Inserting columns: Basic how-to

Continuing with the example of the book inventory, let’s say that you set up the perfect inventory — and then realized you needed something else. The last time we moved, I had had enough of not being able to find the book I wanted without trying to remember/guess which box it had been packed in. It also seemed like a good way to verify the inventory, and make sure nothing had gotten lost or sold without being recorded.

Of course, when I made the inventory, I hadn’t planned on this information. There wasn’t a column for it. I could have added it at the end, of course, but that would have made it hard to see both that column and the title column at the same time on my itty-bitty laptop screen. So the obvious solution was to insert a column. I chose to make it the first column, but it could have been anywhere. It could even have been after the last column I’d already filled, though that wouldn’t have had much effect.

The steps to insert a column depend on what program you’re using.

To make sure you’re doing it right I recommend entering something in the first cell of column A. Then, if you insert a column to the left of it, you’ll be able to tell that it worked because whatever you entered will now be in the first cell of column B. Then position your cursor in any cell in column A.

In Excel 97:

  1. Click on the “Insert” menu, or type Alt-I.
  2. Click on “Columns”, or type “c”. This will insert a column to the left of the column your cursor is in.

In Excel 2007:

  1. On the home tab, look for the “Cells” group. For me it’s the second-to-last group.
  2. The top item in that group is “Insert”. Click on the downward-pointing arrow immediately to the right. If you just click on the word Insert then it’ll guess whether you want to insert a row or column.
  3. Click on “Insert Sheet Columns”. This will insert a column to the left of the column your cursor is in.

Note: The keyboard shortcut for Excel 97 (Alt-I-C) still works in Excel 2007.

In Google Spreadsheet:

  1. Click on the “Insert” menu.
  2. Click on “Column left. This will insert a column to the left of the column your cursor is in. You could also choose “Column right, to insert a column to the right.

In OpenOffice Calc:

  1. Click on the “Insert” menu, or type Alt-i.
  2. Click on “Columns” or type “l” (lowercase L – ‘c’ will insert a cell). This will insert a column to the left of the column your cursor is in.

In Microsoft Works Spreadsheet:

  1. Click on the “Insert” menu, or type Alt-i.
  2. Click on “Insert Column” or type “c”. This will insert a column to the left of the column your cursor is in.
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