How to Transpose in Excel, Step by Step

how to transpose in excel

How to Transpose in Excel, Step by Step

Key Points

  • Excel has no set way to organize data, but columns typically hold information such as dates and revenue, while rows represent individual transactions or line items.
  • Transposing data in Excel does not affect formulas within the dataset, but formulas outside of the transposed dataset may need to be adjusted.
  • There are limitations to transposing data in Excel, such as the maximum number of rows and columns allowed, and the inability to transpose data that is part of a table.
  • Using pivot tables in Excel can make transposing data easier and allow for customization of the data layout.

When you first start a new Excel worksheet, it is easy to start dumping data into it without thinking about the most efficient way to organize things. There are no rules on arranging data in Excel, but some ways are definitely better than others. If you find that the rows and columns would work better when flipped around, then you can easily transpose them in Excel.

Although Excel has no set way to organize data, columns typically hold information such as dates and revenue, while rows represent individual transactions, people, or line items. Getting the two reversed can complicate organizing data later on.

To rotate data in Excel, follow the steps below. Although the steps are for Excel, the same is possible with Apple Numbers and Google Sheets.

Step 1: Open the Excel Document You Want to Transpose

how to transpose in excel
Opening the spreadsheet that needs transposing.


The first thing you must do is open the Excel spreadsheet that you want to transpose. You can have multiple Excel files open at once, and it is also okay for the file to have multiple worksheets. However, if it does have multiple worksheets, you should determine which datasets require transposing.

Step 2: Verify Data Orientation in Excel

how to transpose in excel
Checking the dataset.


Next, you should look over the dataset to determine what must be transposed. You may also decide to omit part of the dataset with irrelevant information.

The entire X and Y axis must be flipped in most situations. But it is possible that only select rows and columns require transposing. Be sure to consider how transposing data will affect other functions, such as sorting and VLOOKUP.

Step 3: Select the Data Range to Transpose in Excel

how to transpose in excel
Highlighting cells.


Now that you’ve decided what data to transpose, it is time to select it. For a small dataset, you can click and drag to highlight cells.

However, it is much faster and easier to click on the first cell in the top left and hold the Ctrl and Shift buttons while tapping the down arrow followed by the right arrow. This will effectively highlight all the filled cells in the dataset.

Step 4: Copy the Data

how to transpose in excel
Copying the highlighted dataset.


With all of the cells that you wish to transpose highlighted, we can copy them. Do this by right-clicking to open up the dropdown menu. Then, select the “Copy” option from the list.

You can also use Ctrl + C to copy the dataset. You must copy the dataset rather than cut it because the transpose function does not support cut data.

Step 5: Select a Location for the Transposed Data

how to transpose in excel
Creating a new spreadsheet.


Now that the data is copied, you need to find somewhere for it to go. Some Excel users choose to transpose their data below or on the side of the original dataset. However, it is a much better practice to leave the original dataset as is and instead use a new worksheet. Click on a cell to highlight where the transposed data should go.

Step 6: Paste the Transposed Data

how to transpose in excel
Selecting the “Transpose” option.


Finally, paste the data into the selected cell using the special transpose option. Right-click in Excel and look under the “Paste Options” in the dropdown menu.

Click the paste clipboard icon with two arrows on it. If you aren’t sure which one it is, hover over it for a second, and it should say “Transpose.” All of your data should now be flipped around.

Step 7: Delete the Original Dataset if Necessary

how to transpose in excel
Checking formulas.


You can delete the original version if you’ve successfully transposed the data. Alternatively, you can leave it in a different file or worksheet in case you need it later. Don’t forget that transposing creates an entirely new dataset, so other worksheets relying on the original data still need access to it.

Now is also a good time to check that any formulas in your table still work correctly. Also, check that numbers, such as currency, dates, and fractions, appear properly. Pay careful attention to any previously empty cells, as Excel likely put a zero in its place while transposing.

Managing Formulas in Excel with Transposed Data

The good thing about transposing data rather than manually shifting numbers around is that your formulas stay intact. For instance, if row three is set to AutoSum, it will automatically transition to column C when transposed. The same thing happens with more complex formulas as long as they are within the dataset you transposed.

Problems start to arise when you use multiple worksheets that reference one another. Any formulas created outside of the transposed dataset will require you to leave it in place or change the formula locations. Verifying a few calculations to ensure everything is still coming out correctly is a good idea.

Limitations of Transposing Data in Excel

There are a few limitations to transposing data in Excel, and other problems can arise during the process. Older versions of Excel had very low limits on the number of cells you could transpose.

Newer versions are much higher, but you are still limited to 1,048,576 rows and 16,384 columns in a worksheet. However, the biggest limitation is that you cannot transpose data that is part of a table, since it is separate.

You would have to convert the table to a range first in order to transpose it. That creates more problems if the table is already formatted to fit specific needs. Another way to transpose data is using formulas; however, you should avoid that method at all costs since the formula must remain untouched in the worksheet.

Use Pivot Tables to Easily Transpose Data in Excel

People who need to transpose data back and forth regularly should consider moving the dataset into a pivot table for easy manipulation. Pivot tables are an integral tool for data analysts, and anyone can quickly learn to transform data within one. To get started, highlight the cells you want to include and go to the “Insert” tab.

There is an option for recommended pivot tables, or you can create your own from there. Doing so allows you to customize the layout of the data. This is perfect for filtering and sorting certain types of information and running calculations. Best of all, you can transpose the data as needed with the click of a button.

Wrapping Up

Microsoft Excel is one of the most powerful tools on the computer. However, few people understand how to take advantage of its true potential. As you’ve seen, Excel can easily transpose a massive dataset in just a couple of steps. So, next time you start a spreadsheet, think about the orientation before you start adding data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use Excel for free?

Excel is a paid program that is part of Microsoft’s Office suite. Therefore, it does require a subscription to Office 365 or a one-time software purchase. Alternatively, Numbers is a free program for Mac users, and Google’s Sheets is also free.

Does transpose remove formulas?

Transpose does not remove formulas, and any references to cells in the dataset will automatically change to reflect the transition. However, formulas outside of the affected range may be thrown off because of the new orientation.

Is there a way to flip the contents of a worksheet without replacing it?

No, transposing in Excel requires that you keep the original cells until after you’ve pasted them. This means you would need to paste the transposed cells off to the side or in another worksheet, then go back and delete the original before moving the new arrangement into its spot.

Why do certain functions only work with columns?

Certain functions in Excel rely on columns of data, such as VLOOKUP. Similarly, some sorting options only work with columns, which can make large datasets difficult to sift through.

Why do some cells change when using the transpose function?

When transposing cells in Excel, it is common for minor problems like cell formatting to occur. The most common occurrences happen with numbers, but you can quickly fix them by selecting a number format. However, empty cells may change to zeros during the process, which you will have to look for after transposing.

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