You sometimes need to represent text data as bullet points in Excel. For example, you might need to display bulletin boards, to-do lists, etc.
However, Excel was primarily designed for processing data and not text.
So, it does not come with a menu option to display bulleted points the way MS Word or PowerPoint does.
But it does give you scope to use bullets in your worksheets, just not in the traditional way. They (sort of) make you work for it.
In this tutorial we will show you 7 different ways to add bullet points to your text in Excel:
- Using keyboard shortcuts
- Using Excel’s Symbol tool
- Using special fonts
- Using the CHAR Function
- By Applying Custom Formats
- Copying from MS Word or MS PowerPoint
- Using SmartArt or a Text Box
Let us take a look at each of these methods.
Using Keyboard Shortcuts to Add Bullet Points in Excel
This is perhaps the quickest way to add a bulletin point to a cell.
The method involves simply using a combination of keys to display different types of bullet symbols.
The combinations you can use are as follows:
- To insert a solid bullet, use the shortcut ALT+7 or ALT+0149
- To insert an empty bullet, use the shortcut ALT+9
Here are the steps to follow if you have a numeric keypad on your keyboard:
Select the cell in which you want to add the bullet.
- Double click on it or press the F2 key, so the cell is in ‘Edit’ mode.
- Press down the keys you need for the keyboard shortcut. For example, to insert a solid bullet, press down the ALT and 7 keys. If that doesn’t work, try pressing down ALT+Fn+7
- Let go of the ALT key. You should now see a bullet appear in your selected cell.
- Go ahead and add your required text in the cell and press the return key.
- To quickly copy the bullet points to other cells in the column, you can drag the cell’s fill handle down.
If you don’t have a numeric keypad, then you will need to switch the Num Lock on, before performing the above steps.
You can also use shortcuts for other fancy bullet points. Here are a few examples:
Note: If you want to have multiple bullet points in the same cell instead of separate cells, then you can press ALT+Enter to make a line break after each bullet point.
Using the Symbol Tool to Add Bullet Points in Excel
If you can’t be bothered trying to remember all these keyboard shortcuts, or need some more specialized symbols for bullet points, then this method could be a better option for you.
The Symbol tool lets you add special characters, fractions, and other symbols to your worksheet.
In Excel, you will find this tool in the Insert tab, under the Symbols group.
Here are the steps to add bullet points in Excel using the Symbol tool:
- Click on a cell to select it.
- From the Insert tab, click on Symbol (under the Symbols group).
- This opens the Symbol dialog box, with the Symbols tab selected.
- Click on the dropdown next to ‘Font’ and select any font. Most of the common fonts like Arial, Trebuchet, etc. include bullet symbols in their character sets.
- Scroll down the grid of symbols until you find the bullet symbol you need.
- Click on the Insert button.
- This inserts your selected symbol into your selected cell. If you click on the Insert button repeatedly the symbol gets added repeatedly to your cell.
- Now you can copy this symbol to other adjacent cells by simply dragging the fill handle.
In the Symbols dialog box, you can see the character code corresponding to your selected symbol (in the box next to Character Code).
If you find it difficult to scroll down and locate your required bullet symbol, you can use this box to quickly find it.
All you need to do is enter the hexadecimal character code for the symbol you require in this box.
For example, in the Arial font set, the following are the character codes for some commonly used bullet symbols:
Using Special Fonts to Add Bullet Points in Excel
Microsoft offers special fonts, like the Wingdings and the Webdings fonts, which include some special bullet symbols.
These font sets basically comprise different types of symbols, so you can simply use these fonts to directly type the bullet character into the cell.
Here are the keys on your keyboard that correspond to some of the bullet symbols in the Wingdings font set:
Here are the keys for some of the bullet symbols in the Webdings font set:
Let us now look at the steps to use special fonts like Wingdings or Webdings to insert a bullet into a cell:
- Select the cell(s) where you want to insert a bullet.
- From the Home tab, click on the Fonts dropdown (in the Font group).
- Select either the Webdings on one of the Wingdings fonts.
- Type the letter corresponding to your required bullet symbol.
- To reduce or increase the size of the bullet, simply adjust the font size for the cell.
Using the CHAR Function to Add Bullet Points in Excel
It’s not always possible to display every symbol in a font set using just the keys on your keyboard.
This is because even though a font set contains 256 characters (including symbols), a standard keyboard contains just around 100 keys.
So, there should be a way to display the rest of the characters. Excel lets you do that using the CHAR function.
Each character (or symbol) has a corresponding integer, also known as an ASCII code.
The CHAR function in Excel displays the character corresponding to a given number (ASCII code).
The symbol it returns depends on the character set of your computer, but this is usually the same in most computers.
The syntax for the CHAR function is simple:
Here, number is an integer, which is the ASCII code for the character symbol you want to return. For example, the formula =CHAR(149) displays a filled circle bullet symbol, as shown below:
Let’s say you have the following list of items and you want to display them in the form of a bulleted list:
You can use the CHAR function to add bullet points to items in the above list as follows:
- In a blank column, type the CHAR formula using the ASCII code of the bullet symbol you want to display. Follow this with an ampersand (&) and a reference to the cell you containing your actual text. For example, if you want a filled circle bullet before the item in cell A2, you can use the formula =CHAR(149)&” “&A2.
