Clearing and Deleting Cells

As you are editing your Excel workbooks, one of the most common actions to take is to clear or delete cells. Clearing cells means erasing everything within them, whereas deleting actually deletes the entire cell (or cells). This may sound like an odd distinction, but it is not really. If you compare the cells in your worksheet to paper cups, you can either remove a cup entirely (deleting the cup) or simply remove any contents from the cup (clearing the cup). When you delete a cell, the other cells around that cell move to fill where the cell used to be.

To clear the contents of cells you have selected, display the Home tab of the ribbon and click the Clear tool in the Editing group. When you do, you will see a submenu asking what you want to clear. Your choices allow you to clear any of the following:

  • All. Everything related to the cell except the cell itself.
  • Formats. Any formatting applied to the cell.
  • Contents. The information in the cell. Any formatting and comments remain in place.
  • Comments. The comments attached to the cell.
  • Hyperlinks. The hyperlinks in the cell.

    You should make your selection based on what you want cleared and then choose the appropriate menu item. If you like, you can also use the Del key to clear a cell. Note that the Del key doesn’t delete cells; it clears them. When you use this shortcut key, it is the same as choosing Contents from the Clear submenu.

    Deleting is done by selecting the cells you want to delete and then choosing Delete from the Cells group. When you do this, Excel attempts to determine how the remaining cells in the worksheet should be moved to close up the hole that will be created by deleting the cells. If it can figure it out (for instance, if you are deleting an entire row or column), then the operation is completed. On the other hand, if it is not obvious how the remaining cells should be moved, Excel displays the Delete dialog box, which allows you to specify whether cells should be moved up or to the left.