Troubleshooting Tips for When You’re Unable to Type in Excel6 Potential Causes and Solutions

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Written By:
Adiste Mae

This tutorial aims to provide solutions for when you are unable to type in a cell within Excel, even though you see the cursor and can move it around.

Experiencing this issue can be frustrating, particularly if the task at hand is time-sensitive or important.

This tutorial will guide you through identifying the cause of the problem and provide steps to fix it.

Please note that it is important to first try restarting your computer and checking if your keyboard is properly connected and functioning before following the steps outlined in this tutorial.

Let us examine the Common Causes of the Inability to Type in Excel.

Identifying the cause of the issue can help you determine the appropriate steps to take to fix it.

Listed below are potential reasons for not being able to type in Excel and suggested solutions for each.

Invisible Text in Cells: Possible Cause and Solution

If you are unable to see text that you have typed into a cell in a spreadsheet, it could be because the font color and cell background color are the same, causing the text to blend in and appear invisible.

If the text you have typed into a cell is not visible in the cell, you may notice that it appears in the formula bar above the spreadsheet.

This can occur when the font color and cell background color are the same, causing the text to blend in and appear invisible within the cell.

Solutions:

To fix this issue, you can change either the font color or the background color. This is a simple solution that should allow the text to become visible within the cell.

Another option for making the text visible in the cell is to remove all formatting from the cell. This can be done by going to the Home tab, and then select the “Normal” option from the “Cell Styles” group in the “Styles” section. This will remove any formatting applied to the cell, including the font and background colors, and allow the text to be visible.

Another solution to the problem of invisible text in a cell is to set the font color to “Automatic” using the Font group in the Home tab. This will automatically adjust the font color to be visible against the cell’s background color.

Num Lock as a Cause for Inability to Input Numbers in a Cell

If you are unable to input numbers from your numeric keypad into a cell in a spreadsheet, one possible explanation could be that your num lock function is disabled.

The num lock, also known as the number lock, is a key on your keyboard that enables or disables the use of the numeric keys on the numeric keypad (the set of numbers located on the right side of some keyboards).

When the num lock is on, the numeric keys can be used to input numbers into a cell. When it is off, the numeric keys may not function as expected, such as by being unable to input numbers into a cell.

The numeric keypad, or num pad, on your keyboard, has number keys that each have two different functions.

For instance, the number 7 key can also serve as the Home key, and the number 8 key can function as the Up arrow key.

When the num lock is turned off, the numeric keypad can be used like a normal numeric pad for inputting numbers into cells.

Most keyboards have a small LED on top of the num lock, which lights up when the num lock is on. Check to see if the num lock LED is not on. If so, then it’s probably the reason you are unable to type numbers into your cell.

If your keyboard does not have an LED or any other indicator to show if the num lock is on, just try typing some text into the cell.

However, when the num lock is turned off, it locks the numbers and allows the use of the alternate functions associated with the number keys.

If you are able to type text, but not numbers into a cell, it may suggest that there is an issue with your num lock setting, which could be preventing you from inputting numbers.

Solution:

To activate the num lock function and start inputting numbers again, simply press the num lock button again.

This will turn off the lock and you will be able to use the numeric keypad to type numbers into a cell.

Possible Causes of Inability to Edit Cells: Cell Lock or Protection

If your worksheet is in “Protected” mode, it makes all the cells within the sheet read-only and unable to be edited.

When a worksheet’s cells become uneditable, it is often because the author of the worksheet has chosen to protect the contents of the cells from modifications made by those without proper authorization. 

To confirm this, go to the Review tab and look for the presence of a button labeled “Unprotect Sheet” or “Unprotect Workbook.” If either of these buttons is present, it means that the sheet is in a protected state.

Additionally, attempting to edit or enter data into a cell while it is protected will result in an alert message displaying “The chart or cell you are trying to change is on a protected sheet.” 

Solution:

Disabling sheet or workbook protection is a simple process, you can achieve this by clicking on the “Unprotect Sheet” and/or “Unprotect Workbook” button.

However, If the sheet is protected with a password, you will need to obtain it from the sheet’s author to disable the protection.

Applied Validation Rules on the Cell

Validation rules are often implemented on cells to restrict the types of values that can be entered.

An example is when the author might apply a validation rule to a cell that only allows numbers or specific values within a range.

When the validation rule is not met and you try to enter a value into that cell, you will usually be prevented from doing so, and an error message will appear.

Solution:

The solution to this problem is to enter a value that conforms to the validation rule or to remove the validation rule from the cell.

Removing the validation rule can be done by selecting the affected cell(s) and navigating to Data->Data Validation.

This will open the Data Validation dialog box where you can view the validation rule(s) that have been applied to your selected cell(s).

Removing the validation rule can be done by clicking on the “Clear All” button, then clicking “OK” to close the dialog box.

The Cell Values are Hidden

The text you typed might not appear in the cell when you press the return key after typing because the cell has been set to a “Hidden” format.

To confirm this, you can right-click on the cell and select “Format Cells.”

Alternatively, you can select the affected cell(s) and press the keyboard shortcut “CTRL+1” this will open the Format Cells dialog box. In the Number tab, select “Custom” from the “Category” list.

Check the input box under “Type.” If you see three semicolons (;;;) it indicates that the cell(s) have been set to the hidden format.

Solution:

To make the cell values visible, remove the three semicolons from the input box under “Type” in the Format Cells dialog box and click “OK” to apply the changes.

Add-ins Blocking the Ability to Type

An add-in that you’ve recently installed in Excel might be interfering with your current setup and causing issues with your ability to type in Excel.

If none of the previously mentioned causes seems to be the issue, this could be a possible reason.

To check if an add-in is causing this problem, try opening Excel in “Safe mode.” This will disable all add-ins and leave you with just the basic functions.

This method is widely used to troubleshoot and help identify the exact source of the problem.

To open Excel in Safe mode, you can follow these steps:

  1. Shut down the Excel application.
  2. Utilize the Windows key + R keyboard shortcut to open the Run dialog box.
  3. In the open field next to “Open” in the Run dialog box, type “Excel/safe”.
  4. Now, click the OK button.

When you open Excel using the “Excel/safe” command, it will start in Safe mode. If you find that your issue is resolved while in Safe mode, it is likely that the problem was caused by one of your add-ins.

Solution:

Once you have determined that an add-in is causing the issue, you can then try to identify which specific add-in it is and deactivate it. Here’s how:

  1. Go to File >Options.
  2. Select Add-ins (from the Excel Options dialog box).
  3. At the bottom of the dialog box, you’ll find a dropdown menu located next to “Manage.”
  4. On the dropdown list, select COM Add-ins.
  5. Click the Go button.
  6. You can now see the list of installed add-ins.
  7. Select one or more checkboxes, then click OK. This will ensure that only the selected add-ins are active the next time you open Excel, while the others will be deactivated.
  8. Restart Excel.
  9. Attempt to type into a cell, if the issue is resolved, it means that the add-ins that you had selected previously were not causing the problem. To locate the problematic add-in, activate another one, and repeat the process until you identify which add-in was causing the issue.

Note: Be sure to close and reopen Excel each time you activate an add-in.

In this guide, various reasons for the inability to type in Excel were discussed and methods to troubleshoot each of these issues were provided.

We hope that this tutorial was helpful in resolving the problem and allowing you to once again type in Excel.