How to Merge Cells in Excel and Google Sheets

Merge cells horizontally, vertically, or both

In Excel and Google Sheets, a merged cell is a single cell created by combining or merging two or more individual cells.

Both programs have options to:

  • Merge cells horizontally
  • Merge cells vertically
  • Merge cells both vertically and horizontally

Also, Excel has the option to merge and center data, which is a commonly used formatting feature when creating titles or headings. The Merge & Center option is used to center headings across multiple worksheet columns.

Where to Find Merge

Merge and Center Cells of Data in Excel and Google Spreadsheets
Merge and Center Cells of Data in Excel and Google Spreadsheets.

Ted French

In Excel, the merge option is found on the Home tab of the ribbon. The icon for the feature is entitled Merge & Center, but when you click on the down arrow to the right of the name as shown in the accompanying image, a drop-down menu of all merge options opens.

In Google Sheets, the​ Merge Cells option is found under the Format menu. The feature is only activated if multiple adjacent cells are selected.

How to Merge Cells

To merge cells in Excel:

  1. Select multiple cells to merge.
  2. Click on the Merge & Center icon on the Home tab of the ribbon to merge cells and center data across the selected range.
  3. To use one of the other merge options, click on the down arrow next to the Merge & Center icon and choose from the available options:
    • Merge & Center
    • Merge Across (merges cells horizontally, across columns)
    • Merge Cells (merges cells horizontally, vertically, or both)
    • Unmerge Cells

To merge cells in Google Sheets:

  1. Select multiple cells to merge.
  2. Click on Format > Merge cells in the menu to open a context menu of merge options.
  3. Choose from the available options:
    • Merge all (merge cells horizontally, vertically, or both)
    • Merge horizontally
    • Merge vertically
    • Unmerge

Excel Merge and Center Alternative

You don't have to use the Merge & Center option if you only want to center the content of cells. Use Center Across Selection located in the Format Cells dialog box instead.

The advantage of using this feature rather than Merge & Center is that it centers without merging the selected cells.

Also, if more than one cell contains data when the feature is applied, the data in the cells is centered individually much as when changing the alignment of a cell.

As with Merge & Center, centering headings across multiple columns often makes it easier to see that the title applies to the entire range.

To center heading or title text across multiple columns, do the following:

  1. Select a range of cells containing the text to be centered.
  2. Click on the Home tab of the ribbon.
  3. In the Alignment group, click the dialog box launcher to open the Format Cells dialog box.
  4. In the dialog box, click on the Alignment tab.
  5. Under Text alignment, click the list box under Horizontal to see the list of available options. Click on Center Across Selection to center the selected text across the range of cells.
  6. Click OK to close the dialog box and return to the worksheet.

Pre-Excel 2007 Merge & Center Shortcomings

Before Excel 2007, using Merge & Center could cause problems when making subsequent changes to the merged area of the worksheet. For example, it was not possible to add new columns to the merged area of the worksheet.

Before adding new columns, the steps to follow would be:

  1. Unmerge the currently merged cells containing the title or heading.
  2. Add new columns to the worksheet.
  3. Reapply the Merge and Center option.

Since Excel 2007 however, it has been possible to add additional columns to the merged area in the same manner as other areas of the worksheet without following these steps.