How to Autofit in Excel: Ensuring Perfect Cell, Column, and Row Sizes

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Written By Chris

Just a simple "data guy". Changing the world one formula at a time.

Managing the appearance of cells, rows, and columns in an Excel worksheet ensures that your data is clearly visible and effectively presented. The AutoFit feature in Excel is a handy tool that automatically adjusts the width of columns and the height of rows to match the size of the content within them. This function is particularly useful when you’re dealing with variable amounts of data or when you import data from other sources into your Excel workbook.

Learning to use AutoFit can save you significant time and effort when formatting spreadsheets. Instead of manually adjusting column widths and row heights to accommodate different lengths of text, AutoFit does the job with just a few clicks or keystrokes. This not only streamlines the process of making your data fit neatly within the cells but also helps maintain a professional and tidy look in your Excel reports and analyses.

Understanding Autofit in Excel

Autofit intelligently resizes cells based on the content length. If your text is being cut off or if a cell displays “#####” because of inadequate space, Autofit will adjust the column width or row height to reveal the hidden content.

To autofit column width, you can simply double-click the right border of the column header, and Excel will resize the column to fit the longest piece of content within it. Similarly, autofitting the row height is achieved by double-clicking the bottom border of the row number. These actions prompt Excel to expand or shrink the column widths and row heights to fit the content precisely.

autofit before

The important part of this to keep in mind is that the default size applied by the autofit feature depends on the largest cell content in the column or row. If you have multiple columns or rows to adjust, you can select them all and apply autofit in one action. This avoids the need to manually drag and adjust sizes, saving time and improving the presentation of your data.

autofit after

Below are the popular methods to apply autofit quickly:

  • For columns:
    • Double-click the right column border, or
    • Select the column(s), go to the “Home” tab, and click “Format” > “AutoFit Column Width”.
  • For rows:
    • Double-click the bottom row border, or
    • Select the row(s), go to the “Home” tab, and click “Format” > “AutoFit Row Height”.

This function ensures that your worksheets are not only well-organized but also that data is presented in a readable and accessible format, irrespective of the content size.

How to Autofit Columns and Rows

As I’ve mentioned, there are many ways to apply an autofit to your columns and rows in Excel. So, let’s break them down!

Using The Mouse for Autofitting Columns and Rows

To quickly autofit individual columns or rows using your mouse, hover over the boundary of the column or row header. A double-headed arrow will appear. When you see this arrow, double-click, and the column or row will automatically adjust to fit the content. This allows you to make all the data in a column or row visible without manual adjustments.

You can see the change applied in the above previous images when I autofit with the mouse on just the first row and first column.

Autofitting Through Excel Ribbon Commands

For more control over autofitting, you can use the commands found in the Excel ribbon. For this case, we’ll highlight the data in columns B and C.

Then navigate to the Home tab and look for the Cells group. Here you will find the Format button. Under this button, choose to autofit column width or row height. This method can be used to autofit multiple columns or rows simultaneously.

autofit in ribbon under Home tab

You can see that not only do you have the choice of autofitting, but you can select the desired height and width. But for now, I’ll just autofit the two columns I highlighted.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Autofit

Keyboard shortcuts are always a welcomed advantage in the world of Excel.

To autofit column width, select the intended column(s), then press Alt + H, followed by O, and then I.

keyboard shortcut for autofit columns

For row height, after selecting the row(s), press Alt + H, followed by O, and finally A. These shortcuts activate the autofit function without the need to navigate the ribbon with your mouse.

keyboard shortcut for autofit rows - after

Handling Special Cases

When working with the autofit feature in Excel, you’ll encounter situations where standard auto-adjustments don’t quite work due to your spreadsheet’s unique formatting needs. Here, specific techniques will ensure that your content is displayed properly, without being cut off or leaving too much extra space.

Dealing With Merged Cells

If you have merged cells in your Excel spreadsheet, you may notice that the autofit feature does not adjust the row height properly. This is because autofit relies on the dimensions of individual cells to work correctly.

autofit merged columns

For instance, in the image above, by using any of the methods already mentioned to autofit the merged column at the end, nothing will happen. So, when dealing with merged cells, you’ll often need to manually set the row height or column width to ensure the content fits as intended.

Autofitting Multiple and Non-Adjacent Columns

autofit non adjacent columns

To adjust multiple columns at once, press and hold the CTRL key while clicking on each column header you want to autofit. For non-adjacent columns, this method allows you to select all the columns you want to adjust without affecting the others.

Once selected, double-click the border of one of the selected column headers, and Excel will autofit all chosen columns accordingly.

autofit non adjacent columns after

Using Wrap Text With Autofit

In cases where cell content is extensive, using the wrap text feature in conjunction with autofit can prevent text from spilling over into adjacent cells. To do this, select the cells, then click Home > Wrap Text.

autofit wrap text

After applying wrap text, you can then use the autofit option to adjust row height, allowing the full content to be visible without altering the readability of your spreadsheet.

Troubleshooting Common Autofit Issues

Sometimes, autofit might not work as expected in Excel, leaving you with hidden content or incorrectly sized cells. Here’s how to address some of the most common autofit issues:

Autofit not working: If Excel isn’t automatically adjusting your cells, double-check if the wrap text feature is enabled. For rows, ensure that the Wrap Text feature is turned on in the Home tab under Alignment. With this setting active, Excel should autofit your content as intended.

Dealing with merged cells: Autofit typically struggles with merged cells since it cannot adjust the height of the row based on the content. To overcome this, try manually setting the row height. Select the merged cells, navigate to the Home tab, and under the Cells group, click on Format and choose Row Height to enter a specific value.

Avoiding content cut-off: Occasionally, when you use autofit, content in large cells might still appear cut off. To prevent this, double-click the boundary line in the row or column header after selecting the cells you want to autofit. This gesture signals Excel to adjust the column width or row height to the content’s size.

Remember, proper formatting will enhance the presentation and readability of your data. Monitoring these aspects ensures that your spreadsheets look professional and are easy to navigate.

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