Indent Left and Right to Align Cell Contents

by Gregory on December 6, 2010

Formatting is second nature with Excel because ergonomically you want people to notice the information in your data and not spend time finding it, either because it doesn’t stand out, or it blurs together. Recently I came across a new wrinkle with the indentation of cell contents and thought to share it with you here.

Alignment of Cell Contents

Numbers are aligned to the right side of a cell and text is aligned to the left side. In the picture below this works to blur the Pub Date and Link data together, making it difficult to read. Not good.

A simple fix is to select the data in the Link column and click the Indent button on the Home tab of the Ribbon.

Indent Button on Home tab

Left Indent

One click of the Indent Button inserts a Left Indent, with an Indent value of one (1), as you can see in the Format Cells dialog box below.

Format Cells Horizontal Alignment Left Indent

This works well in making text more readable when next to a column of numbers.

Right Indent

There’s also a Right Indent, which works well with moving numbers away from the right side of the cell. This feature is utilized in the Format Cells dialog box. Note: only for Windows versions of Excel.

Just select the range of numbers you want to format, use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+1 to bring up the Format Cells dialog box, select the Alignment tab, and under Horizontal click the drop-down arrow, select Right (Indent), then change the Indent value to one (1).

Format Cells Horizontal Alignment Right Indent

As you can see in the picture below, the Pub Date data has a Right Indent and the Link data has a Left Indent.

Formatted Numbers and Text

More Indenting

As you may have noticed in the screen-shot above, there’s a Distributed (Indent) option for Horizontal alignment. I didn’t test it, but wanted to point it out nonetheless.

If you’ve experience with this feature leave a comment and let us know how it works.

Note: Excel for Mac only has Left Indenting.

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Jose F. Torres January 8, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Indenting right aligned numbers can also be easily achieved by just the following two steps:

1. Select the numbers you want to right indent.
2. In the Alignment group, click the Increase Indent button once (or the number of levels you want to indent), then click the Right Align button. You can confirm in the Format Cells dialog box that the numbers are right aligned with one indent level.
3. If you change your mind and want them to the right side of the cells, simply click again Right Align.

Gregory January 8, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Wow, I did not know that. Thanks for the tip.

Aristarco Palacios October 8, 2012 at 1:41 pm

What amount is increased? an em? a zero? a figure space? Any idea? Clicking twice or increasing Indent value to 2 or 3 makes a big indentation. What’s the amount measured in? Twips? Pixels? Printer points?

Gregory October 8, 2012 at 6:06 pm

I’m not sure what they use to delegate space with the indent feature. It might be something esoteric like they do with column width, which is based up on the font size.

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