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For Seniors: How to Select a Range in Microsoft Excel

You might sometimes want to select a multicell range in Microsoft Excel before you issue a command. For example, if you want to make all the text in the cell range A1:F1 bold, select that range and then issue the command for applying Bold.

Selecting a contiguous range in Excel

You can select a range by using either the keyboard or the mouse. To select a range by using the mouse, click the upper leftmost cell in the range and click and hold down the left mouse button and drag to the lower rightmost cell in the range.

To select a range by using the keyboard, use the arrow keys to move the cell cursor to the upper leftmost cell in the range. Press and hold down the Shift key while you press the right-pointing arrow or down-pointing arrow keys to extend the selection until all the cells in the range are selected. Release the Shift key.

You can also select a range in reverse order: that is, starting with the lower rightmost cell and dragging upward and to the left or pressing the left-pointing arrow or up-pointing arrow keys.

You can also use a hybrid method involving both keyboard and mouse. Select the first cell in the range using any method, hold down the Shift key and click the last cell in the range, and then release the Shift key.

The following table provides some shortcut keys to help you select ranges.

Range Selection Shortcuts
Press This . . . To Extend the Selection To . . .
Ctrl+Shift+arrow key The last nonblank cell in the same column or row as the active cell; or if the next cell is blank, to the next nonblank cell
Ctrl+Shift+End The last used cell on the worksheet (lower-right corner of the range containing data)
Ctrl+Shift+Home The beginning of the worksheet (A1)
Ctrl+Shift+Page Down The current and next sheet in the workbook
Ctrl+Shift+Page Up The current and previous sheet in the workbook
Ctrl+spacebar The entire column where the active cell is located
Shift+spacebar The entire row where the active cell is located
Ctrl+Shift+spacebar or Ctrl+A The entire worksheet

Selecting a noncontiguous range in Excel

Although less common, you can also select a noncontiguous range (cells that don’t border each other). For example, suppose that you want to apply a certain type of formatting to cells A1, A5, and A9. You can select those three cells before issuing your formatting command so that the formatting is applied to the three discrete cells at once.

To do so, select the first cell in the range. Hold down the Ctrl key and click more individual cells to be in the range. Or click and drag across more multicell blocks to be in the range. The additional selected cells appear highlighted with a very pale gray. Release the Ctrl key.

Selecting an entire row or column in Excel

An entire row or column can also be a range. Here’s how to select a row or column (for example, to delete it or to format it a certain way):

  • To select an entire row: Click its row number to the left of the row.

  • To select an entire column: Click its column letter at the top of the column.

  • To select multiple contiguous rows or columns: Select the first row/column and then click and hold down the left mouse button while you drag to include more rows or columns.

  • To select multiple noncontiguous rows or columns: Select the first row/column and then hold down Ctrl while you click more individual row numbers or column letters. A pale highlight is applied to each row or column you select.

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