How to Indent in Google Sheets: 3 Easy Ways (Video + Text Guide)

Watch Video – How to Indent Text in Google Sheets

In case you prefer reading over watching a video, below is a complete written tutorial on adding indentation in Google Sheets.

While Google Sheets has so many amazing features, there are some basic ones that lack.

And one such feature is the ability to indent cell content in Google Sheets. It’s such a simple thing that a lot of people often need. If you want to know how to tab in Google Sheets, unfortunately, there’s no way to use tab to indent text in a cell. Instead, the tab key is used to navigate to the next cell.

There are, however, some workarounds that you can use.

In this tutorial, I will show how to indent in Google Sheets in a few simple ways

How to Index Text in Google Sheets

To indent text:

  1. Select the cells by holding Ctrl and clicking.
  2. Go to Format > Number
  3. Click the Custom number format option.
  4. Paste “   @” in the text bar (without the quotes).
  5. Click Apply.

Indent Text Using Custom Number Formatting with Example

Custom Number formatting in Google Sheets determines how we see the text or a value in a cell.

Remember the number formatting only changes the format of the text/value in the cell, and not the value itself. For example, you can have the value 44196 be displayed as 44196.00 or 44,196 or 12/31/2020. All these are just different formats while the value in the cell remains the same.

While this is mostly used for formatting numbers, we can also use it for cell formatting by giving it some custom format. And in this method, that’s what we are going to do.

Suppose you have a list as shown below, and you want to show the category as normal text but the item in the category with a Google Sheet indent to the right (as shown in the image below).

Cells with Indent Text in Google Sheets

But when you enter these values in Google Sheets, you end up with a list with the same indentation.

Non Indented text in Google Sheets

Below are the steps to add indentation the items (while keeping the Category text as is):

  1. Select the cells for which you want to apply the indentation. You can hold the CTRL key and then select these cells to make sure all cells are selected (even if these are non-contiguous)
How to highlight cells
  1. Click the Format option.
    Click the Format tab
  2. Hover the cursor over the Number option in the format menu. It will show additional options on the right.
Format numbers
  1. Click on ‘Custom Number Formatting‘. This will open the ‘Custom number formats’ dialog box

  1. In the ‘Custom number formats‘ dialog box, enter the following custom format (in the field at the top): ”   @” (without the double quotes). In this step, I am manually specifying that I need an indent of 3 space characters (hence I have used three space characters followed by the @ sign.
    Enter the custom format to indent text or cell value in Google Sheets
  2. Click on Apply
    Click on Apply

The above steps would give you the final result as shown below.

Cells with Indent Text in Google Sheets

Again to reiterate, by adding the Google spreadsheet indent using custom formatting, you have only changed the way text looks in the cell and not the actual text in the cell.

In case you want more indentation, you can use more space characters.

You can also get more creative and show some markers for the list. For example, you can use the below custom number formats (use without the double quotes) to show a representation of a bulleted list.

  • ”   >> @”
  • ”   — @”
  • ”   ✔  @”
Text with Indent in Google Sheets - Various examples

You can find our example sheet here.

Applying Indentation to New Cells

When you apply this indentation in Google Sheets to some cells, you get the desired output.

But what if you add more items to the list or more categories? You can again do the same steps shown above and get the same formatting, but there is a quicker way.

You can copy the formatting from the cells that already have the indentation applied, and then you can paste just the formatting to these new cells where you need to apply the indent on Google Sheets. Since this is just a copy-paste, it’s faster than applying the formatting to new cells every time you have these.

Below are the steps to copy indentation from one cell and apply it to others in Google Sheets:

  1. Copy the cell where you already have indentation (just select and press Control + C)
  2. Select all the cells where you want the indentation to be applied.
  3. Right-click on any of the selected cells.
  4. Hover the cursor over the ‘Paste Special‘ option.
  5. In the additional options that show up on the right, click on Paste Format only.
Paste Format Only to copy indent format in Google Sheets

That’s it! This will copy the format from the copied cell and apply it to the selected cell.

