Use a linebreak in Excel on Mac

Sometimes you need a linebreak in an Excel spreadsheet cell, but when you hit return or enter it always jumps you to a new cell. On Windows, you can just hit alt-return (or maybe alt-enter; if one doesn’t work, try the other). On Mac, you’ll need to hit control-option-return.

Took me a while to figure this out, and I figured it could be useful for others. Enjoy!

230 responses to “Use a linebreak in Excel on Mac”

  1. I. says:

    Cool! Thanks for the tip. I was searching the help section and amazingly enough I didn’t find anything!

  2. Ian Beck says:

    If they put that kind of info in the help, then anyone might be able to use the program. :-)

  3. Rob says:

    Thanks, it definitely helped me!

  4. Mike says:

    Thanks so much. I was just banging my head against my desk trying to figure out why this string didn’t exist. You just saved me about 45 minutes of work-around hell.

  5. thanks! recently switched from PC to mac and the lack of this shortcut was maddening….

  6. Sonia says:

    You’re a lifesaver!

  7. Leigh says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  8. Ian Beck says:

    Glad you guys found this useful!

  9. Mikke says:

    Add my voice to the thanks. Though it did give me yet another chance to practice my Port Town Poetry on Excel.

  10. drewvy says:

    Thanks for that one (CTRL+OPTN+ENTER for line break in Excel cell).

    And, I LOVE the “track me like a stalker” bit. Too funny.


  11. sonja says:

    one more reason I really, really hate ms*ft products. Because of course sometime someone is going to want to put a line break in a cell, but why on earth would they make it either easy or intuitive???

    Thank you for this work around … I was getting ready to throw things, but not my MBP :)

  12. Kate says:

    Glad to have found this, however, on my MacBook keyboard Control+Option+Enter doesn’t work…Command+Option+Enter does!!!


  13. Brent says:

    THANK YOU! This was driving me nuts.

  14. Blessings to you, your family and friends for all time!


  15. Jen says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I bookmarked you just in case I ever forget :) Thanks again, you saved me lots of aggravation!

  16. Megs says:

    Thanks, that was a huge help! like you said, you’d think they’d have put that in the help section. Thank goodness for friendly (virtual) neighborhood bloggers!

  17. Pancho L says:

    Thank you very much!! Sometimes you think things like these are going to be really to find out for yourself, but you find yourself pressing every available key with enter and when nothing happens you can get really frustated!!!
    Thanks again!

  18. Jezabel says:

    Thank you so much. I needed to know this for a work project. Now if only you could explain the LOST finale.

  19. vcrmchl says:

    So useful! Much appreciated.

  20. sama says:

    just the thing I was looking for.


  21. Henry says:

    Thanks for the info. I agree that this is a poor shortcut, and poorly documented.

  22. Alex says:

    Thanks so much for this! I spent a good 15 minutes searching all over the web with no luck (plus at least that much time asking various people in my office!)

  23. CH says:

    Thank you!!

  24. Theo Short says:

    I’ve been trying to find the solution to this for months – thank you so much!

  25. Larry says:

    You have my un-dying gratitude…

    I love the ‘Net.
    I love Google.
    I love you.

    Microsoft? Eh…not so much.

  26. amanda says:

    You’re the best!

  27. George MENOMPARAMPIL says:

    Thanx! Wonder why such a useful tip is kept secret.

  28. Joe says:

    Thanks! This was driving me crazy! You’ve lowered my stress level (at least by a little!).

  29. HM says:

    Thank you so much for this tip! Such a common necessity and yet hard to find!

  30. Thank you: I’d been trying every other combo for this, but thanks to Google and your blog, I found the solution. :)

  31. tiny says:

    THANK YOU! it was killin’ me, :)

  32. As Larry said:
    You have my un-dying gratitude…

    I love the ‘Net.
    I love Google.
    I love you.

  33. Pinchvalve says:

    Now if there was a character (like ^l and ^p in the PC versions) so we could do a universal find and replace.

  34. Gregory says:

    Wow. Many thanks for this information.

  35. Daniel says:

    Thank you for the tip
    D – Portugal

  36. Bill says:

    What about removing a line break in an Excel for Mac cell?

  37. Bill says:

    FOUND IT!!!




  38. Karen says:

    Here’s another thank you. This has annoyed the #$!! out of me for years. I finally decided to look for a solution and here you are helping to make me just a little less crazy.

  39. Kurt says:

    And another Thank you! Timeless info, you posted this over two years ago and still helping folks every day. Cheers!

