Formatting Alignment in Excel

4 minutes read
Last updated: October 19, 2023

Formatting Alignment in Excel

One important aspect of creating clear, easy-to-read spreadsheets is properly aligning cells. In this post, we will show you how to align cells in Microsoft Excel to make your spreadsheets more organized and professional.

Aligning text in cells

When you enter text into a cell, you can choose to align it horizontally or vertically. Here’s how to do it:

  • Horizontal alignment: Select the cells you want to align, then go to the “Home” tab and click on the “Alignment” group. Click the “Align Left”, “Center”, or “Align Right” button to align the text to the left, center, or right of the cell, respectively.
  • Vertical alignment: In the same “Alignment” group, click on the “Align Top”, “Middle”, or “Bottom” button to align the text to the top, middle, or bottom of the cell, respectively.

Merging cells

Merging cells allows you to combine two or more cells into a single, larger cell. This can be useful for creating headings or labels that span multiple columns or rows. While we should generally avoid this (see below), here’s how to do it:

  1. Select the cells you want to merge. They must be adjacent to each other.
  2. Go to the “Home” tab and click on the “Merge & Center” button in the “Alignment” group. This will merge the cells and center the text within the merged cell.
  3. If you want to align the text differently within the merged cell, use the horizontal and vertical alignment buttons described above.

Avoid Merging Cells

It’s important to note that while we’re discussing formatting, we should avoid merging cells together to create the desired look. Merging cells can cause problems with sorting, filtering, and other data manipulation tasks. Instead, we should use center across selection, which can be accessed natively by pressing Ctrl + 1 to open the format cells dialogue box and then selecting the Alignment tab.

Indenting text

Indenting text can help to visually separate sections of your spreadsheet. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Select the cell or cells you want to indent.
  2. Go to the “Home” tab and click on the “Increase Indent” or “Decrease Indent” button in the “Alignment” group. This will move the text within the cell to the right or left, respectively.
  3. You can also use the “Indent” option under the “Alignment” tab to adjust the indentation by a specific number of characters.

Macabacus Tools for Professional Alignment in Excel

Creating a polished and professional-looking spreadsheet can make a big difference in how it’s received by others. One way to achieve this is by properly aligning and indenting text within the cells. We’ll discuss some easy-to-learn but very useful shortcuts for horizontal and vertical alignment, as well as indents using the Macabacus add-in for Excel.

Here are the default Macabacus alignment shortcuts (note: you can customize these in the Macabacus Shortcut Manager, accessible via Settings > Keyboard > Shortcut Manager in the ribbon).

Formatting Alignment in Excel

You can also access these tools under the Format dropdown menu of the Macabacus ribbon.

Horizontal Alignment

Let’s start by discussing horizontal alignment. If we want to change the alignment of text in a cell from left to right, we can use the Macabacus horizontal cycle shortcut. This shortcut cycles through all the available options for horizontal positioning. So, if we hit the shortcut a few times, we can easily change the alignment of the text in a cell to right or center.

Vertical Alignment

Next, let’s move on to vertical alignment. To adjust the vertical alignment of text in a cell, we can use the Vertical Cycle shortcut. This shortcut cycles through all the available options for vertical positioning, including top, center, and bottom.

Center Alignment

The Center Cycle will allow you to cycle through different horizontal cell centering styles. This includes Center Across Selection, which as discussed earlier, is a best-practice alternative to merging cells. 


Finally, we can use indents to make our spreadsheet look more polished and professional. To indent a cell or range of cells, we can use the Left Indent Cycle and Right Indent Cycle shortcuts. Repeat the shortcut keystroke to increase the indent, up to the maximum indent specified in the Excel > Format > Other section of the Settings dialog. When the maximum indent level is reached, the indent returns to zero upon the next shortcut keystroke. 


In summary, using Macabacus shortcuts for horizontal alignment, vertical alignment, and indents can help us create professional-looking spreadsheets quickly and easily. By avoiding merging cells and using the center across selection option, we can ensure our spreadsheet is still functional and easy to work with. With these tips, we can focus on the important work that we enjoy and present it in a polished and professional way.


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