Sometimes I have to mark some cells in a spreadsheet with - to indicate that it was not available or not related, not tested... Sometimes I also use + to denote positiveness or availability.

But after pressing +/- key in an empty cell and press arrow keys or click mouse button to proceed to the next cell like I usually do, it automatically selects the other cell in the formula. So I have to quit editing and type the text again. This is very annoying.

I never start a formula with + or - but always use =. So how can I turn off this behavior? Using macro is also fine.


I'd suggest typing an apostrophe ' before typing the plus or minus. This will escape that functionality and disappear once you move on.

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    I already know that for years, but this is not a solution, since it requires 2 keystrokes while + and - can already be at the beginning of the cell without escaping – phuclv Jan 20 '15 at 14:58
  • @LưuVĩnhPhúc you didn't specify what version of excel, but you could try pre-formatting the cells to "text" - though it doesn't work for me – Raystafarian Jan 20 '15 at 15:00
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    I've tried that on both excel 2007 and 2010 and it doesn't work – phuclv Jan 22 '15 at 17:18
  • @LưuVĩnhPhúc: It looks like you are choosing to use a scheme that Excel interprets in a different way by default. The easy solution is to use a method that is consistent with how Excel is designed to work. One extra keystroke is a small price to pay. How much more time/work is that than using a multi-key macro? – fixer1234 Apr 18 '15 at 3:07
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    I know of no setting to disable this behavior with - and +, and no way to intercept keystrokes at the time of formula entry in the way you're seeking. Event macros such as Worksheet_Change only fire when you finish editing a formula, but the problem is that Excel enters formula entry mode instead of value entry mode on the 'application level' when it sees =, + or - as the first character entered. I believe there is no VBA 'hook' for macros to grab hold of to alter the behavior. – hBy2Py Apr 18 '15 at 3:37

You can use the AutoCorrect feature of Office to replace other arbitrary characters of your choice with + or -.

Note that AutoCorrect list is shared between all Office applications so this approach may have unintended consequences. Choose your characters to replace wisely.


As commented already, even with a macro it's not possible to prevent excel from starting a formula.
If you really want one keystroke and leave the cell then you need to change from + and - characters e.g. to "p" and "n" and you get get a macro which change them to your desired output when you finishing editing of cell content. Other workaround could be to type 0 and 1 and change them with conditional formatting.

  • What do you mean by defined in the format? You don't type them but the macro runs immediately when you changed your cell content and you will have them. – Máté Juhász Apr 18 '15 at 7:10
  • ok I misread your solution – phuclv Apr 18 '15 at 7:11

An easier way to disable the automatic formula function is to reformat the sheet (or individual rows, columns, or cells, as suits your need) as Text.

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