  40. Enrique says:

    Hi all,
    I have a document with over 1,000 subtitles for a film (I have it in both Word and Excel versions).
    Most of the subtitles have 2 lines, which are separated with this character: |
    In Word (Windows or Mac), I can easily replace all the | with a line break (^p).
    How can I do it in Excel for Mac?
    Is there a way to represent the line break within the Excel “Replace” tool, just like ^p in the Word “Replace” tool?
    Or is there a way to paste a Word table (which has line breaks within the table cells) into Excel, keeping the line breaks?
    [email protected]

  41. Karen S says:

    Thanks, Beck. You rock. Now why couldn’t Excel Help have answered this with such straightforward simplicity?

  42. Erin f. says:

    Wow, you wrote this 4 years ago and it was the first hit! Obviously a popular problem. Thanks!

  43. Ben Bland says:

    Aces, thank you. I tried all the single key combinations and I sure as hell didn’t want to go down that old two-key road without Googling the problem first. Just think of the protracted agony you’ve saved me. It makes me weep.

  44. Yasha says:

    looks like you’re going to get thankyous till the end of time – and you deserve it, of course!

  45. Derakevi says:

    Thank you sooooo much!

  46. Zeke says:

    Exactly what I was looking for – thanks!

  47. Jocelyn says:

    Thank you! I was having the same problem trying to negotiate the mac to perform this action using two key combinations (based on my prior PC knowledge). When I googled help your instruction was the first thing that popped up :) love when it’s that easy.

  48. RJ says:


  49. Aydin says:

    Thank you! New on Mac Excel, after more than 10 years of Windows!
    I had no idea on how to do it, and definitely no clue on the possibility of using 2 keys!


  50. Crystal says:

    Thank you…. This was exactly what i needed. :)

  51. Na says:

    awesome – thanks!

  52. Carlos says:

    I couldn’t figure it out, thanks!

  53. Allen says:

    Three and a half years on, it’s STILL helping people like me.

  54. NB says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  55. Trainace says:

    Thank you alt-ctrl-return works on 2011 version.

  56. Phil says:

    I’m an Excel power user but I’m new to the Mac version. This little nugget of help was brilliant in the simple way it was written. Thanks!

  57. Ann says:

    Beyond Fabulous, Thanks! I’m making the switch from PC to Mac and this was making me nuts. You are a true lifesaver.

  58. Juliet says:

    Oh yes. Can’t thank you enough. And big thanks to whoever it was pointed out the MacBook keyboard variation. Heroes, one and all!

  59. Lori says:

    Thank you!

  60. Mark says:

    Sweet, so annoying they can’t make keyboard shortcuts consistent between Office for PC and Mac! It’s not like alt enter does anything in Excel 2011…

  61. mike says:

    Thank you so much. It is so helpful to have knowledgeable people willing to put this stuff out there so dummies like me can find it …….. and save my sanity!!

  62. Mike F says:

    I’m yet another grateful recipient of this tip.

  63. Moony says:

    Thanks, it helps :)

  64. James H says:

    Many thanks to you and to Google for directing me instantly to this fix. All the best!

  65. ab says:

    Thank you! Very helpful…

  66. Sharon says:

    oooh thank you

  67. Ian says:


  68. Dee says:

    Lifesaver! THANK YOU for posting this!!!!

  69. Jose says:

    Very Helpful. Thank you!

  70. Abdullatif says:

    Thanks, it definitely helped me

  71. Michael says:

    Thank you so much. Ditto to the other responses, why don’t they put these things in the help menu. Anyone got a key combination for inserting a page break?

  72. Carol says:

    OH MY GOSH! YOU ROCK! Thank you.

  73. paul bowman says:

    Thank you, man!

  74. Stephanie says:

    Thank you!!

  75. Abraham says:

    Thank you!!

  76. Marco T. says:

    You blessed!

  77. Jill says:

    OMG thank you! it’s been making me crazy!

  78. Rye T. says:

    Helpful to me working on a spreadsheet at 2 in the morning. Thanks!

  79. Ben says:

    hahaha… I’ve been looking for this for an hour…

  80. Amy says:

    THANK YOU!!!!

  81. Paul B says:

    Thank you thank you thank you!

  82. Paul says:

    Thank you for this. Greatly appreciated. Found CTRL_OPTION and Option-Command combined with return key or enter key on the extended wired Apple keyboard both work for me in Excel

  83. C.F. Ryal says:

    One more voice of thanks! Your explanation was concise, spot-on, and just what I needed.

