How to Format Cells in Google Sheets?

In order to disseminate important data and analytics for your marketing firm, your online digital campaign, your company blog, and so forth, you should also be able to read the data given to you. This is why formatting and design on Google Sheets is more than just for eye candy or aesthetics.

We should all learn how to format cells in google sheets because our ability to make data more presentable is just as important as knowing how to gather and decipher the data into something that impacts your sales or brand.

How to Format Cells in Google Sheets

There’s a multitude of methods when formatting cells or rather the content of the cells. Most people might even use the toolbars available to go about it. You can even teach yourself how to do formatting of cell and cell content by tinkering with all those icons.

You can format the cells themselves, the content found within the cells (text, numbers, dates, formulas, and so on), and the like.

Method 1: Use the Toolbar

Step 1: Open a new spreadsheet. Or get an existing one. We’ll get an existing one—or at least copy and paste a table—because we’ll be formatting some of its content.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 1 - Open spreadsheet

Step 2: Select the cells or cells you want to format. In the case of this example sheet, we’ll start with the address book table’s headers. We can format them in every which way possible using only toolbars.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 2 - Format the address table headers

Step 3: You can change the fill color of the cell using the “Fill color” icon on the Google Sheets toolbar. You have loads of preset colors to choose from and you can even do “Conditional formatting” or “Alternating colors” per cell.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 3A - Change fill color

You can also change text color if you want to. Just make sure to pick a contrasting color or else the text will end up becoming hard to see when push comes to shove.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 3B - Change the text color

Step 4: You can change whether the words are in Bold, Italic, Strikethrough, or Underlined by the toolbar as well. Here we’ve put the headers on bold. The keyboard shortcut for this is “Ctrl + B“.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 4A - Put the headers in Bold

We’ve then put the name column in italics for good measure. Its keyboard shortcut is “Ctrl + I” or the Big Letter I.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 4B - Put the Names in Italics

Now here we’ve struck through or put on Strikethrough the addresses in the address column. Its keyboard shortcut is “Alt + Shift + 5“.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 4C - Put the Addresses in Strikethrough

Finally, on the city column, we can put them in Underline by using the shortcut, “Ctrl + U“.  Curiously, strikethrough is available on the toolbar but underline wasn’t.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 4D - Put the Cities in Underline

You can do further edits on the header by changing the “Font” and the “Font size” as well.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 4E - Change Font and Font size too

Step 5: Change the alignment of your text per cell or collection of cells as well. Here, we have the basic left align default.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 5A - This is horizontal align to the left

We can also put text in center alignment. Just click on that icon and select the middle choice.

Anyone who has ever used Microsoft Word, LibreOffice Writer, Google Docs, or any worthwhile word processor should be familiar with how this looks like.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 5B - This is horizontal align to the center

Finally, we have the rarely used (in Western Latin languages like English) right align or horizontal align to the right.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 5C - This is horizontal align to the right

Step 6: We’ll also cover vertical alignment by resizing this paragraph to illustrate how it works. Here in this case, we can see what “Top align” refers to. The text aligns at the top of the cell or merged collection of cells.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 6A - This is vertical align to the top

This is vertical align to the center.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 6B - This is vertical align to the middle

And this is vertical align to the bottom.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 6C - This is vertical align to the bottom

Step 7: Let’s now discuss text wrapping. You have the option to have the text wrap inside the cell, overflow from the cell, or get clipped by the cell.

Wrapping is most obvious on huge blocks of text that go beyond the borders of the cell. Here’s what wrapped text looks like. The entirety of the text is contained within the cell and the cell resizes itself in accordance to the text block.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 7A - This is text with text wrapping

Here’s what overflow looks like. As its name suggests, it results in the text overflowing out of the cell and into other cells.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 7B - This is text with overflow

Here’s what clip looks like. It clips or crops out the text that runs in excess or beyond the cell’s borders.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 7C - This is text with text clipping or clip

Step 8: You can even access text rotation in order to do something funky with the text, which is to literally rotate it inside the cell. Just pick a direction and see it rotate as shown below.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 8 - Here_s how text rotation works

Step 9: You can add borders to your tables for good measure using the Borders icon on the toolbar. You have multiple bordering options to choose from. Just mix and match.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 9A - Add borders using Borders icon on the toolbar

You should be able to edit the table borders to your preferences like so afterwards.

Format Cells Method 1 Step 9B - Edit the borders of the table to your heart_s content

Method 2: Use the Menus

Most, if not all, of the formatting options mentioned above are also available on the “Format” menu. You simply need to know where to find them.

Step 1: You can access all those toolbar options and shortcuts on the “Format” menu as well. Just go to “Format” and then go to “Text“. You should see all the format options for text inside cells there.

For example, this is the submenu for text formatting.

Format Cells Method 2 Step 1A - The Format and Text menu

This is for text or cell content alignment.

Format Cells Method 2 Step 1B - The Format and Alignment menu

As so on and so forth. The “Format” menu covers almost everything.

Step 2:  The lone menu option for cells is “Merge cells“. There used to be a “Cell” tab for borders and cell color, but Google Sheets seems to have transferred all such options to the toolbar.

I personally prefer the old format of being able to edit cell fill color, borders, border color, and border style from the menu, but I’m sure the developers of the cloud-based app had data showing how most people preferred formatting cells from the toolbar.

Format Cells Method 2 Step 2A - The lone cell format option left is merge

Unmerge” separates any merged cells apart to their original grid designation by rows and columns.

Format Cells Method 2 Step 2B - This is unmerge

When you select multiple rows and columns together, they have several options of cell merging.

Format Cells Method 2 Step 2C You have three options

You can either merge them vertically or merge all vertically stacked cells to turn them into columns.

Format Cells Method 2 Step 2E - This is merge vertically

Or you can merge them horizontally or merge all horizontally stacked cells to turn them into rows.

Format Cells Method 2 Step 2D - This is merge horizontally

You can also merge all selected cells into one big block.

Format Cells Method 2 Step 2F - This is merge all

Step 3: You can also format numbers, figures, and values using the “Format” menu then the “Numbers” submenu. You can change the numbers to Plain Text, currency, percentage, date, and what-have-you depending on your needs.

Format Cells Method 2 Step 3 - Number format options are also available

The beauty of it all is that it auto-formats the number as you enter it. Therefore, for example, you won’t need to add a dollar sign to dollar values anymore if you choose to format them as currency. Ditto with dates or percentages.

It’s another way to save time and effort, plus formatted numbers makes for a cleaner display when push comes to shove.

What You Need to Find Out

Growing up tinkering with apps, I’ve tried out all the toolbar icons found on Microsoft Word and Excel in order to learn how to go about using such programs since the toolbar method was made to be tinkered with.

You can do this too. Extend your knowledge through experimentation and merely look up anything you’re unfamiliar with through Google search. Otherwise, you can experiment with the “Format” menu to know what this or that formatting does.


  1. Format one or more cells“, Support, Retrieved July 2, 2022
  2., “Google Sheets: Formatting Cells“, YouTube, August 27, 2018
  3. Tarver Academy, “How to Format Cells in Google Sheets“, YouTube, February 5, 2019
  4. Prolific Oaktree, “Google Sheets – Custom Number Formatting“, YouTube, April 23, 2021

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Andy Avery

I really enjoy helping people with their tech problems to make life easier, ​and that’s what I’ve been doing professionally for the past decade.

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