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This chapter is from the book

Controlling the Next Cell Selection

If you’re typing a single column list into Excel, you might get frustrated as the next selection moves to the next cell to the right when you want it to go down to the next cell. Or if your list has multiple columns, you find the next cell selection going down instead of to the right. You don’t have to put up with how Excel moves to the next cell selection. You can use several tricks to control what cell you enter data into next.

Entering Data in a Multicolumn List

Normally, when you press the Enter key as you enter data, the active cell moves directly down the column. If instead you want the selection to move to the right, you use the Tab key.

You can take advantage of these default actions to enter data in a multicolumn list, having Excel smoothly move from column to column to the next row. To make this happen, you must use the Tab key to move from one column to the next. When you get to the end of your data entry row, press Enter. Excel keeps track of which column you started your data entry on and returns you there, making it easier to start the next row of data.

Changing the Next Cell Direction when Pressing Enter

If you don’t want to use both Tab and Enter, you can go to File, Options, Advanced, After Pressing Enter, Move Selection, and change the Direction from Down to Right. But Excel will no longer move the selection to the next row when you get to the last column as explained in the previous section—because it doesn’t realize you are at the last column.

Preselecting the Data Range

If you have the selection set to move right when you press Enter, you can tell Excel when to go down to the next row by selecting the range into which you are entering data before you begin the data entry. In this way, Excel knows when you’ve reached the last column and will move down to the next row.

Using a Named Range to Indicate Data Entry Cells

If the data you need to fill in isn’t in consecutive columns or rows, such as the form shown in Figure 3.2, you can configure Excel to jump around to the different cells as you press the Enter key. You do this by setting up the data entry cells in a named range.

Figure 3.2

Figure 3.2. You can jump quickly from one highlighted cell to the next by setting those cells to be a named range.

To set up a named range to assist in data entry, follow these steps:

  1. Ignore the first data entry field, and select the second field.
  2. Hold down the Ctrl key and select each data entry field in the order you want to enter the data.
  3. After all the other data entry fields have been selected, while still holding down the Ctrl key, select the first field.
  4. Type a name for the selected range in the Name box and press Enter.
  5. The next time you need to enter data in the fields, select the named range from the Name box drop-down and the fields will be highlighted, as shown in Figure 3.2. Begin entering data in the first field and press Tab or Enter to automatically go to the next field, repeating until you are done.
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