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This seems like such an easy, basic thing--but I can't for the life of me figure out how to do it. I just want to copy and paste cells from an Excel sheet into a SharePoint Excel WITHOUT overwriting the data already in the SharePoint. I just want it to create a new cell/row and move the existing cells/rows down.

I tried using "Insert Cells and Shift Down"--but that just creates one new, empty cell. It doesn't paste the rows/cells on the clipboard.

I'm driving myself insane. Do I really need to add rows FIRST before I copy and paste?

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If by SharePoint Excel you mean opening an Excel file hosted on SharePoint (Excel Online) in your web browser, this is not possible.
Excel Online offers this "Insert Copied Cells" only if you copy from Excel Online, not from the installed version of Excel.
So your answer is: Yes, you need to first insert, then paste.

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I am not sure if you are referring to a SharePoint list or a excel file stored in SharePoint Library and opened in Excel online. I tested in Modern/Classic Experience list and both works in list quick edit mode. Like the demo below. enter image description here

For Excel file opened excel online, it works pretty same.

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