How to fix Excel’s spreadsheet cell keyboard navigation

Matthew Adams
by Matthew Adams
Windows & Software Expert
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excel keyboard navigation issue

Excel users can navigate spreadsheets with their mice and keyboards. When users press the arrow keys, they can usually navigate the spreadsheets by moving between cells.

For example, pressing the down arrow key will select the next cell down from the one selected, which will eventually scroll the sheet downwards.

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However, some Excel users have said in forum posts that they cannot move from cell to cell by pressing their keyboards’ arrow keys.

Instead, the spreadsheet just scrolls straight down, up, left, or right when they press the arrow keys much the same as when pressing the scroll bars’ buttons.

Therefore, those users have wondered how they restore the original arrow key functionality so that they can move an Excel spreadsheet to the next cell.

What to do when you can’t navigate Excel with arrow keys

1. Press the Scroll Lock keyboard key

Excel users can’t navigate Excel spreadsheet cells with arrow keys when Scroll Lock is enabled. You can check if Scroll Lock is on by right-clicking the status bar at the bottom of Excel’s window to open the menu shown directly below.

That menu tells you if Scroll Lock is on or off. However, clicking Scroll Lock on the menu will only stop the status bar showing if Scroll Lock is on.

status bar in Excel excel spreadsheet arrows not working

Turning Scroll Lock off will fix this issue for most users. If your keyboard includes a Scroll Lock key, press that button. Some users might need to press a ScrLk key to turn SL off.


2. Turn off Scroll Lock with on-screen keyboard

  1. Launch the Run accessory by pressing the Windows key and R hotkey.
  2. Enter osk in Run, and press the OK button.The Run window excel spreadsheet arrows not working
    • The on-screen keyboard has an ScrLk key.
  3. Click that key to turn off Scroll Lock.On-Screen keyboard excel spreadsheet arrows not working
  4. Close the on-screen keyboard.
  5. Try navigating an Excel spreadsheet with the arrow keys again.

3. Start Excel in Safe Mode

An Excel add-in conflict can sometimes stop users navigating Excel spreadsheet cells with their keyboards’ arrow keys.

To fix that, try opening Excel in Safe Mode, which launches the application without superfluous add-ins. You can do that by entering ‘excel /safe’ in Run and clicking OK.

The excel /safe command excel spreadsheet arrows not working

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If that fixes the issue, then an add-in is probably the culprit. In which case, you’ll need to disable the add-in by clicking File > Options > Add-ins in Excel.

Then select Excel Add-ins on the Manage drop-down menu, and click the Go button. Thereafter, you can uncheck the checkboxes for Excel add-ins to selectively disable them.


4. Turn Off Sticky Keys

  1. First, open Run
    • Press the Windows key + R hotkey.
  2. Input control /name Microsoft.EaseOfAccessCenter in the Open box, and select the OK option.
    The Ease of Access applet excel spreadsheet arrows not working
  3. Click Make the keyboard easier to use to open the options shown directly below.The Turn on Sticky Keys setting excel spreadsheet arrows not working
  4. Deselect the Turn on Sticky Keys option.
  5. If the Turn on Sticky Keys checkbox isn’t selected, click its checkbox.
    • Click that option’s checkbox again to turn it off.
  6. Press the Apply button.
  7. Click OK to exit the window.

The above resolutions have fixed Excel’s spreadsheet cell keyboard navigation for lots of users.

If you’re aware of another way to solve this problem, share it in the comments section below so that other users can try it, as well.

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