Excel 2000: Aligning Text

Lesson 12: Aligning Text



By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Align text and numbers in cells
  • Use the Format Cells dialog box

Aligning text

You’ve probably noticed by now that Excel, like Word, left-aligns text (labels) by default.

However, by default Excel right-aligns numbers (values). This makes data easier to read. Below, see examples of text aligned right, left, and centered.

Text Alignment

Use the buttons of the Formatting toolbar to align text and numbers.

Align Buttons

Important pointBasic text alignment can be reviewed in our Office 2000 and Word 2000 tutorials.

Another alignment option: Merge and Center

In Excel, you have another alignment option available to you: Merge and Center.

When you merge a cell, you are selecting more than one cell and are creating one large cell. You can center the contents of a cell across the new merged cell.

Top left cell is merged and centered.

Important pointMerge and Center is helpful when creating worksheet titles.

To create a title using Merge and Center:

  • Enter the title of the worksheet in the top-left cell.
  • Select the first row of the worksheet (including the top-left cell containing the title of the worksheet). How many cells you select depends on how wide your label is.
  • Click the Merge and Center button.Merge and Center Button

Important pointExcel only centers the text in the top-left cell of the selection, so if the title is in more than one row, you will need to merge and center each title row separately.

The Format Cells dialog box

You have more alignment options available to you in the Format Cells dialog box.

To change alignment using the Format Cells dialog box:

  • Select the range of cells you want to format.
  • Choose FormatactionCells from the menu bar or right-click and choose Format Cells from the shortcut menu. The Format Cells dialog box opens.
  • Click the Alignment tab.
  • Choose horizontal, vertical, orientation, merge, and wrap options.
  • Click OK.

Format Cells Dialog Box

Important pointDetailed explanations of the Format Cells dialog box and Alignment tab are on the next page.

The Format Cells dialog box: Understanding the Alignment tab

In the Alignment tab’s Text Alignment section, there are horizontal and vertical alignment options, as shown below.

Format Cells dialog box

Important pointThe Horizontal section features a drop-down box with left, center, and right alignment options.

It also features:

  • General: This is the default alignment.
  • Fill: This fills the cell with the current contents by repeating the contents for the width of the cell.
  • Justify: This wraps text in the cell and adjusts the spacing within each line so all lines are as wide as the cell.
  • Center Across Selection: The contents of the cell furthest to the left are centered across the selection of cells. This is similar to Merge and Center, except cells are not merged.

Important pointThe Vertical section’s default is bottom. Top and center are used to position the data close to the top or center of the cell.

The Format Cells dialog box: Understanding the Alignment tab

In the Orientation section of the Format Cells dialog box, you can orient text vertically or rotate text.

Vertical Text

Important pointTo rotate text to another orientation, use the Degrees spin box or click and drag the Text indicator.

Important pointTo orient text vertically, click the box containing the vertical word Text.

Format Cells dialog box

The Format Cells dialog box: Understanding the Alignment tab

You can use the Wrap Text, Shrink to Fit, and Merge cells commands to display text (labels) in cells.

Text Example

To display a vertical title across several cells:

  • Select the title and several cells below it.
  • Choose FormatactionCells from the menu bar.
  • Click the Merge Cells check box to merge the cells.
  • Shrink to Fit shrinks the size of the font so it fits in the selected cells.
  • Wrap Text wraps the contents of a cell in case it’s too large for the cell boundaries.


Open the Format Cells dialog box and click the Alignment tab. Experiment with the many options explained in this lesson.