In a perfect world, you'd never need to rearrange columns in Excel. Planning a spreadsheet in advance should save you from having to perform large-scale rearrangement of your documents. The world isn't perfect though, and the chances are that you'll think of better ways to layout your spreadsheet or receive additional information to integrate. Today, we're going to show you how to move columns in Excel so you can make these on-the-fly changes.
How to move or rearrange columns in Excel
Though moving a column is a common function, Excel doesn't provide single, intuitive way of doing it. Though you may expect to be able to just grab the letter and drag it around, the reality is that there are a couple of extra steps involved.
Indeed, there we'll be covering a total of four ways to rearrange columns in Excel today, starting with the most simple:
How to Move a Column in Excel with the SHIFT Key
The most user-friendly way to rearrange columns in Excel does involve clicking and dragging, but you'll need to be aware of where you are clicking and what keys you're pressing at the time:
How to Move Multiple Columns without Overwriting Data
Moving multiple columns can be a bit more nerve-wracking. In most cases, you want to do it in a way that does overwrite any data that's in the cells you're moving them to. Thankfully, a modified version of the steps above is all that it takes to achieve this.
- Select the columns that you want to move
You can select multiple columns by clicking and dragging over their column headers. Bear in mind that they do need to be next to each other for this to work, so move them together using the steps above if they aren't already.
- Hold SHIFT and click and drag at the border of one of the cells to move them
Again, the green line indicates where your columns will move to. The columns next to them will automatically shift across to make room.
How to Swap Columns in Excel with Cut and Paste
Another common way to move a column in Excel is through the cut and paste function. However, doing this incorrectly can lead to the data in your columns being overwritten. We'll show you how you can insert the data from multiple columns without affecting existing information:
- Click the column letter to select it, then press Ctrl + X
- Select the column you want to insert it in, right-click a cell, and press “Insert Cut Cells”
- Your cut data will be moved to your selected column
The data you previously selected will be moved one space to the right, so this is a great way to swap columns in Excel if they're next to each other.
How to Rearrange Columns in Excel with the Sort Feature
If you have multiple columns that you want to move to various places, clever use of Excel's sort feature is the way to go. By numbering your columns in the order you want them to be arranged and then sorting them, you can quickly get them where they need to be. Here's how:
- Select the first row of your spreadsheet by clicking its number
- Right-click the number and choose “Insert”
- Type the number that corresponds to the column's desired position
The data you want to be in row A should be labeled “1”, row B should be “2”, and so on.
- Select your sheet, then press “Sort & Filter > Sort” in the data tab of your ribbon
- Press “Options…”, choose “Sort left to right” and press “OK”
- Change “Sort by” to “Row 1” and press “OK”
- Select the first row and press “Ctrl + minus (-)” to remove it
If you think you'll need to change the order again in the future, you can hide the cells instead, then unhide and change the numbers when you need to re-sort them.
- Enjoy your fully sorted spreadsheet
Extra: How to Wrap Text in Excel
Now that you have rearranged your columns in Excel to suit your preference, you may want to wrapping their heading text to better fit their size. You can do so by following our dedicated tutorial here.
Extra: How to Alphabetize Data in Excel
If you want to sort your columns or data alphabetically instead of numerically, you can do that too. Just follow our guide on how to alphabetize columns in Excel.