How to Program an Entire Column in Excel

by Angela M. Wheeland

Programming, or formatting, an entire column in Excel allows you to change a column's appearance or functions according to the information you enter in the cells. Microsoft Excel has many features to format a column, including color, font, bordering and alignment. In addition, you can format a column to display specific number formats, including dates, zip codes, percentages and currency. Programming a column's number or word properties instructs Excel to format cells automatically.

Step 1

Click the column header that you want to program. Excel highlights all of the cells in the column.

Step 2

Right-click the column header, and click "Format Cells."

Step 3

Click the "Number" tab to change the column's value. By default, a column's value is "General," which does not format the cell. Change the column to represent the information in the cells. For instance, if the column contains dates, click "Date." If the cell includes zip codes or Social Security numbers, click "Special." Create your own formatting code by clicking "Custom."

Step 4

Click the "Alignment" tab to adjust the alignment of each cell in the column. Adjust the control of the text by clicking "Wrap Text" or "Shrink to Fit." Change the orientation of the text by adjusting the slider in the "Orientation" section.

Step 5

Click the "Font" tab to change the column's font, style, size, color and effects.

Step 6

Click the "Border" tab to add borders to each cell in the column. Chose a line style, and then click an option in the "Presets" section. If you want to draw your own borders, click the cell under the "Border" section and draw the lines.

Step 7

Click the "Fill" tab to choose a background color for the column. Click the "Pattern Style" drop-down to change the background pattern. Click the "Pattern Color" drop-down to choose a color for the pattern.

Click "OK" to apply the settings.


  • If cells in the column display "#####" after you apply the formatting, the column is not wide enough. Double-click the line between the column heading and the following column heading to resize the column to fit automatically.


About the Author

Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.

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