How to Change the Width of a Column in Microsoft Excel

By default, columns and rows in Microsoft Excel have a fixed size. This size doesn’t change unless you change it. 

Since your data may be longer than the default column width, and if you don’t change the column size, your data will appear truncated.

Changing the width of the column will make your spreadsheet look pleasing to the eyes. 

This article covers four methods that will help you adjust the width of columns in Microsoft Excel.

4 methods to change the width of a column in Microsoft Excel

  • Changing column width using the mouse
  • Changing column width using the Format Auto-fit option
  • Changing column width by double-clicking the cell border
  • Changing column width by entering a specific size 

Method #1: Changing column width using the mouse

This is a simple method to change the width of a column. However, this method gives all columns a uniform size. The size of cell content will not matter when you use this method. If the length of the cell content does not matter to you, this method should be used.

Step 1: Select the column(s)

Select the columns you want to adjust. You have two options:

  • To select only one or two columns, click the alphabet letter at the top of the first column you want to adjust, and drag your mouse to the last alphabet letter of the columns you want to select.
  • Alternatively, click on the box on the top-left side of the first column A, and above the first row 1, to select the entire spreadsheet.

Step 2: Place the mouse on the border of the column

Placing the mouse on the border of the column heading will cause the mouse icon to change into a dark line. The dark line will have two arrows pointing sideways.

Step 3: Adjust the column size

Drag the mouse sideways to adjust the size of the column(s). Left for narrower, right for wider.

Below is the result of selecting the entire spreadsheet.

If you want a method that matches the column size with the length of the content, read the next method.


Method #2: Changing Column Width Using the Format Auto-Fit Option

The auto-fit option adjusts the column width to the size of the longest content in each column. If you use this method, you will see the full cell content at a single glance. 

Follow the simple steps below to change the column width according to the content size.

Step 1: Select the columns

Click on the small box on the top-left side of the first column A, and above the first row 1, to select the entire spreadsheet.

Step 2: Click on Format

Click on Format found in the top ribbon.

Step 3: Select Autofit Column Width

From the dropdown menu, select the ‘Autofit Column Width.’ 

Clicking on this will adjust all the columns to just the right size for your data.


Method 3: Changing Column Width by Double-Clicking the Cell Border

This method is very quick and efficient if you only wish to adjust the width of one column, according to the longest content in that column.

Step 1: Select a column to change its width

In our example, you will see the header for column A is too long to fit the default size, so our focus will be to widen column A.

Step 2: Move your cursor to the column border

Move your cursor to A, the column header. When you move your cursor to the right, towards the B of column B, the cursor will turn into a double-headed arrow.

Step 3: Double-click the cell border

Once the cursor has changed to a double-headed arrow, double-click.

You will now see that column A’s width has changed to fit the cell with the longest data.


Method 4: Changing column width by entering a size

When you have to be very precise regarding the size of your table and its columns and rows, this is the method for you. 

Step 1: Select the column

You first need to select a column to change its width. You can do so by clicking on the column header – click the alphabet letter at the top of the column you want to adjust.

Step 2: Click on Format

On the ‘Home’ tab, click on Format. A dropdown menu will open, from which you must select Column Width

Step 3: Enter a size

After clicking on Column Width, a dialog box window will open. 

Enter the width you want in the field. You may specify a column width of 0 to 255 in an Excel spreadsheet. One unit equals the width of one character in the standard format.

Click the OK button once you have entered the desired width. In our example, the width has changed to 12 units.


Wrapping Up

The default size of columns in Microsoft Excel will often be too small for your data. 

Fortunately, there are many ways to change it, some quick and easy, others more specific and with a few more steps. You can also make all the columns the same size or apply any of these methods to just one column. 

If you are a Google Sheets user, then check out this post on how to change column width in Google Sheets

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