How to Indent Text in Google Sheets (Easy Step-by-Step 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. And unfortunately, there is no easy way to indent in Google Sheets.

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

In this tutorial, I will show you two simple ways you can use to indent text in Google Sheets.

Indent Text by Using Custom Number Formatting

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 mostly this is used for formatting numbers, we can also give 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 little 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 control key and then select these cells to make sure all cells are selected (even if these are non-contiguous)
  2. Click the Format tab.Click the Format tab
  3. Hover the cursor over the Number option. It will show additional options on the right.Hover on Number option in the Format tab
  4. From the options on the right, hover the cursor over the ‘More Formats’ option. It will show some more options.Hover the cursor over More Formats option
  5. Click on ‘Custom Number Formatting’. This will open the ‘Custom number formats’ dialog boxClick on Custom Formats option
  6. 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
  7. Click on ApplyClick 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 indentation 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

Applying Indentation to New Cells

When you apply this indentation 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 also.

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 indentation. 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 indentation).

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.

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 two 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.

Hope you found this Google Sheets tutorial useful.

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Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel Expert.