Merging Cells in Excel and Google Sheets

Both spreadsheets function in similar ways, with just a few key differences

Digital Spreadsheet on tablet and phone

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In Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets, a merged cell is a single cell that is created by combining or merging two or more individual cells. Both spreadsheets merge cells horizontally, vertically, or both.

Instructions in this article apply to the current release of Google Sheets and all versions of Microsoft Excel since Excel 2010.

How to Merge Cells in Microsoft Excel

Excel offers one-click access to the merge tool. Highlight the cells you want to merge (the cells must be contiguous either horizontally or vertically), then go to the Home tab and select Merge & Center.

Microsoft Excel with the Merge & Center button selected

When you select Merge & Center, the selected cells are merged into one cell and content is centered in the upper-left cell across the merge. To change this behavior, select the Merge & Center drop-down arrow and select an alternative behavior:

  • Merge Across: Merges the cells, but does not center the content across the cells. This only works on a row level. For example, if you select a block of four rows by four columns, this option results in four one-column rows.
  • Merge Cells: Merges the cells into one large block. For example, if you select a block of four rows by four columns, this option results in a single block that's four rows high by four rows wide.
  • Unmerge Cells: When you select a merged cell, this option unmerges the cells.

Although the Merge & Center function is most often used to consolidate row-level headers in reports, you can merge cells vertically, too — or even in rectangles. You cannot, however, merge non-contiguous cells.

How to Merge Cells In Google Sheets

As with Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets also offers one-button access to its merge feature. Highlight the cells to be merged, go to the toolbar and select Merge (the icon looks like a square with arrows pointed inward).

Merge button activated in Google Sheets

The default behavior is to merge all cells. To find other merge types, select the Merge drop-down arrow:

  • Merge All: This is the default behavior. Renders all the cells into a single block, regardless of how many rows and columns are within the range.
  • Merge Horizontally: Merges the cells along the row axis. If you select more than one row, this option results in each row standing alone with the columns merged into one or more single-row cells.
  • Merge Vertically: Merges the cells along the column axis. For example, if you select a six-row-by-six-column range, this option renders six merged cells, each of which is one column wide by six rows tall.
  • Unmerge: Removes a merge on the affected cells.

Merges in Google Sheets preserve only the contents of the upper-left cell within the merged range. You can only merge cells in contiguous blocks.

If you lose data in a merge, use the undo feature in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. However, if you can't undo, un-merging the cells won't restore the data, because the data is discarded as part of the merge procedure.