The Excel Skinny

A blog about Excel and its users

 Clearing and Deleting are two very different functions in Microsoft Excel.  On one hand we have a single key to “clear the contents of the selection,” and on the other hand we have a simple shortcut to “delete the selection.”  Before getting into the shortcuts we must define clearing and deleting.  

When you clear the contents of an active cell you are simply clearing whatever is inside the cell and nothing more.  Deleting the selection is a different story.  Deleting the selection effectively clears everything in the cell by removing the cell from the spreadsheet entirely.  When you execute the “Delete Selection” shortcut a dialog box will pop up to ask you which way you would like to shift the cells, a result of the complete removal of the active cell.    

Clearing the Cell

We will start with clearing the cell.  This isn’t so much a shortcut as it is a function of Microsoft Excel that resides on the “delete” key.  To clear the content of the active cell all you must do is select the cell you wish to clear, and press the “delete” key.  It’s so simple no pictures are needed!  The only caveat to this function is that it will only delete 1 cell at a time.   

Now onto the fun stuff, deleting.  

Deleting the Cell

Step 1: As with most Microsoft Excel Shortcuts, the “delete selection” shortcut starts by selecting the cells you wish to modify.


The example above is to show the shifting capabilities of the “delete selection” shortcut.  

Step 2: Now that I have selected the cell I wish to delete I can execute the shortcut: 


And this pops up:

I would like to replace the “Delete Me” cell with the “Don’t Delete Me!” cell so I chose “Shift cells up” and click OK. 

I have successfully deleted the cell that was in 1A and replaced it with the cell that was in 2A by shifting the cells up. 

When using Microsoft Excel for Mac I tend to use the “delete selection” shortcut more than the “clear selection” shortcut.  This is not to say the “clear selection” is useless. It is the fact that the “delete selection” shortcut effectively clears the selected cell as well as shifts all cells, which is something that is usually done (especially after clearing a row or column) anyway.