The Basics of Copying Cells in Excel
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     This exercise presents the basic concepts needed to learn and understand how to Copy, Cut and Paste data in Excel. It is presented at the very basic level assuming the user has little or no experience using Excel or these commands. It does assume you know how to use the mouse, know how to highlight (select) a cell or range of cells and are familiar with basic Excel navigational skills. Self-taught intermediate users will learn from this exercise by obtaining a better understanding of what they have been doing and perhaps learning some short-cuts. The beginning user will spend about 10-20 minutes on this exercise, while experienced user can do all the steps as a review in 5-10 minutes.

    To copy the data from one cell to another cell:

    1. Click on cell  A1

    2. Type your name and press    Enter

      To enter practice data in the cell
    3. Click on  Edit (in the menu)  Copy

      To begin the copy process. Note the marquee around the cell and message in the lower left of the screen. More on this later.

    4. Click on cell   B1

    5. Click on   Edit (in the menu)  Paste

      The data has been copied. Also note the marquee is still displayed as well as the message in the lower left of the screen.
    6. Press   Escape (on the keyboard)
      To clear the marquee around cell A1. This step is not required to complete the copy and paste commands, but is included for instructional purposes. More on this later.

    To copy data from one cell to another using Excel's menu commands:

    • Place the cursor in the cell you want to Copy From
    • Select Copy
    • Select the cell to Copy To (it's actually Paste To)
    • Select Paste
    • In other words, Copy From and Paste To


    When you select Copy, Excel places that data into an area in the PC memory called the Clipboard. While the data is in the clipboard, the marquee is displayed as an indicator that the corresponding data is in the clipboard, ready to be pasted. When you select Paste, the data in the clipboard is copied from the clipboard to the designated location (cell). As long as the data is in the clipboard, the data can be pasted again and again. Also, since the clipboard is a part of the PCs memory, the data can be pasted to other programs on the PC.

    Next Exercise:

    To copy the data from one cell to another cell, with multiple pasting:

    1. Click on cell   C1

    2. Type   12345   and press  Enter

      To enter practice data in the cell
    3. Click on   Edit  (in the menu)   Copy
      Again, note the marquee around the cell and message in the lower left of the screen.

    4. Click on cell  D1

    5. Click on  Edit    (in the menu)   Paste

      The data has been copied. Also note the marquee is still displayed as well as the message in the lower left of the screen. This means you can continue to copy, if desired.
    6. Click on cell  E1

    7. Click on  Edit   (in the menu)  Paste

        The data is pasted again. The marquee is still displayed
    8. Click on cell  A1
      We are going to copy this data over your name entered earlier.
    9. Click on  Edit   (in the menu)  Paste

    10. Click on cell   B1
    11. Click on   Edit   (in the menu) Paste

      The data is again pasted. Before proceeding to the next step, make sure all the cells, A1 to E1 have the numbers in the cells. If not, continue copying until they all have the same data


    12. Press   Esc (on the keyboard)

      To clear the clipboard/marquee
    There is no requirement to clear the marquee after pasting, we are doing so in these exercises to help you learn the concepts. When actually working on a project, the action of entering data in another cell after pasting (as well as many other actions) clears the clipboard.
    To copy the data from one cell to several other cells (a range of cells)

    13. Click on cell   A2

    14. Type   45678   and press  Enter

    15. Click on   Edit (in the menu) Copy

    16. Click on cell    B2  then,hold down the mouse button and drag to cell    E2

      Cells B2 through E2 should be selected as follows:


    17. Click on   Edit (in the menu)   Paste

      You have just copied the data from one cell to several cells.

    18. Click on any one cell
      To clear the selected range.

    19. Press   Esc  (on the keyboard)
      Do so only if you want to clear the clipboard.


    You have now learned that the Paste command pastes data into the selected range, regardless of its size (one cell or several cells). Additional exercises on this are presented below.

    The Excel Menu and Toolbars:

    Up to this point, the Copy and Paste commands were performed from the Excel menu. The menu contains substantially all the features of the program. But, as you probably already know, there many short-cuts. Immediately below the Menu bar is the Tool Bar, with the different Tools (Icons) ready for action.

    • The Copy Tool looks like: 
      •  Note the Icon looks like two pages of paper as if you made a copy and now have two pages.

    •  The Paste Tool looks like:
      • Note the Icon looks like a clipboard, which is creating a copy from the clipboard (the page on top of the clipboard), thus the Paste

    • The Cut Tool looks like:
      • We have not covered this yet, but this works basically the same as Edit (in the menu) Cut , which cuts the data out of its current location and pastes it to the new location. Some users call this moving the data.

    If you are not sure what a button will do, just place your mouse cursor over the button for about two seconds (do not press the mouse button, just position the mouse cursor over the button).  A small message box will pop up, telling you what this button does.  This is true for all buttons.

    Some terminology: Excel uses the term Toolbar to described the row of icons below the menu bar. Excel calls these icons buttons. I called them icons because they are pictures representing a command; age old computer terminology. Why Excel puts buttons on the toolbar is a mystery. Shouldn't they put buttons on the button bar and tools on the tool bar? It doesn't really matter, the point is that in this handout and in material written by others, the terms: button, tool and icon tend to be used interchangeably.