  84. Michael says:

    Thanks for posting this. Trying to figure these things out sometimes takes so much time and being new to Macs appreciate the tip. Good job.

  85. Toradik2000 says:

    Cheers, brother.

  86. wmk says:

    Thanks so much. Been wondering about this for a long time…

    Best from New York!

  87. Bud says:

    You’re the man. Thank you.

  88. Farooq says:

    Thank you very much.. Cheers!!

  89. sofiafrommexico says:

    Thaaaaank you so much!!!

  90. ivana says:

    just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing your insight on what was such a mystery to me!! it’s so simple!!

  91. kaela says:

    thank you! I have been trying to figure this out forever.

  92. CambridgeYouth says:

    I “second” all of this praise. You’re so popular now – You should run for President!

    (I have learned and forgotten this trick so many times – now I’ve bookmarked your page)

    • Ian Beck says:


      “Has my opponent ever taught you tricks for using Excel? I thought not! I promise that once I’m elected, every citizen will know how to properly enter a linebreak in Microsoft programs, regardless of race, class, or creed!”

      Yeah; I’m definitely ready.

  93. alanb says:

    Brilliant! thanks!
    …. now why didn’t the help topic tell me that?

  94. natasha says:

    So awesome.. I was finding it a pain in the neck to hit the space bar the whole time.. this is saving me so much time! Could not find in the excel help section. Thank you!!

  95. Stevo says:

    Thankyouverymuch mate!

  96. Ellie says:

    Thank you – have been trying to work this out for weeks!!

  97. dips says:

    thanks! Google rightly showed ur page in the top of the searches.

  98. natalia says:

    thanks so much for posting this – from moscow, russia

  99. David says:

    It has taken me 12 months with my new Mac of going round the bend trying to work this out…until I found your site. Many thanks for this :)

  100. Ore says:

    Thank you! I’d been trying to figure it out. Much needed info. :)

  101. Carlos Rivas says:

    Thanks !!! So Helpful!!!

  102. foxpaws says:

    Ah, the gurus at Microsoft can’t tell us their master’s secrets, but Beckism releases them to the masses….

    A thousand blessings on you sir.

  103. Thank you a whole lot, now if you have any idea how to have the set background image print, please share.

    All I find is, you can’t print it, then why would you even bother with a background image !

  104. Kathy Taylor says:

    Really small thing that made me very happy. Thanks.

  105. paul c says:

    thanks. BTW, someone mentioned COMMAND-option-enter. Looks to me like they *both* work; ie, COMMAND-option-enter OR CONTROL-option-enter.

    Also, someone had a question about removing a line break in a cell. I just tried putting the cursor at the beginning the next line and hitting delete, and that seems to work.

  106. Erwin says:

    3 years later and your TIP is still one of the better painkillers.

    thanks a million, this one caused me some serious headache

  107. Sue says:

    Thank you! I was going crazy until I found this tip – still useful 4 years later!

  108. DC says:


  109. London Map says:

    Thank you! I just switched to a Mac and couldn’t work out how to add line breaks. You saved me :-)

  110. Alex H says:

    Tx! You are now showing up very high on Google search!

  111. Sydney Girl says:

    Thank you!!!

  112. Maciej says:

    Thanks a lot! There is a lot of little tricks that one has to master to ride one’s Mac efficiently. Especially after 10 years on Windows PC’s.

  113. jcf says:

    Thank you so much for the information! Really helpful.

  114. Gary says:

    Thanks Appreciate you taking the time to publish this little tip which has obviously been greatly appreciated by many!

  115. david c says:

    thanx a lot..saved my life

  116. sm says:

    Wait, what is this for? I am trying to make a long list of words one line. Will this work?

    • Ian Beck says:

      No, this tip is for creating linebreaks within a single cell. If you want to have a list of words on one line then you’ll probably be either using a single cell without linebreaks or multiple consecutive cells.

  117. Alvaro says:

    Thanks indeed!

  118. Matt Saunders says:

    You have no idea how incredibly useful this is. Almost more useful than spellcheck itself. Well, maybe that’s a bit overboard, but still!

  119. Steve says:

    Thanks a lot !! Awesome !!

  120. Mikel Tulk says:

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was wondering what all is needed to get setup? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
    I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100% sure. Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated. Cheers

  121. mike says:

    God bless you! You solved a major “PITA” for me in seconds!

  122. Corry says:

    And still helping people into 2013!!! Thanks. :-)

  123. Josh says:

    Just what I was looking for. Thanks!

  124. Jim B says:

    Another fan–your tip improved my day. Thank you for taking the time to share.And, you were at the very top of the Google search results.

