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Excel Series: Bullets

 

What is a Bullet?

There are many different kinds of bullets. Obviously, the ones that relate to Excel are those listed in the second definition – a small symbol used in a list of items.

/ˈbʊlɪt/

noun

 1. metal projectile for firing from a rifle, revolver, or other small firearm, typically cylindrical and pointed, and sometimes containing an explosive.

2. PRINTING: a small symbol used to introduce each item in a list, for emphasis.

Bullet
The ambiguity of a bullet…

Bullets in Excel

Excel is a program that has been created mainly to allow users to:

  • Use numbers
  • Perform calculations
  • Build models

Excel is therefore not designed as a word processing tool. As a result, Microsoft Excel is not equipped to deal with formatting of text as well as Microsoft Word. This means that one of the key features in Microsoft Word, list-building, is not as easily accessible in Excel.

However, depending on what you are trying to do in Excel, you may find (one day, if not already) that you need to insert bullets as part of your document.

Three ways of adding bullets

1. The cheat’s method

The simplest way (but not the most efficient), is to create a bulleted list in Microsoft Word, and then simply do a copy and paste into Excel.

Pros

  • With a few keystrokes (Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V) you can easily recreate the list you have in Word.

Cons

  • Formatting of the pasted bullets could be problematic.
    • Either paste the bullets with source formatting (i.e. exactly the way it looks in Word).
    • Or only keep the content (and risk bullets changing to small dots and creating random indents in your text).
  • Indents are added as spaces, making it time-consuming to align the content according to your requirements.

2. Using Alt+Enter

If you are adding paragraphs or lists in a single cell, it is important to understand one keyboard shortcut before we continue…

You may know that using Enter or a downwards arrow key will allow the cursor to move to the next row.

However, if you wish to add multiple lines in the same cell, there are two options you could choose to follow.

  • Firstly, use word wrap (found on the Home ribbon, in the alignment group).
    •  This will force the content to wrap according to the column width.
    • You could manipulate the content to wrap to the next line within the cell by adding additional spaces.
Word wrap for bullets
Home Ribbon -> Alignment Group -> Wrap Text
  • Secondly, use Alt+Enter
    • This will force the content to wrap based on where your cursor is.
    • This is usually a better option as it allows you to manually create new lines in the cell – especially when you are creating your own list.

3. Use the ribbon

Now that you know how to add new lines in a single cell in Excel, we can address the issue of adding bullets to your list.

  • By navigating to the Insert ribbon, you will see a group called “Symbols”.
    • Select this option and find the bullet shape of your choice.
    • The most common bullet shape (the dot), can be found under the subset called “General Punctuation”, or you can directly enter the character code “2022” in the block at the bottom of the screen.
Bullet Symbols via the Insert Ribbon

Alternatively, for slightly more creative options, consider changing the font to Webdings or Wingdings and find the picture that best suits your requirements.

Wingdings symbols as bullets

If you find the Wingding or Webding you prefer, you could also switch to the relevant font, and use the letters that represent these different pictures (e.g. using Wingdings letters l, m or n will result in the following bullets: • ∘ ).

Pros

  • Fully customizable according to your requirements.
  • Easy alignment using left / center / right options.
  • Easily copy and paste cell, or use autofill to drag down across multiple lines.

Cons

  • Bullets only added one at a time, or based on the number of times the “Insert” button is pressed.
  • Bullet is not always visible in the formula bar, so accidental deletion is a possibility.
  • Font changes could occur if cursor is placed immediately next to a different font.

4. Use your keyboard

There are a variety of different keyboard combinations using the Alt key that can bring up your preferred bullet point.

Some of the most common examples would be Alt + 7 (•), Alt + 9 (○) or Alt + 16 (►). It is therefore worth playing around with the Alt-key combinations to find the one that suits your preference the best.

Pros

  • Quickest way to insert a bullet point.
  • Bullet is visible and easy to edit.
  • Easily add multiple bullets without needing to use copy & paste.

Cons

  • Time required to find your bullet of choice (if uncommon options are preferred).
  • Refer to the linked article below to see the result of the key combinations of Alt + number:

http://www.chexed.com/ComputerTips/asciicodes.php

In Conclusion

In conclusion, the above-mentioned methods have been compared in the image below.

Bullet Method comparisons

What interesting bullets have you used in Excel before? What is your preferred method of adding these? Feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below! Also don’t forget to share this post with your colleagues.

Lastly, if understanding the multitude of different ways in which you can do the same task in Excel is driving you nuts, make sure you head on over to book your spot in one of our upcoming Excel Foundation courses!