Excel 2016: Cursor Movement & Shapes

Updated 2017.07.30


·       Learn how to move the cursor efficiently in Excel.

·       Learn how to select (highlight) cells in Excel.

·       Learn the meaning of Excel's different cursor shapes.

Basic cursor movement commands:

To achieve this:

Do this:

Move the active cell up one row

Press <up arrow> key

Move the active cell down one row

Press <down arrow> key

Move the active cell left one column

Press <left arrow> key

Move the active cell right one column

Press <right arrow> key

Move the active cell one screen down

Press <Page Down> key

Move the active cell one screen up

Press <Page Up> key

Move the active cell to the first cell in the row

Press <Home> key

Move to the last active cell in a row

Press <End> key

Move to cell A1

Press <Ctrl>+<Home>

Move to the intersection of the last active row and column

Press <Ctrl>+<End>

If the cursor is currently in a data cell, move in the direction of the arrow until it encounters an empty cell; if the cursor is currently in a blank cell, moves in the direction of the arrow until it encounters a non-blank cell

Press <End> followed by an arrow key (two consecutive keystrokes)

Enter a cell address and go directly to it

Press <F5>

Find out how big Excel is

To go to the bottom row of an empty spreadsheet:

·       Press the <End> key, then press the <down arrow> key.

·       The bottom row is 1,048,576. That seems like a strange number, but that number in base 2 is this: 100,000,000,000,000,000,000, which is a nice round number! All numbers in a computer are represented using only zeros and ones, which means that they are represented in base 2 (also called binary).

To go to the last column in Excel:

·       Press the <End> key, then press the <right arrow> key.

·       The last column is XFD, which is column number 16,384. Another "strange" number, but it's 100,000,000,000,000 in base 2!

To Select any range of cells in Excel

Before formatting any cells in Excel, you must first select (highlight) them.

To achieve this:

Do this:

Select (highlight) cells using the keyboard

Hold the shift key down while using any of the above commands to move the cursor.

Select (highlight) cells using the mouse

When the mouse is a white plus sign (Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: http://www.briarcliff.edu/departments/cis/Excel/000-Ex1.gif) drag the mouse over the desired cells.

Select non-adjacent cells

Select the first range of cells with the mouse, then while holding the control key down, drag the mouse over each additional range of cells that you wish to select.

Excel’s cursor shapes.

The cursor in Excel takes on a number of different shapes, depending on where you are on the worksheet.


Used to:


The fat white plus sign is the Select Cursor. Use it to select a cell or range. This is always used to select data before applying formatting commands.


The skinny black plus sign is the Fill Handle. Use it to copy formulas or values. The fill handle only appears when you are in the lower right corner of the current selection.


The White Arrow with a smaller 4-headed black arrow. Use this to drag and drop the selected cell or range. The white arrow only appears when you are at the edge of the current selection.


The I-Beam. Use this to enter or edit data. The cursor (vertical line inside the cell) blinks.


The 2-headed arrow (horizontal). Resize column


The 2-headed arrow (vertical). Resize row


The Format Painter. Use this to copy cell formats. Click on the text that is already formatted the way you want it. Then click on the Format Painter button:


The cursor at the left will appear. Drag the cursor over the cells that you want to format. They will be formatted exactly the same as the cell that you were in when you clicked on the Format Painter.


If you have multiple ranges that you want to format the same, double-click on the Format Painter button. Then click on it again when you are done.