How to Use Autofit for Columns in Excel 2016

By Greg Harvey

For those times when Excel 2016 doesn’t automatically adjust the width of your columns to your complete satisfaction, the program makes changing the column widths a breeze. The easiest way to adjust a column is to do a best-fit, using the AutoFit feature. With this method, Excel automatically determines how much to widen or narrow the column to fit the longest entry currently in the column.

Here’s how to use AutoFit to get the best fit for a column:

  1. Position the mouse on the right border of the worksheet frame with the column letter at the top of the worksheet.

    The pointer changes to a double-headed arrow pointing left and right.

  2. Double-click the mouse button.

    Excel widens or narrows the column width to suit the longest entry.

You can apply a best-fit to more than one column at a time. Simply select all the columns that need adjusting (if the columns neighbor one another, drag through their column letters on the frame; if they don’t, hold down the Ctrl key while you click the individual column letters). After you select the columns, double-click any of the right borders on the frame.

Best-fit à la AutoFit doesn’t always produce the expected results. A long title that spills into several columns to the right produces a very wide column when you use best-fit.

When AutoFit’s best-fit won’t do, drag the right border of the column (on the frame) until it’s the size you need instead of double-clicking it. This manual technique for calibrating the column width also works when more than one column is selected. Just be aware that all selected columns assume whatever size you make the one that you’re actually dragging.

You can also set the widths of columns from the Format button’s drop-down list in the Cells group on the Home tab. When you click this drop-down button, the Cell Size section of this drop-down menu contains the following width options:

  • Column Width to open the Column Width dialog box where you enter the number of characters that you want for the column width before you click OK

  • AutoFit Column Width to have Excel apply best-fit to the columns based on the widest entries in the current cell selection

  • Default Width to open the Standard Width dialog box containing the standard column width of 8.43 characters that you can apply to the columns in the cell selection