    To repeat the first exercise using the Toolbar

    20. Click on cell  A3

      To begin this exercise
    21. Type   57933  and press   Enter
      To enter new practice data

    22. Click on the  Copy  Button: 

      Again, note the marquee around the data and the message in the lower left in your screen. This is the same as clicking on Edit (in the menu), then clicking on Copy.

    23. Click on cell    B3

    24. Click on the  Paste  Button:

      As before, the data is copied into the cell and the marquee continues to display.

    25. Click on cell   C3   and drag to   E3

      Cells C3 through E3 should be selected:

    26. Click on the  Paste  Button: 

    27. Click on any cell

      To unselect the range

    28. Press   Esc (on the keyboard)
      To clear the marquee. Your spreadsheet should now look something like:



    These last few steps had you copy and paste using the buttons rather than going through the menu. Remember, the buttons are simply short-cuts. If you come to work tomorrow and the copy and paste buttons are gone, you simply click on Edit in the menu and continue working.

    These last few steps also repeated the steps of copying from one cell to one cell and from one cell to several cells. You should now be getting a feel of how this stuff works. More repetition below.

    Copy Several Cells to Another Location:

    29. Select   A3   through   E3

    30. Click on the  Copy   Button:

      Note the marquee surrounds the entire selected range

    31. Click on cell    A4

    32. Click on the   Paste   Button: 

      All the cells selected for copying are reproduced at cell A4. No need to select the Paste To range

    33. Click on any cell

      To unselect the range

    To Paste without using the Paste Button

    34. Select the cells   A4   through  E4

    35. Click on the  Copy  Button:

    36. Click on cell  A5

      Do not click on the Paste Icon

    37. Press   Enter
      Note the Paste has been performed and that the marquee is no longer displayed. The block of data should now look like:


    Pressing Enter is an Excel shortcut to Pasting.  By pressing Enter to Paste, the data is Pasted and the clipboard is cleared.  This is a nice shortcut as it is fast (the Enter key is easy to use) and you do not need to press Enter to clear the clipboard (the marquee drives some users crazy).

    The exercises that follow will instruct you to Paste using several different methods, the menu, the icons, pressing Enter, etc.  You may choose to Paste the data using a different method, which is fine.  This exercise is written for beginners and each step has a purpose, however, each one of you is at a different level of skill and experience, so there is no harm in using a method that is preferable for you.

    Copy and Cut a Block of Cells to Another Location:

    Ensure that you have data in cells A1:E5 as noted in the previous step.  It doesn't make any difference what the data is, as long as there is data.

    38. Select the data in cells A1:E5

    39. Click on the  Copy  Button:

    40. Click on cell  A10  and press  Enter  (to paste the data)

      The block of data has been copied.  Note that there is no need to highlight the Copy To range, just put the cursor in the upper left corner where you want the data to go.  Also note that the Copy To range is highlighted.

    41.  With the range A10:E14 still highlighted, click on the  Cut  Button:

    42.  Click on A16 and press Enter

      The data has now been Pasted to a new range.  Note that pressing Enter to Paste works with both the Copy and Cut commands.  In a real world situation, this step may be valuable when you Paste to the wrong range.  If this happens, just move (cut) the newly pasted to the correct range.

    Copy and Paste Using the Keyboard:

    43. Select the data in cells A1:E5

    44. Hold down the Ctrl key and press  (on the keyboard)

      Note the marquee, showing you the Copy command has been executed.

    45. Click on  G1

    46. Hold down the  Ctrl  key and press  (on the keyboard)

      The data has been posted

    How can you remember these key board shortcuts?  The quickest method is to simply click on Edit (in the menu) and you will see the shortcuts listed next to the menu command.  These are probably the most used commands in all Windows software, therefore, they should be easy to remember.  Regardless what software you are in, the likelihood of these commands being the same is very high.  If your not sure, just click on the Edit menu.

    In Review and Other Related Tips:

    • The Copy, Cut and Paste command can be executed in several ways.  In this exercise, the Edit Menu, the Button Bar or the keyboard.  Paste can be also executed by pressing Enter.

    • You can copy one cell or a range of cells, whatever is selected will be copied.

    • The marquee gives you a visual reminder of what cells will be copied

    • If you paste to the wrong range, you can Undo the paste.  Click on Edit Undo (in the menu), the Undo button or press Ctrl Z (on the keyboard).

    • If a cell is formatted, perhaps bold and italics, the format is copied as well

    • There are other methods of copying which are discussed in another exercise (remember, this exercise is just the basics).

    • When copying formulas, the formula references will be changed relative to the original reference.  This is the topic of another exercise.

    • Pay attention to the Excel screen as you work.  Many times it is telling you or is giving clues on what to do next.  The marquee and the message on the status bar (at the bottom of your screen) are just two examples.

    • If you learned a command in other software, try it when in Excel.  The copy, cut and paste are excellent examples of commands that work basically the same in all software.
    • You are not limited to copying in just the current file.  You can copy to another worksheet or document file, and this is not limited to just Excel.  You can copy to other programs as well, such as Word, Access, WordPerfect, PageMaker, or whatever.

    • Several other issues related to copying, cutting and pasting may arise as you work, such as how to highlight, tricks in highlighting, finding the range to Copy To, copying non-contiguous cells, copying values only, copying a row into a column, using the Drag and Drop features, instant highlighting, dealing with hidden rows and columns and more.  Review the topics list for articles/exercises on theses features as well.