Adjusting Column Width & Row Height in Excel

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  • 0:01 Row Height and Column Width
  • 0:27 Basic Rules
  • 1:24 Column Width
  • 4:20 Row Height
  • 6:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karen Sorensen

Karen has a Bachelors in Communications. She has 25 years of experience in Information Systems, Adult Learning and Virtual Training.

From time to time, you may need to adjust the column width or row height of an Excel spreadsheet. This lesson will demonstrate different ways to make these adjustments.

Row Height & Column Width

In most cases, you will need to adjust the height of a row or the width of a column in an Excel spreadsheet. And, even though Excel will usually adjust the row height automatically, you will still need to adjust the height from time to time.

This lesson will review some of the circumstances when you might need to make these adjustments and guide you through different ways to adjust column width and the row height in Excel.

Basic Rules

Let's review some basic rules for columns and rows.

  • Columns: The value or number of the column width is the number of characters that can be displayed in a cell. Excel will default the width to 8 characters (it's actually 8.11). You can set the column width from 0 to 255. If you set the width to 0 (zero), Excel hides the column.
  • Rows: The default height is 12.8. The number is a measurement in points - 1 point is about 1/72 of an inch tall. This makes the default height about 1/6 of an inch. Again, just like columns, if you set the row height to 0 (zero), Excel will hide the row.

With the rules out of the way, we can move on to adjusting the height and width values.

Column Width

Probably the most common reason for adjusting the column width is for the header row, which is a row of column titles. The titles are displayed across the top of the spreadsheet, identifying the subject or content of the column. For example, if we were to create a spreadsheet detailing a list of customers to receive a discount coupon both by mail and email, we would likely need the following five columns:

  • Customer Name
  • Customer Email
  • Customer Mailing Address
  • Email Sent (Y/N)
  • Mail (postal) Sent (Y/N)

Now, remember our rules? The standard default width is about eight characters. Our shortest title is 14. This is going to require an adjustment to the width of the column. Once we get our titles and information entered, we have two options. We can select one column at a time and adjust them individually or we can select all the columns at once and adjust them all to the same width.

Regardless, you have several ways to get this done. I will discuss the three most common ways to adjust column width.

Option Number One: Enter an exact value for the width.
You can use the ribbon commands or the right-click method to enter an exact number for the width of your column.

To use the ribbon commands:

  1. Select the column(s)
  2. Go to the Home menu in the ribbon
  3. Look in the Cells grouping of commands
  4. Click on Format
  5. Select Column Width
  6. Enter the value

To use the right-click method:

  1. Select the column(s)
  2. Right-click with your mouse anywhere in the selected area
  3. Select Column Width from the options menu
  4. Enter the value

Option Number Two: Use your mouse to drag the column wider or narrower.
Hover you mouse over the right-side boundary of a column until your cursor becomes a 2-sided arrow. Drag the boundary of the column heading until the column is the width that you want. If you select multiple columns, all selected columns will adjust at the same time, to the same width.

Option Number Three: Use the auto-fit feature.
I believe the auto-fit feature is the easiest to use. Select the column(s), hover your mouse over the column boundary until it becomes a 2-sided arrow and double-click. That's it. Excel will automatically adjust the selected columns to the correct width.

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