Ready to hone your skills in working with Excel spreadsheets for a more organized workflow? Start with learning how to move columns in Excel. This especially helps with columns containing large swaths of data.
Columns, rows, and cells are perhaps the three most recognizable features of Excel. They provide the window in which to view, calculate, and organize your information. Further, they make moving your info around very easy. We will show you two ways to work with columns in your Excel spreadsheet. You’ll also learn how you can move columns in Excel without losing large swaths of data.
How to Move Columns in Excel: The Cut or Copy Method
Understanding how to move columns in Excel with this method is very easy. Cut or copy is arguably the most widely used editing function across all platforms. Within Excel, it is particularly useful.
To move a single column of data, click the header of the target column.
- With your mouse hovering over the selected column, right-click and select either Cut or Copy from the menu.
- The keyboard shortcut for highlighting an entire column is Control Spacebar. For the move functions, you can use shortcut Control X for cut and Control C for copy.
- Be mindful of the difference between Cut and Copy. When you cut a selection, you are removing it from its original location and placing in another part of your spreadsheet or workbook.
- Copying a selection of information creates a duplicate of that data for you to place elsewhere.
- When you are ready to place your column, select the heading of the column to the right of where you want it to go.
If you cut column D and want it inserted after column A, then you would select column B, right-click and choose Insert Cut Cells from the pop-up.
Note that the insert function will shift your data to the right to make room for the new column.
You can also use the paste function to place your column in its new location. But doing so will replace the old data with the new.
How to Move Columns in Excel: Replace Data in One Column with Data from Another
Going back to our previous example, here’s how to move columns in Excel when replacing data in one column with data from another.
- Select column B, right-click and choose Paste from the pop-up.
- Cut, copy, insert and paste can all be used with a single column or a range of columns depending on your needs.
- If trying to move multiple columns, i.e., Column A and Column D, this will only work with the copy function. The cut function is unable to perform this task.
- You can also select columns within your spreadsheet and move those as necessary without needing to select the column headers. Be mindful that this will alter your sheet in a specific area as opposed to the top to bottom change that occurs in the above examples.
How to Move Columns in Excel: Drag and Drop
Another efficient method to use when you need to move columns in Excel is to drag and drop. This is relatively easy to complete although it may take a couple of attempts before you can do it efficiently.
- First, highlight the column you are moving. You can also perform this task using just a section of data.
- Along either edge of the highlighted column, hover your mouse until the cursor changes to four small arrows and click and hold the mouse button.
- Note that depending on your version of Excel and if you are using a Mac, the four arrows may alternatively be a small hand symbol.
- Hold down the Shift button and then pull the column towards its intended destination. A thin line will appear to help guide you before placing the column.
- Once you reach the end location, just let go of the mouse button first and then the shift key. The column will drop into place.
The shift key is vital in drag and drop as it directs Excel to insert the columns. If you perform the same steps above without the shift key, the column you are moving will replace the info in the destination column.
Excel will prompt you with a warning message before you complete the drop.
What Happens When You Move Columns in Excel
With both techniques above, when you move a column, you also move all of the data within each cell of the column.
Formats, formulas, and values all maintain their original integrity regardless of which procedure you use.
Additionally, although we focused on columns, these instructions will also work when you need to move rows within your Excel spreadsheet.
Are There Other Ways How to Move Columns in Excel?
There are a few other ways to move columns in Excel, but they typically require the use of a plug-in or creating a Macro. This is doable, but requires more advanced knowledge, so you should proceed with columns.
Plug-ins can create more headaches by adding unnecessary toolbars and duplicate functions to an already robust program. Macros may be potentially useful in some circumstances. But these tend to be highly specific and are usually best used by those with an in-depth knowledge of Excel.
Troubleshooting on How to Move Columns in Excel
There are very few issues you can run into when moving columns, with the main one being choosing Copy instead of Cut as your initial move method.
Thankfully, Excel will prompt you before any data is changed with the following pop-up:
Do you want to replace the contents of the selected cells?
This is a common message when pasting information, so it comes in handy should you use the drag and drop method without holding the shift key.
With the drag and drop option, it is essential to be careful when selecting either edge of the column you want to move.
If you see a clear, block plus sign instead of the four-arrow cursor, the highlight cursor is active. A black, block plus sign means the single cell drag and drop tool is active. When these tools are active, they can create some issues that could require correction of your data.
There are a lot of helpful tools when working in Excel. The ability to move columns is undoubtedly one of them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a full data set from top to bottom or a simple ten-row column. Excel makes it a cinch to get your info where it needs to be.