  125. John Doe says:

    thanks for sharing that! I was getting mad.

  126. courtney says:


  127. Lauren says:


    That was killing me.

    I can’t believe the first post was in 2009 and the most recent was yesterday.

  128. Claire in NZ says:

    Your latest grateful reader!!! God I love the internet!!

    Thanks heaps for posting. :)

  129. Maureen says:

    I see I’m already the 7th person in 2013 to share gratitude. You just saved me from wasting another 40
    frustrating minutes trying to figure this out – on deadline! May blessings rain upon you!

  130. Iskra says:

    THANKS sooooo much!

  131. Danny says:


  132. Carlos De Jesus says:

    Thanks a lot man, i’ve been looking for this since a while

  133. 2sabes says:

    JUST what I was looking for! THANK YOU!

  134. Slowpoke says:

    Thank goodness people take the trouble to post these kinds of tips – this saved a bunch of time. Thanks!

  135. memyselfandi says:

    Thanks, this worked perfectly…

  136. thuldai says:

    Thanks, helped me too, awesome!

  137. Dexy says:

    FINALLY!! Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve been using Excel for years and this has always frustrated me beyond belief.

    You should write their help module!

  138. Krishna says:

    Thanks a lot!! That helped me!!

  139. Jaui says:


  140. Mariano V says:

    Thanks man!
    ..this little things drive me crazy!


  141. Alex says:

    Finally a working advice.
    Thank you!

  142. Ian Homer says:

    I’ve tried to figure this out for – well – ages! Thanks so much for the tip.

  143. Matti says:


  144. Cesar says:

    Thank you! It works!

  145. Olma Madrid says:

    Thank you SO VERY MUCH for sharing this info! Extremely helpful and you saved us a lot of time. Appreciate it!

  146. keir says:

    seriously you are awesome, thanks for this.

  147. Pambuka Adi says:

    Thank you. I need it, and it help me.

  148. Mark says:

    Thank you!

  149. Pranab says:

    Thanks! Your post is still helping people around the world. Something MS Excel ‘Help’ doesn’t do very well.

  150. Kelsey says:

    Yeah! Still applicable in 2013! So glad excel is smart enough to tell us this info themselves! :|

  151. Dan says:

    Awesome, thanks!

  152. Go O's says:

    Still helping people. May, 2013.

  153. Landra says:

    Thank you!!

  154. Landra says:

    Thank you!!

  155. Matt says:

    5 years and going strong. Thanks!

  156. t says:

    you deserve to be a top google search for this query!

  157. Adam says:

    Ditto on Carry’s comment! Thanks for the excel tip. This really keeps the cells looking clean.

  158. Jerry says:

    You need to double-click directly in the cell that you want to put a line-break. Doing this the old Microsoft way in the top part of the screen (the formula bar) where you can see what’s in the cell. For example, if you enter a formula +c5+d5 in a cell, the cell itself will show you the result of the formula but the formula bar will show the actual formula. You used to be able to put a line break while you’re in the formula bar but with Excel for Mac, you have to be in the cell itself for the Option+Command+Enter to insert a line break.

  159. Ravi says:

    thanks for the tip on entering the new line within a cell on a mac

  160. al says:

    Please God never let this post go down.

    • Ian Beck says:

      And God spoke, saying, “Yea, so long as Mr. Beck can afford web hosting, so shall it be.” And the people heard, and were comforted.

  161. poissonbleu says:

    thanks !! fantastic !!

  162. Ramesh says:

    Thanks. Still useful!.
    And they still haven’t put in it the help..:)

  163. Simon Morris says:

    Many thanks – another great tip – saved me hours!!

  164. Dileep says:

    Thanks a million. Was tearing my hair out!

  165. Michael says:

    You don’t know how long I have been trying to figure this one out. Thanks!

  166. Miranda says:

    THANKS! I kept trying to do it the Windows way :P

  167. Mike says:

    Still helping folks WELL into 2013… Was going mad hitting site after site and seeing “Alt + Enter” and it wasn’t until I found this page that I understood that they were sharing the PC solution. Thank you for restoring a bit of my sanity.

  168. And on across the years….

    YAY! Cataloguing my haiku – really need those line breaks. THANKS!

  169. rob says:

    I’ve been trying to figure that out for days! thank you!

  170. KC says:

    Thanks, like many others Excel help was…no help :-) Your tip worked perfectly

  171. Charles says:

    Si Latine scis, istud mihi placuit magnopere! Thanks!

