What is The Insertion Point in Excel and How Is It Used to Enter Data?

8-bit style hand cursor
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In spreadsheets and other programs, such as word processors, the insertion point is represented by a vertical blinking line, which, in certain situations, indicates where input from the keyboard or mouse will appear. The insertion point is often called the Cursor.​

Note: These instructions apply to Excel versions 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, and Excel for Office 365.

Active Cell vs. the Insertion Point

In word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word, the insertion point is usually visible on the screen from the time you open the application. In Excel, however, instead of an insertion point, a single worksheet cell is surrounded by a black outline.

The outlined cell is called the active cell.

Entering Data Into the Active Cell

If you start typing in Word, the text is inserted at the insertion point. If you start typing in a spreadsheet program, however, the data is entered into the active cell.

Data Entry vs. Edit Mode in Excel

Screenshot showing Excel in edit more with insertion point

When launched, Excel is normally in data entry mode, which is indicated by the presence of the active cell outline. Once data has been entered into a cell, if you wish to change the data, you can activate edit mode instead of re-entering the entire contents of the cell.

It is only in edit mode that the insertion point is visible in Excel. You can activate Edit mode in three different ways:

  • Double-clicking with the mouse pointer on the cell you want to edited; the insertion point will be positioned in the cell at the location where you double-clicked.
  • Clicking once with the mouse pointer on the cell to be edited and then pressing the F2 key on the keyboard; the insertion point will be positioned in the cell at the end of the cell contents.
  • Clicking once with the mouse pointer on the cell to be edited and then clicking inside the formula bar located above the worksheet; the insertion point will be positioned in the formula bar at the location where you clicked.

When Excel is in Edit mode, you'll see the word Edit in the lower left corner of your worksheet. Some commands are not available in this mode, such as changing the alignment of the contents of a cell.

Leaving Edit Mode

Once a cell's contents have been edited, edit mode can be exited and the changes saved by pressing the Enter key on the keyboard or by clicking on a different worksheet cell.

To exit edit mode and discard any changes to the contents of a cell, press the ESC key on the keyboard.