- Press the return key. You should now see the bullet symbol followed by a space and the text that was in cell A2.
- Use the fill handle to copy this formula down to the rest of the cells in the column.
- You should now see all the items of column A in the form of a bulleted list.
- Select all the cells of column B (containing the formulas), Press CTRL+C to copy.
- Then right-click on cell A2 and select Paste Special –> Paste Values –> Values. Alternatively, you could just use the CTRL+SHIFT+V shortcut.
- Delete column B.
You should now have bullets added to all items in your list.
The advantage of this method is that you can first just list out your items and then add bullets to all of them in one go.
Using a Custom Format to Add Bullet Points in Excel
You can also format cells to automatically display bullet points as soon as you enter text in them. This is possible using a custom number format.
Custom number formatting allows you to specify formats for four different types of data, using the following structure:
<Positive numbers> ; <Negative Numbers> ; <Zeroes> ; <Text>
You can specify the format in which each of these data types is displayed in a cell using bullet symbols.
In this way, a bullet gets displayed in all the cells where you applied the format, as soon as you enter something in them.
Here are the steps to add bullet points to cells in your worksheet using a custom number format:
- Select the cell(s) where you want to add bullet points.
- Right-click on your selection and click on Format Cells from the context menu that appears. Alternatively, you could simply use the shortcut CTRL+1.
- This opens the Format Cells dialog box. Select the Number tab.
- From the list under Category, select Custom.
- In the input box under ‘Type’, enter the following format: “• General;• General;• General;• General”. Alternatively, you can simply enter: “● @” for solid bullets and “○ @” for empty bullets.
- Click OK.
If there’s no text in your formatted cells, you will not see any change. But once you start entering values and pressing the return key, you will notice every value is formatted to display a preceding bullet point.
Since this is already a ready custom format, the next time you need to add bullets, you can simply select the already added format from the list under Type (in the Format Cells dialog box).
If you want to format other non-adjacent cells in the same worksheet in the same way, simply use the format painter.
How to Add Bullet Points in Excel by Copying from MS Word
If you already have a bulleted list in MS Word (or any other word processor), you can copy the list to Excel directly.
This method is especially helpful for Excel beginners or those who are more comfortable with MS Word than Excel. All you have to do is:
- Copy the entire list from MS Word by selecting the list and pressing CTRL+C.
- If you want to put the items in separate cells in Excel, simply click on the first cell where you want the list to appear and press CTRL+V. If you want the entire bulleted list to appear in a single Excel cell, then you need to double click on the target cell where before pressing CTRL+V.
Note: Lists might behave differently when they are copied from MS Word (or any other word processor)
How to Add Bullet Points In Excel using SmartArt or a Text Box
Finally, let us look at 2 lesser conventional ways to add bullet points to your worksheet.
Since Excel basically assumes that you are going to be working with data in its cells (and not text), it does not provide a direct menu item or button to display bullet points.
However, it understands that you might need bullets when you’re working with text. As such, it has a menu item for bullets to be used inside text boxes.
So, a good trick to display bulleted lists in Excel is to put them in text boxes that are basically going to be floating over your worksheet, without being tied to a particular cell or group of cells.
To display a bulleted list in a text box, here are the steps:
- From the Insert tab, click on the Text Box button (under the Text group).
- You will notice that your cursor has been converted to a plus symbol. Drag the mouse to create a box of your required size.
- Your text box is now ready for you to enter text.
- Type the items for your list.
- Select the list of items and right-click on your selection.
- From the context menu that appears, hover over the Bullets option, or click on the arrow next to it.
- Select the type of bullet that you want for your list. Every time you hover over a bullet you should be able to see its preview in the text box.
- You can also customize the bullet by clicking on Bullets and Numbering and then pressing the Customize button. Once you’re done, click OK.
The items in your text box should now get converted to a bulleted list.
Note: If you want the text box to snap to and align with the cell borders, then hold down the ALT key when dragging the mouse in step 2.
If you prefer something more aesthetic and decorative than a simple text box, then you can use the SmartArt feature to display a bulleted list.
With SmartArt, you can choose from a wide range of colorful and practical bulleted list options. The lists created are both nice to look at and really easy to create and edit.
Here are the steps to display a bulleted list with SmartArt:
- From the Insert tab, click on the SmartArt button (under the Illustrations group).
- This opens the ‘Choose a SmartArt Graphic’ box. Click on List from the categories on the left.
- Select the type of bulleted list or graphic that you want. We selected the simple Vertical Bullet List.
- Click OK.
You can now go ahead and populate the list with your required list items.
Adding bullet points in Excel is not as intuitive as it is in MS Word, PowerPoint, or other word processors.
However, there are some easy tricks to quickly get this done. In this tutorial, we showed you 7 ways to add bullet points in Excel.
Go ahead and try them out. See which method works best for you.
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