  172. Raul says:


  173. Chris says:

    Used Excel for 20 years but couldn’t remember what this was on a Mac – so thanks. I wish Microsoft produced printed manuals like the old days but I guess Googling is still faster :)

  174. Julissa says:

    Thanks a million!

  175. bvfdev says:

    Wow… This has been bugging me for a long time. Haha, such an easy solution too :-)

  176. Diana Quilliam says:

    Thanks so much… couldnt find it in help anywhere grrrr
    I also moved from PC to Mac… very disappointing in some regards.

  177. Ricg says:

    It’s simple – when you know how!

  178. Bakha says:

    Great tip – thanks

  179. auntneve says:

    Thank you!!! Why can’t Mac just tell me that. Guess they’re anti-Excel. Foolish.

  180. Helton says:

    It’s 3:48am. And I needed to know how to put a linebreak in Excel for Mac, in order to submit a report. Thanks for posting the tip.

  181. Emmy says:

    Geez, thank you! I guess this post is the post that keeps on giving. I was just having a laugh with my Dad the other day about how spreadsheets are what turned the PC from a toy to a business tool. Wish Apple would understand that…

  182. Adam Daniel says:

    Thank you so much for this…my Masters Dissertation is just that tiny bit better becuase of this

  183. NYCalifas says:

    First google option I see when looking for this. And you sir are a genious!


  184. woz supposedly says:

    this saved my life today I can’t believe it worked like pixie magic right in front of my face!

  185. Colin Farrow says:

    Brilliant! Thank you.

  186. Osca says:

    A post over 5 years old and someone (me) is still finding it useful :-)!

  187. Cindy S. says:

    You rock!!! I knew the shortcut for doing this a PC but not the Mac and it’s been driving me crazy as I find myself using a Mac where I work. Thank you!!!! :)

  188. gaurav says:


  189. Tonyia says:

    Thanks – much appreciated.

  190. Jeeves says:

    Leave it to Microsoft to SCREW things up. Why couldn’t it be Command-Enter, Control-Enter, or since the key is labeled, OPTION-ENTER. OMG, Winblows!

  191. Je says:

    Awesome! Was looking all over and here it was, made simple. Thanks!

  192. N.K says:

    Thanks buddy!! it was really helpful !

  193. Soso says:

    Thanks so much. It helped me greatly :)

  194. Richard says:

    Thanks alot. It helped me . Cheers

  195. ant says:

    Thank YOU!!!!

  196. barrie says:

    Thanks. That helped.

  197. Kate says:


  198. j says:

    Thank you! I have been trying to figure this out for soooo long!

  199. JB says:


  200. Brock Lee says:

    Control + Option + Return is golden on a Mac and I thank you for publishing this short little article to aid everybody in the world. I’m trying to think of something witty to say but it’s fleeing me. Anyway, thank you Ian Beck.

  201. PF says:

    I never post to these things no matter how good the help has been but today I am. Thank you Ian Beck, for taking the time share. Happy Holidays.

  202. Doug Shaw says:

    Greetings from 2014. Thank you.

  203. Pedro says:

    Thanks, it helped me a lot! :-)

  204. Pablo says:

    FINALLY!!! some actual useful help and straight to the point. Thank so very much for much needed help.

  205. Kati says:

    Thanks very much!!!

  206. Tania says:

    Thanks so much!!! I have been looking for this command for so long!

  207. Clarissa says:

    six years on from your post, thank you. It was really annoying me, as I use a PC at work and a Mac at home and just could not work out how to do it!

  208. Anon says:

    Good to know, thanks!

  209. ahtweet says:

    I love that your post from 2008 is still found useful today, funny how something so little and what seems simple can be quite annoying when you just want it to work :)

    thanks Ian!!

  210. Sachin says:

    Thank you so much..

  211. Penny says:

    Can you run for world leader, please?

  212. Grace Taylor says:

    Thanks! Your posting this has saved time and frustration for many!

  213. Amy says:

    This is AWESOME, thank you!

  214. Ben says:

    Thanks, this helped and saved me a lot of time!! Cheers

  215. PB says:


  216. Maas says:

    You’re wonderful. Thank you!

  217. Israel says:

    Thanks a lot… simple answer are the best !!!!!

  218. Felicity says:

    You are a LIFE SAVER!!! 6 years later and this little tip is still helping people :)

  219. Gabrielle says:

    You are the very, very, very best.

  220. Majenta says:

    Thank you ^^

  221. john vance says:

    Thank you -just using a Mac for first time
    and love knowing things like this,
    grateful to you -muchas gracias,