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## Basic Excel – How to Activate, Select, and Edit Cells in Excel

All Excel users should be able to activate cells and input data in an Excel Worksheet – after all, these are the most basic Excel operations. However, many Excel beginners do not fully understand the difference between an ‘active’ cell and a cell in ‘edit mode’. Even accomplished Excel users often don’t know all the different ways you can select a range of cells or enter a cell’s editing mode in Excel.

When you click a cell in an Excel Worksheet, the cell is not in edit mode, it is simple __activated__. If you start typing, while the cell is open, your typed text __location__ the contents of the opened cell. Or, if you press the left, right, up or down arrow keys on the keyboard, this will move the application to the nearest cell (left, right, above or below the previously open cell).

However, if your cell is internal __editing mode__, the rules change. The cursor appears in the cell (or formula bar), and whatever you type will be __added__ in the cell, next to the existing cell contents. Also, when a cell is in edit mode, the right, left, up and down arrow keys on the keyboard cause the cursor to move within the cell.

So now that we’ve explained the difference between open cells and cells in edit mode, how do we create a cell or range of cells? You can use any of the three main methods listed below:

- Clicking once on a cell with the mouse
- Use the left, right, up and down arrow keys on the keyboard, to navigate through the current selection, to the cell you want to open.
- Type the cell reference in the ‘Name Box’ at the top left of the worksheet – eg To open cell A2, type “A2” in the Name Box, and then press the return (or enter) key.

Note that you can easily see which cell is currently active, as it is marked in Excel by a thick black border.

Often in Excel, you’ll want to select a range of cells. Note that, even if you have a range of cells selected in Excel, one of the cells within the range will be __activated__ (indicated by the thick black border). This means that when you enter data or text, this will overwrite the contents of an open cell, and when you press the arrow keys on the keyboard, this will activate different cells in the selected range.

There are several ways to select a range of cells. You can either:

- Use the mouse to click on the beginning of the list and drag across the list you want to select
- Type the reference to the cell range in the ‘Name Box’ at the top left of the worksheet – eg To select cells A1 through D4, type “A1:D4” in the Name Box, and then press the Return (or Enter) key.
- Open the cell at the beginning of the range, then press the SHIFT key. With the SHIFT key still selected, use the mouse to click on the cell at the end of the range.
- Open the cell at the beginning of the range, then press the SHIFT key. With the SHIFT key still selected, use the left, right, up or down arrow keys on the keyboard, to increase or decrease the selected range, one cell at a time.
- Open the cell at the beginning of the range, then press the SHIFT and CTRL keys. With these keys still selected, use the left, right, up or down arrow keys on the keyboard, to increase or decrease the currently selected range to the end of the current data set (note that the selection will end in the next empty cell).

If you want to select an entire row or column on the worksheet, click on the row number on the left of the worksheet or the column letter at the top of the worksheet, or if you want to select the entire worksheet, click on the gray. /blue square in the top left corner of the worksheet.

Finally, we look at three ways to place a cell in the edit mode. You can either:

- Double-click the cell

Or, select the cell you want to edit, and then:

- Click on the Formula bar
- Press F2

At first you might think there is no need to learn all the different ways to open, select and edit cells. Anyway, if you already know one way to select a range of cells, why bother learning 4 other ways to do the same thing? However, if you use Excel a lot, you will find that different methods are more suitable for different situations, and, in general, you will save soon. __a lot__ time by quickly choosing the most appropriate method for each occasion.

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