How to Indent in Excel (3 Easy Ways + Shortcut)

If you punch some text in Excel and hit the enter key, you'll notice that the text is left-aligned by default and that's what we're trying to change today. We will talk about indenting text in a cell in Excel. Indentation has all to do with the alignment of text. This is why you will find the indent options in the alignment sections in Excel.

Generally, indentation is associated with tools like MS word or other word processors. Although Excel is built for some very different purposes when compared with Word processors, but it certainly does give you the ability to easily intent information within a cell.

How To Indent In Excel

For the days when left, right or center-aligned don't cut it, welcome to the tutorial where you learn how to Indent text in Excel.

Let's see a small example:

Let's see a small example

Of course when read, one can make out that these are superstores and addresses but right off the bat it's all just one chunk of information. There are several ways to make the store names stand out from the text which includes emboldening the store names or making a table with store names as headers.

The text alignment of the addresses can be changed to center or right too. All options have their bright moments and it really depends on the dataset. Sticking to the simple look of things, we will indent the addresses slightly to the right. This will still make it look like a cohesive chunk with the indent defining a different set of information.

Notes on Indenting

Indentation is solely used for text. As you will note, the indent command buttons lie in the Alignment group under the ribbon menu. Alignment deals with text alignment so that's the first give-away. Secondly, with any object selected on the sheet (picture, bar, chart) the text editing options, and consequently the indent buttons, become inactive (gray out) and can't be selected. Selecting any text element in the object will give access to text editing options.

The indent buttons don't work as left and right directors. Even for text aligned to the right, you have to increase the indent to make the text-indent towards the left.

The indent of center-aligned text and numbers (which are right-aligned by default) cannot be decreased (you can keep clicking, nothing will happen). When increasing the indent, the text will jump to the left side and start aligning from the left towards the right.

If a cell contains multiple lines of text, they will all be indented collectively as indent applied to the entire cell.

Time for some serious indenting.

Method #1 – Indent Option on the Ribbon

This option sits right in your line of vision and is a matter of few clicks.

  • Select the cells with the text to be indented. For our example, we will select rows 3, 4, and 5.
Indent Option on the Ribbon
  • Under the Home tab, in the Alignment group, select one of the Indent command buttons from the Increase and Decrease Indent buttons – highlighted above. We will indent our text to right by selecting the Increase Indent command button.
We will indent our text to right by selecting the Increase Indent command button

Indent achieved! You can select this option multiple times, indenting to what looks right and can also decrease the indent to remove any indents and to go back to the previous alignment of the text. This looks good to us so we'll move on to the next option.

Recommended Reading: How to Highlight Every Other Row in Excel

Method #2 – Indent Option in the Format Cells Dialog Box

This option of indenting text lies in the Format Cells dialog box. Teensy bit of a longer route than from the ribbon buttons but easy nonetheless. Here's how to do it:

  • Select the cells with the text to be indented. For our example, we will select rows 3, 4, and 5.
  • Launch the Format Cells dialog box by right-clicking the selected cells and selecting Format Cells from the right-click context menu. (Or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + 1).
Indent Option in the Format Cells Dialog Box
  • In the Format Cells dialog, select the Alignment In the Indent bar, adjust the indent from the arrows or type a number.
Format Cells dialog, select the Alignment In the Indent bar
  • This bar shows the current status of indents. 0 here indicates that the selected data has no indents. 1 is equal to one step of indent used on the ribbon menu. We will go with 1 indent and click OK.

The indented text is ready!

The indented text is ready

This option is handiest while you're already using the Format Cells dialog box for applying any other formatting. It also helps to know beforehand how much indent you want and punching the number in the dialog box. However, if you want to indent the text according to its visual appropriateness, you'll find the ribbon method quicker and you can adjust the indent to your liking by the eye in a few clicks.

Method #3 – Indent Option Shortcut

Here are the keyboard shortcuts for indentation. Press one after the other:

Alt, H, 6 – Increase indent

Alt, H, 5 – Decrease indent

The Alt key displays the shortcut keys for the tabs.

H selects the Home tab.

Recommended Reading: How To Wrap Text In Excel

Indenting Text Inside a Cell

There's no shortcut or trick to indenting text in a cell so we'll have to resort to ancient Excel times; manually doing the work.

The brief on this is that the text must first be sorted into lines by going into edit mode in the cell and adding a new line by Alt + Enter with the cursor positioned at the beginning of the text that is to become the new line.

Also, make sure to adjust column width so you don't get any format surprises when adding indents. From there, indents must be added using space characters. If you would like to add a staircase type look, you can select the cell, indent once and continue to add indents to the rest of the lines manually. Here are the steps for this:

  • Make sure the text is edited to the number of lines you want. If not, adjust the text with Alt + Enter to enter new lines. When done, press Enter to exit cell edit mode.
  • Select the cell and add one indent from the Increase Indent command button on the ribbon menu from the Home. This will indent all the lines in the cells once.
Indenting Text Inside a Cell
  • Double-click the cell and place the cursor at the beginning of the second line. Add space characters to indent it further. Depending on the font size and style, two or three space characters may be equal to one indent. You may want to indent one line using the Increase Indent option and the other line manually to determine how many space characters match an indent.
Add space characters to indent it further
  • Place the cursor at the beginning of the third line and indent it twice as much as the second line (e.g. 6 space characters).
indent it twice as much as the second line
  • Press Enter when done to exit cell edit mode.
Press Enter when done to exit cell edit mode

One down. How-many-ever to go. Yes, we are alone in this; do note how the indent command buttons gray out when we need them. A pity. For what it's worth, you can indent more or less than a certain number of space characters by doing it manually, just trying to find the brighter side to this. We do recommend blasting on some music to kill the monotony of this option.

We'll stop right here. That was all about indenting text in Excel and we hope to have shed light on a simple thing today. Although we ended on a primeval note, we'll be back with newfangled tips and tricks before you can absorb the indent of this guide. Cheers to learning and experimenting!

About Mehwish Javaid

Mehwish, an ACCA-qualified professional, transitioned from an audit trainee to an Excel specialist. With a foundation in financial auditing, her 4+ years of Excel expertise, showcased as a Content Specialist at ExcelTrick, bridges her auditing background with advanced spreadsheet skills. Read more...