How to Move Columns in Excel: Swap or Switch Columns (2023)

If you’re working with Excel tables more often, you may need to move your data columns every now and then πŸ˜€

Maybe you want to swap columns to restructure your tables or you want to move columns to view data side by side for comparison.

In Excel, there’s no straightforward way to do this but that doesn’t mean you can’t πŸ˜‰

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to move columns in Excel in many ways possible so you can restructure your tables in Excel like a PRO πŸ’ͺ

Download this free practice workbook and let’s move forward!

Move columns with the Shift key

When you move a column to a new location, Microsoft Excel will send you this message:

drag columns to new location

If you click OK, you may lose the data in the column you want to move to πŸ˜₯

And we don’t want that.

There’s a way for you to move Excel columns without losing existing data in your Excel spreadsheet. Just swap or switch your Excel columns with the help of the Shift key.

Here’s how πŸ‘‡

Say you want the First Name to be the first column in this data table. To do that…

  1. Click the column that you want to move.

In our practice workbook, click Column B.

selected column B

This selects the entire column B.

When you move your cursor to the edge of the selection, it would display the move icon (a four-directional arrow icon).

πŸ’‘ For the next steps, remember to press Shift always while doing the drag and drop.

  1. Hold down the Shift key and click on either the right or left border of the selection with your left mouse button.
how to move columns in Excel
  1. Drag and drop it to the column where you want this row to be shifted.

When you see a bold line to the edge of the column where you want to move this column, release your left mouse button.

You can now also release the Shift key.

simply drag to new location

See? No existing data is lost. You just swapped the two columns πŸ‘

move columns to new location

Moving Excel columns is easy!

Just remember to press the shift key at all times while doing the drag-and-drop method 😊

You are not limited to moving one column. Of course, you can move more than one column in Excel as long as they are contiguous columns.

To swap multiple columns, you just need to select multiple columns in the spreadsheet and do the drag-and-drop method.

select multiple columns to swap multiple columns

If you don’t like the drag-and-drop method, then you’re going to like the next method we’ll discuss.

In the next method, you’ll use a keyboard shortcut you already love in switching the order of your Excel columns.

Kasper Langmann, Microsoft Office Specialist

Move columns with cut and paste

You can also move columns with the use of the Cut and Paste commands you’re already familiar with πŸ˜€

Note that there are a few things to remember here depending on whether you want to move a single column or multiple columns at a time.

Let’s just move a single column for now πŸ‘

  1. Right-click on the column header to select the entire column. To be specific, right-click column B.
  2. Select Cut from the right-click context menu.
selected column heading

πŸ’‘ Alternatively, you can click the column letter or header to select the entire column then press Ctrl + X. Ctrl + X is the keyboard shortcut for the Cut command.

This will copy the entire column.

copy columns
  1. Right-click on the column header to which you want to insert the Cut column. In our example, column A.
  2. Click Insert Cut Cells from the right-click context menu.
click insert cut cells

There you have it πŸ™Œ

When you click the Insert Cut Cells option, you actually pasted the column you copied to your desired location.

Then the rest of the columns moved right.

pasted column in new location

Rearrange columns with horizontal sorting

You have probably heard about the Data Sort feature in Excel which allows you to sort your Excel tables. Usually, you vertically sort data in Excel.

But have you wondered if you can horizontally sort data too? πŸ€”

Yes, you can! More than that, you can use the Sort feature to rearrange your columns with horizontal sorting.

If you have a large spreadsheet and you want to change the order of numerous columns, horizontal sorting data could be a major time saver πŸ‘

To start, you need to add a new row to the very top of your Excel spreadsheet. So…

  1. Right-click row header 1.
  2. Select Insert from the right-click menu.
insert single row

A new row is inserted in your worksheet.

This row must be at the top of the page, above all other header rows or labels.

new entire row
  1. Number the existing columns in the order you want them to appear in the spreadsheet. Enter the numbers in the new top row.
number adjacent columns
  1. Select all the data in the table that you want to rearrange.
selected columns
  1. Go to the Data Tab.
  2. In the Sort & Filter Group, click Sort.
sort multiple rows

The Sort Dialog box appears on your screen.

  1. Click the Options button.
sort pop up menu
  1. Select Sort left to right.
  2. Click OK.
option key

This returns you to the Sort dialog box.

  1. In the Sort By drop-down menu, select Row 1.
  2. Finally, click OK.
moving columns by sort

This is now the result βœ…

The columns are now rearranged according to the order in which you wanted them to appear.

original columns in new position

Now that the columns are rearranged, you can delete the very first row.

And voila! πŸ˜€

Excel columns

When moving columns, Excel copies the content in cells and moves them to the new location you want them.

This includes text values, numeric values, formulas, and cell formats.

However, cell references are not adjusted. You need to manually adjust the column references. If not, you may see a #REF! error in your cells. So, be careful!

Kasper Langmann, Microsoft Office Specialist

That’s it – Now what?

Congratulations! Now that you’ve learned how to move columns in Excel, you can smoothly move or swap columns in your Excel tables 😎

You can now restructure your Excel tables without losing your important data in the process like an Excel Pro.

If you want to be a REAL Excel Pro, then it’s time to take your Excel skills to the next level πŸš€

Join my Free Excel training that has helped +100,000 people level up their Excel skills. It’s a unique Excel training course that adapts to your skill level, from beginner to expert 😊

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Other resources

Curious about the SORT feature in Excel? Click this link to find out how it can powerfully change your data and columns in Excel.

Do you need to turn the rows of your Excel table into columns instead?

You don’t need to recreate your table when you can just transpose data in Excel. Click here to learn how 😊

Frequently asked questions

If you don’t like to move columns by dragging your mouse, you can use the Cut and Paste method. Here’s how:

  1. Click the column header to select the column you want to move.
  2. Press the keyboard shortcut for the Cut command (Ctrl + X).
  3. Right-click the column letter of your desired location.
  4. Select Insert Cut Cells from the right-click menu.

If you can’t move a column in Excel, it may be that this column is a Frozen column.

To unfreeze columns or rows, go to the View Tab. In the Window group, click the Freeze panes dropdown, and select Unfreeze Panes.

You can move your columns in Excel using keyboard shortcuts.

  1. Select the column you want to move.
  2. Press the Ctrl + X to copy columns.
  3. Select the desired destination column letter that will highlight the whole column.
  4. Now, press Ctrl + V to paste.