Bottom line: Learn how to insert new lines in a cell and wrap the text with a keyboard shortcut.
Skill level: Beginner
Download the example file.
The Keyboard Shortcut to Enter Line Breaks
Have you ever spent time trying to adjust column widths so that the text wraps perfectly into multiple lines? If so, you know how frustrating of a process this can be.
One simple workaround is to add line breaks in the cell. This allows you to control exactly where the new lines begin.
The keyboard shortcut to insert a line break or new line in a cell is: Alt+Enter
Hold the Alt key and press Enter.
You use the shortcut when you are editing a cell. You can press F2 or double-click a cell to edit it.
When to Use Alt+Enter
There are a lot of different use cases for line breaks in cells. Here are a few examples, but please leave a comment below if you have any other examples/scenarios of when you use line breaks.
Wrapping Column Headers
When creating reports and financial statements, we often want the width of each column to be the same. This is especially true if you are printing the report and want to keep it on a single page wide.
In the image above I use Alt+Enter to create line breaks between the category name and year. Even if I make the individual columns wider or narrower, the category name will always be in the first line, and year in the second line.
Entering Paragraphs of Text in a Cell
Another use case is when you are entering multiple sentences or paragraphs in a single cell. You can use Alt+Enter to add new lines and also blank lines between the paragraphs.
The line breaks make make the contents of the cell much easier to read.
Addresses in a Cell
Physical addresses typically contain multiple lines of text. I usually recommend separating the components of the address in separate cells for street address, city, state, postal code, etc.
However, there are times when you might want the entire address displayed in one cell. When this is the case, you can use Alt+Enter to add line breaks to properly format the address.
It's important to note that when you use Alt+Enter in a cell, the Wrap Text property of the cell is automatically enabled. You can see the Wrap Text button enabled on the Home tab of the ribbon for the active cell.
Wrap Text allows for the text to be displayed on multiple lines within a cell and must be turned on when you add line breaks. Again, this happens automatically so you do NOT need to press the Wrap Text button.
If you disable Wrap Text for the cell then the line breaks will not be displayed and you will see all of the text on a single line. You can toggle Wrap Text back on if you accidentally turn it off.
I hope that keyboard shortcut helps you with formatting your Excel reports. Check out our Excel Shortcuts Guide to learn over 270 more shortcuts, and download the free PDF version on that page.
Please leave a comment below with any other scenarios where you use Alt+Enter. Thank you! 🙂