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How to Resize All Window Columns with a Single Keystroke

When you’re dealing with an application that displays data in a set of columns, it’s often frustrating to have to resize each column separately—but today we’ve got a great trick for you that resizes all the columns with a single keystroke.

The secret keystroke to use is Ctrl and the Numpad’s + key, and it only works if you have a separate number pad on your PC—but we’ve also found a workaround for that as well. Keep reading.

Here’s How It Works

To better illustrate exactly how this trick works, we’ve put together a short video that shows the keyboard shortcut in action.

Resize All Columns with the Keyboard

In case you can’t load the video, here’s how it works—if you look at this example window, you’ll see how the columns are all bunched up, and you can’t see all of the data in them without resizing them, which can be frustrating.

image

Simply press the Ctrl key and the Numpad + key together, and you’ll see all of the columns instantly resized to fit the content:

image

Very useful in many situations!

Resize a Single Column the Quick Way

Sometimes you don’t want to resize all the columns, but you’d like to resize a single column to fit the content. All you need to do in this case is double-click on the separator between the columns, and it will instantly be resized to fit.

sshot-2010-09-13-1-03-42-40

This trick works in just about every application that we’ve ever used.

Got a Laptop without a Number Pad? Use AutoHotkey to Remap!

And now we get to the good stuff, for all those of us who use a laptop and don’t have a number key pad—in fact, I had to pull out a dusty keyboard just to test out this trick. The simple solution for all of us is to simply setup an AutoHotkey key mapping to map another keystroke to send Ctrl+NumpadAdd instead.

For instance, I’ve assigned the shortcut key combination Alt + to resize the columns, but of course, you could assign anything to it:

!=::Send,{LCtrl down}{NumpadAdd}{LCtrl up}

All you’ll need to do is create a new AutoHotkey script, paste in that single line, and then double-click on it for it to work.

Thanks for pointing out the original tip goes to WinSuperSite

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 09/13/10

Comments (18)

  1. rOBzUC

    Great tip!

  2. Kathie

    Hey, my little laptop doesn’t have a numeric keypad, but I just discovered I could increase or decrease the size of all this stuff by pressing Ctrl/Shift/+ or Ctrl/Shift/_ . Neat trick — I need to play around with it some more. Thanks for giving me the idea.

  3. ph!lba

    thx! rly n1 tip (:

  4. Cornflower

    Wonderful! I tried it. It works most places attempted except Outlook. Hope to find a tip for that one, especially the Address Book.

  5. KB Prez

    VERY HANDY Stuff. THANKS Geeks!

  6. MrDolomite

    Great tip! Working in a window with a list of files and manually resizing columns has been an annoyance of mine for years.

  7. Don Ebberts

    I love tips like this. Thanks.

  8. jamie finney

    is there any way to automatically resize columns in excel?

  9. Mark Hinrichsen

    It would be nice if it worked in Office 2010 products… doesn’t on mine. But nice tip otherwise

  10. rshewmaker

    Great Tip! Any way to undo it?

  11. Willard

    It seems to work in Windows created lists but not in any version of Office or anywhere else I’ve found so far.

  12. Andre

    Anyone who knows the equivalent of this in Excel should be knighted.

  13. zkam

    The Details view in Explorer is a standard windows control that is used in many programs that have a multi-column view. Off the top of my head, here are some of the apps that I use this feature in:

    - the Details view of the standard File Open/Save dialog in any application
    - Windows Media Player
    - MediaMonkey
    - uTorrent
    - “Everything” (file search utility)
    - Upper panes (File/folder listing) of Windirstat
    - Registry Editor (Regedit)
    - Windows system administration programs like Event Viewer, Services, Disk Management, Computer Manager, etc.

    As for excel, you can do this in Excel 2003 by selecting multiple (or all) columns, then using the menu command
    Format -> Column -> Autofit Selection

    I would imagine that there is a similar command in newer versions of Excel, though I don’t know.

    Also, for laptops, this is often possible using the special function key to treat the keyboard as a numeric keypad.

    Note also that this and all the shortcuts discussed by Paul Thurrott at his article work in XP, Vista, and Windows 7. (http://www.winsupersite.com/win7/totw/keyboard3.asp)

  14. Rob White

    For Excel, select the whole spreadsheet with Ctrl+A (or click the intersection of the row and column labels), then double-click the divider between any two columns.
    Arise Sir Rob !!

  15. Don

    In Excel:

    step 1) click on the box in the upper left corner (to the left of column heading A and above row label 1)
    step 2) double click on the separator between any 2 columns
    step 3) profit

  16. Abhishek K. Pandey

    Thumbs Up !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Richard

    Ctrl/+ on my numeric keypad in my win/7 pro does not work. Single column dbl click does.

  18. Varun Nagwekar

    I simply love you for this! You have no idea how frustrating this bunch up thing was for me. You have really done a great service by offering this tip to us! Thank you!

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