How to Store and Retrieve Data in Microsoft Excel for the iPad

  • 2/6/2015

Enter and edit data on worksheets

Excel for iPad has a Ready mode and an Edit mode. When you’re working with the structural aspects of cells, Excel is in Ready mode and the active cell or cell range has selection handles. When you’re working with cell content, Excel is in Edit mode and there are no selection handles.

When you enter Edit mode, the Formula Bar opens above the worksheet, and the on-screen keyboard opens below the worksheet. This compresses the workspace significantly. You can orient your iPad horizontally to display more columns or vertically to display more rows.

When Excel is in Edit mode, you can select individual cells, columns, or rows, but you can’t expand the selection directly on the iPad. (You can do so from a connected external keyboard.) Selecting a column or row activates the first cell in the column or row for editing.

When you enter Edit mode from a cell that already contains content, or switch to a cell that contains content while you’re in Edit mode, Excel displays and selects the cell content in the Formula Bar.


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The content of the active cell shifts to the far left when Excel is in Edit mode

In Excel for iPad, you enter and edit all text in the Formula Bar. The cell immediately displays the text, but the cursor is never active in the cell as it is in the desktop versions of Excel. In addition to the standard letters and numbers, you can enter the special characters that are available from the standard, number, and function online keyboards. Most notably, you can insert a line break within text to manually wrap cell content in a specific location.

If the data you want to enter follows a specific pattern such as 5, 10, 15, 20 or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, you can establish the pattern and then have Excel continue the pattern and fill in the rest of the cells for you.

If the data you want to store in a worksheet already exists in another location, you can copy it from the source and paste it into the worksheet. This avoids the errors that can occur when entering data manually. The process of pasting content in Excel is the same as in other Office for iPad apps. If you paste a table into a worksheet, the table cells will map to the worksheet cells so that the table retains its structure.

To switch from Ready mode to Edit mode

  1. Do any of the following:

    • Double-tap a cell.
    • Select a cell and then tap the Formula Bar.
    • Begin typing on a connected external keyboard.
    • Press Ctrl+2 on a connected external keyboard.

To switch from Edit mode to Ready mode

  1. Do any of the following:

    • To complete the edit and move to the next cell, tap the Return key on the on-screen keyboard or press the Enter key on a connected external keyboard.
    • To complete the edit and stay in the current cell, tap the Finish button (labeled with a check mark) at the right end of the Formula Bar or the Keyboard key on the on-screen keyboard.
    • To complete the edit and expand the selection, hold down the Shift key and press an arrow key.
    • To discard the edit, tap the Cancel button (labeled with an X) at the right end of the Formula Bar.

To enter or edit cell content

  1. Switch to Edit mode, and then enter text from the on-screen keyboard.


    From Ready mode or Edit mode, enter text from a connected external keyboard.

To insert a line break in cell content

  1. In Edit mode, position the cursor where you want the line break.
  2. In the upper-right corner of the on-screen keyboard, tap the Function button (labeled 123) to display the function keyboard.

  3. On the function keyboard, press and hold the Return key (labeled with a curved arrow) to display the Line Break key, and then slide your finger to the Line Break key.

To move the content of one or more cells

  1. Select the cell or cells.
  2. Tap and hold the selection until an animated dotted line outlines the selection. Then without lifting your finger, drag the selected content to the new location.

To fill cells with data that matches a pattern

  1. In Edit mode, enter the first two items of the data series into adjacent cells.
  2. Switch to Ready mode.
  3. Tap the first cell and then drag the selection handle to select the second cell.
  4. Tap the selection to display the shortcut bar.
  5. On the shortcut bar, tap Fill. Note the arrows that appear on the right and bottom sides of the selected cell.
  6. Drag the right-pointing arrow to the right to fill the series over, or drag the downward-pointing arrow down to fill the series down.

To delete cell content

  1. Select the range of cells you want to clear.
  2. On the shortcut bar, tap Clear.


    On the on-screen keyboard or a connected external keyboard, tap or press the Delete key.