Excel Update: Smooth Scrolling Rows and Columns

Bottom Line:  Learn about a new feature update in Excel called Smooth Scrolling which improves the worksheet navigation experience.  I also explain some tips for scrolling and resizing rows and columns on older versions of Excel.

Skill Level: Beginner

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A Welcome Update

Excel just fixed an issue that has been an annoyance to users for more than 35 years! They've just rolled out Smooth Scrolling.

Up until now, when you would scroll either vertically or horizontally, the scrolling would have a snap-to-grid behavior. That means it would always jump to the beginning of a column or row.

Let's say you had a column that was extremely wide—wider than the width of your screen. If you were to use the scroll bar at the bottom of the page to move right, you wouldn't see the scrolling on your screen as you moved along the scroll bar. Instead, there is a screentip telling you where the grid will snap to when you release your mouse.

screentip indicates where scrolling will snap to

But with Smooth Scrolling, you can now scroll to any portion of the large column (or row) and the screen will move as you scroll. Then it will remain there when you stop scrolling.

snap to grid versus smooth scrolling

So What's the Big Deal?

You might be thinking, “Why is this important? Does it really matter?”

It may be a small change, but it alleviates a good amount of frustration. For example, there are times when you might want to compare information in adjacent columns or rows but you simply aren't able to view both of them at the same time because of their size. Excel will snap you to a place you don't want to be because of the layout of the grid.

But with Smooth Scrolling, you can drag along the scrollbar with your mouse to exactly what you want to see, and when you take you finger off the mouse button, the screen will remain right where you want it.

Another annoyance that Smooth Scrolling resolves is in regard to resizing. If a column is larger than my screen width and I want to reduce the size by dragging the right side of the header to the left, I can't even see the right side of the column when the scrolling snaps me to the left side.

can't see right side of column to resize
Click to enlarge

With Smooth Scrolling, that's not an issue anymore.

Smooth Scrolling is currently only available on the Beta channel for Microsoft 365, and will be released to additional channels in the future. So if you are working an older version of Excel, there are a couple of ways to resize your large columns or rows so that they are more manageable to work with.

Workarounds for Older Versions of Excel

It can be frustrating to not necessarily be able to see the portion of the column that you want to see. It's even more frustrating on smaller monitors or in smaller windows. The best way to deal with this is to resize the column width (or row height if you are dealing with a row that is too tall).

Here are a couple of ways to do that.

1. Right-click Menu

If you right-click on the column header, you will get a menu where you can select Column Width.

right click on column header then select column width

This brings up the Column Width window with the current size of the column. You can adjust that number to something smaller. That will resize your column so that the right edge is now visible on your screen.

Change the number to resize the column width

Trivia Fact: 255 is the maximum cell width in Excel.

2. The Zoom Controls

Another option is to use the zoom feature. To zoom in and out, you can hold down the Ctrl key and scroll on your mouse. Or, you can use the zoom controls, found in the bottom-right corner of Excel.

zoom control to resize columns

Once you have zoomed out enough, you can resize the column like you normally would, and then you can zoom back in.

Either of these options to resize column widths would also apply to adjusting row heights as well.

A Quick Note

You can also press and release the scroll button on your mouse to create smooth scrolling to the right and left.

Smooth scroll cursor

The issue is that when you click the button again, it snaps back to the grid. This is not a method I use very often, but I wanted to make mention of it.

Can I Still Snap to Grid?

The snap-to-grid behavior does still exist in the new version of Excel. You just have to use the arrow buttons instead of dragging the scroll bar.

scrolling arrow snap to grid

Conclusion

I'm really happy about this small improvement, and I wonder if you are too. I hope this post is also helpful for anyone who is having trouble resizing their columns or rows in older Excel versions.

Let me know what you think about this updated feature in the comments below!

  • I am excited about this. Some columns in our company database are very wide even with wrapped text. Snapping was a pain. I’m looking forward to it being available on all 365 versions.

  • my solution is to design a better spreadsheet in the first place

    this “solution” is just enabling and encouraging bad design (see merged cells)

  • Ohmygosh I can’t wait for this. I work daily on a sheet with really wide rows and it is such a pain to scroll. I’m resizing constantly. Thanks for giving me something to look forward to.

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