cell reference in the “Name” box in the upper left corner of the worksheet. To activate cell A2, type “A2” in the name box and then press Enter (or Enter).

Note that you can easily see which cell is currently activated because it is highlighted in Excel with a thick black border.

You often want to select a range of cells in Excel. Note that even if you have a range of cells selected in Excel, only one cell will remain in the range __activated__ (shown with a thick black border). This means that when you enter data or text, the content of the activated cell is overwritten, and when you press the arrow keys on the keyboard, different cells in the selected range are activated.

There are several ways to select a range of cells. You can do the following.

- Use the mouse to click at the beginning of the range and drag over the range you want to select
- Enter the reference to the range of cells in the ‘Name Box’ in the upper left corner of the worksheet – eg. To select cells A1 through D4, type “A1:D4” in the Name box, and then press Enter (or Enter).
- Activate the cell at the beginning of the range and press the SHIFT key. With the SHIFT key still selected, click the cell at the end of the range.
- Activate the cell at the beginning of the range and press the SHIFT key. With the SHIFT key still selected, use the left, right, up, or down arrow keys on your keyboard to increase or decrease the selected range one cell at a time.
- Activate the cell at the beginning of the range, then press SHIFT and CTRL. With these keys still selected, use the left, right, up, or down arrow keys on your keyboard to increase or decrease the current in the selected range until the end of the current data set (note that the selection ends with the next blank cell).

If you want to select an entire row or column on a worksheet, click on the row number on the left side of the worksheet or on the column letter at the top of the worksheet, or if you want to select an entire worksheet, click on the gray/blue square in the upper left corner of the worksheet.

Finally, we’ll look at three ways to put a cell into edit mode. You can do the following.

- Double-click the cell

Or, select the cell you want to edit, and then either:

- Click on the formula bar
- Press F2

At first, you may think that there is no need to learn all the different methods of activating, selecting, and editing cells. After all, if you know one way to select a range of cells, why bother learning 4 more ways to do the same thing? However, if you use Excel a lot, you’ll find that different methods work better in different situations, and you’ll generally save in no time __a lot__ time, quickly choosing the most suitable method for each case.

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