This is going to be a trouble-shooting tutorial where we are going to focus on what to do if you can’t type into a cell in Excel (i.e., you type but don’t see anything getting typed in the cells).
An issue like this can be quite frustrating, especially if the work is important or urgent.
If you’ve run into a problem like this, this tutorial will help you diagnose the probable cause of the problem and how to rectify it step-by-step.
We are going to assume you have already tried restarting your computer and have checked if your keyboard is properly connected and working, but have still not been able to solve the issue.
Possible Reasons You Can’t Type in Excel and their Solutions
Let us look at some common reasons for not being able to type in Excel.
Once you are able to trace the cause, it becomes easier to decide on the next steps to solve the problem.
Here are some possible reasons you can’t type in Excel, along with their respective solutions.
Your cells may have Font Color set to White/Text may be Invisible
If you type into a cell and see the cursor move but nothing appears in the cell, then it’s probably because your font color and cell background color are the same and so your text is basically camouflaged.
In such cases, you will also notice the text appearing in the formula bar, but not in the cells.
The solution to this problem is quite simple.
Just change the font color or background color!
Alternatively, you can remove all formatting from the cell by clicking on the Home tab and navigating to Cell Styles->Normal from the Styles group.
Alternatively, you can select the ‘Automatic’ font color from the Font group in the Home tab.
Your Num Lock may be Preventing You from Entering Numbers
If you’re trying to enter numbers from your num pad, and you find yourself unable to type into a cell, a possible cause might be that your num lock is turned off.
The num lock (or Number lock) is a toggle key on your keyboard that lets you control the use of the numeric keys in the num pad (the set of the numbers on the right side of your keyboard).
Notice that each number key in your num pad has two different functions.
For example, the number 7 doubles up as the Home key, while the number 8 doubles up as the Up arrow key.
When the num lock is off, you can use the num pad like a regular numeric pad.
However, when it is off, it locks the numbers, letting you use the other functions that the number keys are associated with.
Most keyboards have a small LED on top of the num lock, which lights up when the num lock is on. Check to see if the num lock LED is not on. If so, then it’s probably the reason you are unable to type numbers into your cell.
If your keyboard does not have an LED or any other indicator to show if the num lock is on, just try typing some text into the cell.
If you are able to type text but not numbers, it could indicate an issue with your num lock.
To turn the num lock on, simply press the Num lock button again.
This will cause the lock to toggle off and you can start typing numbers from the num pad again!
The Cells Could be Locked or Protected
If your worksheet is in ‘Protected’ mode, then all the cells of the sheet become read-only.
This usually happens when the author of the worksheet chooses to protect the contents of cells on the sheet from changes by unauthorized people.
To check if that’s the case, go to the Review tab. If you see a button that says ‘Unprotect Sheet’ and/or ‘Unprotect Workbook’, it means your sheet is in Protected mode.
Moreover, when you try to edit or type into any cell, you should see an alert that says ‘The chart or cell you are trying to change is on a protected sheet’.
You can disable protection by simply clicking on the ‘Unprotect Sheet’ and/or ‘Unprotect Workbook’ button.
If the sheet is protected with a password, then you might need to get it from the sheet’s author in order to disable protection.
The Cell May have Validation Rules Applied to It
Validation rules are usually applied to cells to allow certain specific values or types of values to be entered.
For example, the author might apply a validation rule to restrict a cell to only allow numeric values or values within a certain boundary.
When you try to enter a value into that cell that breaks the validation rule, you will usually not be allowed to enter it, and an error message appears.
The solution to this is to either enter a number that is in line with the validation rule, or to remove the validation rule from the cell altogether.
To remove the validation rule, select the problematic cell(s) and navigate to Data->Data Validation.
This will open the Data Validation dialog box from where you can see the validation rule(s) applied to your selected cell(s).
To remove the validation rule, simply click on the Clear All button. Then Click OK to close the dialog box.
Cell Values May be Hidden
Your cell might be set to ‘Hidden’ format, preventing your typed text from appearing in the cell when you press the return key after typing.
To check if your cell is set to the ‘Hidden’ format, right-click on it and select Format Cells.
Alternatively, you could select the problematic cell(s) and press the keyboard shortcut CTRL+1.
This will open the Format Cells dialog box. Select the Number tab and under the Category list, select Custom.
Check the input box under ‘Type’. If you see three semicolons (;;;) it indicates that the cell(s) have been formatted as hidden cells.
To unhide your cell values, simply remove the three semicolons from the Format Cells dialog box and click OK.
Certain Add-ins might be Preventing you from Typing
If you’ve recently installed a new add-in to Excel, it might be interfering with your current install, causing your Excel software to act up.
If none of the above-mentioned issues seem to be the cause, then this could be a probable reason for not being able to type in Excel.
To check if an add-in is causing your problem, try to re-open Excel in ‘Safe mode’.
Opening Excel in Safe mode disables all add-ins, leaving you with just the bare basics.
This helps you narrow down to the exact source of the problem, and is a widely used trouble-shooting method.
To open in Safe mode, follow the steps shown below:
- Close the Excel Window
- Press the Windows key+R shortcut to open the ‘Run’ box.
- In the input box next to ‘Open’, type ‘Excel/safe’.
- Click OK.
Microsoft Excel should now open in Safe mode. If you find your issue resolved now, it means one of your add-ins was causing the problem.
Once you know that an add-in is behind the problem, you can now attempt to narrow down to exactly which add-in it is and disable it. Here’s how:
- Navigate to File->Options
- From the Excel Options dialog box, select Add-ins
- At the bottom of the box, you’ll find a dropdown next to ‘Manage’.
- Select COM Add-ins from this dropdown list.
- Click Go.
- You should now see a list of installed add-ins.
- Click any one of the checkboxes and click OK. This will make sure that only the checked add-in is active the next time you open Excel while all others are disabled.
- Close and restart Excel.
- Try typing something into a cell. If you see your problem resolved, it means your previously selected add-in was not causing the problem. Try activating another add-in. Repeat until you find exactly which add-in caused the issue.
Note: Make sure you close and restart Excel each time you activate an add-in.
In this tutorial, we discussed possible reasons you can’t type in Excel and showed you how to solve the problem in each case.
We hope we were able to help you successfully eliminate the problem and start typing in Excel again.
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