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How to Merge Cells in Excel

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  • 0:01 Merge vs. Combine
  • 0:33 Merge and Center
  • 2:58 Combine
  • 8:16 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.

MS Excel has two features that allow you to join multiple cells. You can Merge cells or Combine cells. This lesson will discuss the two features, explain the difference and show you how to use these commands.

Merge vs. Combine

Microsoft Excel has two commands that allow you to join multiple cells into one. The first is Merge. When you merge two or more adjacent horizontal or vertical cells, the cells become one larger cell that is displayed across multiple columns or rows. The second, Combine, allows you to join the data from multiple cells together. An example would be taking the city, state and zip from multiple cells and combining them into one cell. In this lesson, we will look at both options, Merge and Combine.

Merge and Center

If you go to the Home menu in the ribbon and look in the Alignment grouping of commands, you will see a small icon in the lower, right-hand corner called Merge and Center. This command does just what it implies. It not only merges the cells into one larger cell, but it also centers the text. Merge and Center improves the appearance of a title or header by centering the text over a particular section of the spreadsheet.

If you click on the More icon to the Merge and Center command, you will see other Merge options.

  • The first one is Merge Across. This will merge multiple cells and more than one row at the same time. The text will remain left-justified.
  • Then there is Merge Cells. This will merge multiple cells on one row and will keep the text left-justified.
  • Finally, you have Unmerge Cells, which will undo the merged cells.

Let's take a look at an example using the Merge and Center command. Imagine you are a painting contractor for residential homes. You created a spreadsheet to include several different costs for work requested by a new client. You have everything formatted nicely. The title, which includes the name of the client, the estimate number and street address has been entered into cell A1. It would be nice if we could quickly and easily center the title across the top of the spreadsheet. Here are the steps:

  1. Highlight the cells you want to merge. (In our example, A1 through F1.)
  2. Go to the Home menu in the ribbon.
  3. Look in the Alignment grouping of commands.
  4. Click on Merge and Center.

Just like that, your title is centered and the cells have been merged into one larger cell. The benefit? Well, besides it looks better, you can make changes to the cells below and the title will remain centered. For instance, you can add a column (or delete one) and your title will not be affected.

One important note about the Merge command: merging cells can delete data. Only the data in the upper left cell will be kept once the cells have merged. Do not place data in every cell if you plan on merging multiple cells into one larger cell.

Combine

Now let's take a look at the Combine feature. Imagine you have two columns, one for the first name and the other for last name. You would like to create one column with the first name and last name joined together, in one cell. In addition, you would like the last name to display first (for sorting purposes), then a comma, and then the first name. For example, 'Smith, Jane.' There is more than one way to make this happen, but in this lesson, we will look at the easiest and what I consider to be the quickest. We are going to use a formula.

If we look at our spreadsheet, the first name is in Column A and the last name is in Column B. We are going to combine both into Column C. Here are the steps. Remember, we want the last name, and then a comma, of course a space after the comma, and then the first name, for instance, 'Jackson, Janet.'

  1. Place your cursor in Column C (specifically, C3).
  2. Then type: =(.
  3. Click on the cell for the last name (in our example, this is B3).
  4. Type &', '& (notice the comma and a space between the two quotes).
  5. Click on the cell for the first name (in our example, this is A3).
  6. Type: ).
  7. Hit Enter - your formula should look like this: =(B3&', '&A3).

Notice the data is displayed in C3. We now have a last name, then a comma followed by a space, then the first name - and all in one cell. Pretty slick!

Now, just a word of caution: your first instinct will be to delete the first two columns (A and B). However, if you do that, then your third column, column C, will be emptied as well. Remember our formula? It's based on A3 and B3. If we remove those columns, A3 and B3 will no longer exist and the formula will not work. So then what's the point of combing the two columns?

Before we get into how to fix the issue, know that many people leave columns A and B. The reason is because most lists continue to grow, and you might want to keep adding (or importing) information to the spreadsheet. Leaving the columns will make it easier to continue the join between the two sets of data. You could just copy the formula down column C as you add more rows.

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