How to Keep the Active Cell in Excel

by Elizabeth Mott

Until you confirm a formula or value you enter in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet cell, you can press "Esc" to cancel your entry and leave the cell blank. How you confirm what you type determines which direction Excel moves the active cell selection after it accepts your input. The "Enter" key moves one cell down. The "Tab" key moves one cell to the right. The arrow keys move one cell in the direction they're marked. To stay in an active cell after you confirm entry into it, change the way you set up Excel's preferences.


Switch to the File tab of the Microsoft Excel ribbon and select "Options" to access the program's settings. On a Mac, open the "Excel" menu and choose "Preferences."


Click on the "Advanced" item in the list of settings categories in the Windows edition. On a Mac, click on the "Edit" preference pane.


Deselect the check box for "After Pressing Enter, Move Selection." Click on the "OK" button to confirm your settings.


  • check If you leave the "After Pressing Enter, Move Selection" setting or preference active, you can use the Direction drop-down menu to select which way Excel moves.
  • check Until you disable the "After Pressing Enter, Move Selection" setting or preference, adding the "Shift" key to the "Return," "Enter" or "Tab" key moves the active cell selection in the opposite of the normal direction.
  • check On a Mac, pressing "Ctrl-Return" confirms an entry into one active or selected cell without moving to another cell. If you select multiple cells before you type a formula or value and press this keyboard shortcut, Excel enters what you type into every cell of the selection.
  • check On a Mac, the "After Pressing Enter, Move Selection" preference affects both the "Return" and "Enter" keys.


  • close If you disable or change the direction of "After Pressing Enter, Move Selection" in a copy of Microsoft Excel that you share with other users, you may confuse others who expect the normal behavior of the program.
  • close Information in this article applies to Microsoft Excel 2013 for Windows and Microsoft Excel for Mac 2011. It may differ slightly or significantly with other versions or products.

About the Author

Elizabeth Mott has been a writer since 1983. Mott has extensive experience writing advertising copy for everything from kitchen appliances and financial services to education and tourism. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English from Indiana State University.

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