Note: When you copy a format from a cell in Google Sheets, it copies the entire format. For example, if apart from the indentation, you also have applied a border and a background color to the cell, when you copy and paste the format of it to some other cell, the border and color would also be copied (along with the Google Sheets indent text).

While this is my preferred method of adding indentation in Google Sheets, there is another (simple and out of the box) way of adding indentation to cells in Google Sheets.

Using a Function to Indent text in Google Sheets

You can also use some functions to indent texts in Google Sheets. This is especially useful if the cells you want to indent to have a formula or a result of a formula. A good function to use to indent is the ARRAY function.

Here’s how to indent in a Google Sheet using the ARRAY function:

  1. In a cell, type = ARRAYFORMULA(
In a cell, type = Arrayformula
  1. In the brackets, type quotation marks but leave them empty
In the brackets type quotation marks but leave them empty
  1. Type & then select the column or cells that you want to indent.
Type & then select the column or cells that you want to indent

You can control the amount of indentation by adding or removing space inside the quotation marks.

Add Indentation by Adding a Column

This method may not be ideal for everyone as it requires you to split your list and put these into two separate columns. But it does offer the benefit of being super easy to manage once you have set it up.

Below is the data set where I want to indent the list items.

Here are the steps to add indentation to list items:

  1. Select the entire column which has the indentation (in this example, it’s column A). To do this, click on the top of the column label (where it says A)
  2. Right-click and select ‘Insert 1 left’. This will insert one column to the left of the selected column.
  3. Resize the column on the left. The size of this column will be the level of indentation you want in the data.
  4. Copy and paste the category cells in the column on the left (Column A in this example). Leave the list item values as is in Column B.
  5. Delete the text from the category cells in column B (as you have already copied it to column A).

That’s it!

This gives the impression that there has been an indentation in this dataset, while in reality, we have just used two different columns.

Indent Text by adding a new column

While it’s not as neat as the method covered earlier (using custom number formatting), it does offer one benefit over that method. When you have new list items or category items, you can simply enter those in the relevant column. You don’t have to worry about the indentation.

These methods will allow you to indent text in Google Sheets (despite not having an inbuilt functionality to do this).

There is also a third method to use Google Apps Script (code available here). However, I still prefer the above two methods as using Google Apps Script can become a little difficult and doesn’t offer any significant advantage over the two methods covered in this tutorial.

How to Indent the Entire Sheet

So far we have only shown you how to indent cells in Google Sheets. If you want to indent your entire sheet at once, the best way is by using the column method. This method is more manageable for the entire sheet and easy to do.

Removing Indenting in Google Sheets

Since you now know how to indent within a cell in Google Sheets, how about removing them? You can remove indenting in Google Sheets in various ways depending on how you inserted them. If you used the custom number format, you can simply remove the formatting by:

  1. Highlighting the cells
  2. Navigating to Format > Clear formatting

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you Indent in Google Sheets?

Although there’s no feature in Google Sheets to indent text in a cell, there are a number of ways you can work around this to achieve the same results. You can use a custom number formatting to indent a range of cells. You can also create a new column and resize it to act as an indent. Finally, you can use a formula like the ARRAYFORMULA to add blank characters to act as indents.

What About When You Have Two Lines of Text via Wrap Text?

When you have two lines of text, like via a Wrap Text command, sometimes you can only indent the first line. In this case, you will have to add Google Sheets indents manually using the space bar. Just note where the line breaks off and add spaces in between until you get the desired indentation.

Conclusion

In this article, we have shown you how to indent in Google Sheets in multiple ways. These include, using custom number formatting, using new columns, and using ARRAYFORMULA.

Hope you found this Google Sheets tutorial useful. You may also be interested in our guide for how to strikethrough in Google Sheets.

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Sumit

Sumit

Sumit is a Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel Expert. He provides spreadsheet training to corporates and has been awarded the prestigious Excel MVP award by Microsoft for his contributions in sharing his Excel knowledge and helping people.
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