How to Format Excel Cells: A Step-by-Step Guide

Formatting Excel cells can seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually quite simple once you get the hang of it. Whether you’re looking to change the appearance of your data or make it more readable, Excel has a variety of tools to help you do just that. In this article, we’ll walk you through the basics of formatting cells in Excel, so you can get your spreadsheets looking exactly the way you want them to.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Format Excel Cells

Before we dive into the steps, it’s important to understand why formatting cells in Excel is useful. By formatting cells, you can change the way data is displayed, making it easier to read and understand. You can also use formatting to highlight important information or to follow a specific style guide.

Step 1: Select the cells you want to format

Click and drag your mouse over the cells you wish to format.

Selecting cells is the first step in the formatting process. You can select a single cell, a range of cells, or even non-adjacent cells by holding down the Ctrl key while clicking on the cells you want to format.

Step 2: Open the Format Cells dialog box

Right-click on the selected cells and choose ‘Format Cells’ from the context menu.

The Format Cells dialog box is where all the magic happens. From here, you can access a wide range of formatting options, including number formats, text alignment, font style, and cell borders.

Step 3: Choose your desired formatting options

Navigate through the tabs in the Format Cells dialog box to apply different types of formatting.

Each tab in the Format Cells dialog box serves a specific purpose. For example, the ‘Number’ tab lets you format cells as currency, dates, or fractions, while the ‘Alignment’ tab allows you to adjust text alignment and text control.

Step 4: Apply the formatting

Click ‘OK’ to apply your formatting changes to the selected cells.

Once you’ve selected all of your desired formatting options, simply click ‘OK’ to see the changes reflected in your spreadsheet. If you don’t like how it looks, you can always go back and make adjustments.

After completing these steps, your selected cells will be formatted according to the options you chose. You’ll notice that the data in these cells now looks different, whether that be through changes in color, font, or alignment. This can help make your spreadsheet more visually appealing and easier to navigate.

Tips for Formatting Excel Cells

  • Use cell styles for consistency: Excel offers pre-set cell styles that you can apply for a consistent look across your spreadsheet.
  • Conditional formatting is your friend: This feature allows you to format cells based on certain criteria, such as highlighting cells that contain values above or below a certain threshold.
  • Don’t forget about borders and shading: Adding borders and shading to cells can help differentiate sections of your spreadsheet and make it easier to follow.
  • Keyboard shortcuts can save time: Learn the keyboard shortcuts for common formatting actions to speed up the process.
  • Always preview before printing: Before you print your spreadsheet, make sure to preview it to see how your formatting looks on paper.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I format multiple cells at once?

You can format multiple cells at once by selecting the range of cells you want to format and then applying the formatting options.

Can I copy formatting from one cell to another?

Yes, you can use the Format Painter tool to copy formatting from one cell and apply it to others.

Is it possible to format cells based on the value they contain?

Absolutely, this is where conditional formatting comes in handy. It allows you to apply formatting only to cells that meet certain conditions.

How do I reset cell formatting to default?

To reset cell formatting, select the cells, open the Format Cells dialog box, and on the first tab, click the ‘Clear’ button.

Can I save my custom formatting options?

Yes, you can save your custom formatting options by creating a new cell style, which can be applied to any cells in the future.


  1. Select the cells you want to format.
  2. Open the Format Cells dialog box.
  3. Choose your desired formatting options.
  4. Apply the formatting.


Formatting Excel cells is a crucial skill for anyone who wants to create professional-looking spreadsheets. By following the steps outlined above, you can easily transform the appearance of your data to make it more readable and visually appealing. Remember to experiment with different formatting options and take advantage of Excel’s powerful conditional formatting features to make your data stand out.

As you become more comfortable with formatting cells, you’ll find that it not only improves the aesthetics of your spreadsheets but also enhances the way you and others interpret the data. Keep practicing, and soon formatting Excel cells will be second nature to you. If you’re looking to further enhance your Excel skills, consider exploring more advanced features like data validation and pivot tables. With the right tools and a bit of practice, there’s no limit to what you can achieve with Excel.