A Definition of Columns and Rows in Excel and Google Spreadsheets

Definition of Columns and Rows in Excel and Google Spreadsheets

Columns and Rows in Excel and Google Spreadsheets
Columns and Rows in Excel and Google Spreadsheets. © Ted French

Columns and rows are a fundamental part of any spreadsheet program such as Excel and Google Spreadsheets. For such programs, each worksheet is laid out in a grid pattern with:

  • columns running vertically;
  • rows running horizontally.

Each worksheet in the most recent versions of Excel contains:

  • 16,384 columns;
  • 1,048,576 rows.

In Google Spreadsheets the default size of a worksheet is:

  • 26 columns;
  • 100 rows.

Columns and rows can be added in Google Spreadsheets so long as the total number of cells per worksheet does not exceed 400,000;

So there can be a varying number of columns and rows - such as:

  • 50 columns and 8,000 rows;
  • 100 columns and 4,000 rows;

Column and Row Headings

In both Excel and Google Spreadsheets,

  • each column is identified by a letter in the column header starting with column A and, in the case of Excel, running through to column XFD.
  • each row is identified by a number in the row header, starting at one.

Column and Row Headings and Cell References

The intersection point between a column and a row is a cell - each of the small boxes seen in a worksheet.

Taken together, the column letters and the row numbers in the two headings create cell references, which identify individual cell locations in the worksheet.

Cell references - such as A1, F56, or AC498 - are used extensively in spreadsheet operations such as formulas and when creating charts.

Highlighting Entire Columns and Rows in Excel

To highlight an entire column in Excel,

  • click on the column header;
  • press the Ctrl + Spacebar keys on the keyboard.

To highlight an entire row in Excel,

  • click on the row header;
  • press the Shift + Spacebar keys.

Highlighting Entire Columns and Rows in Google Spreadsheets

For columns containing no data,

  • pressing the Ctrl + Spacebar keys once selects the entire column.

    For columns containing data,

    • pressing the Ctrl + Spacebar keys once selects the section of the column containing the data;
    • pressing the Ctrl + Spacebar keys a second time selects the entire column.

    For rows containing no data,

    • pressing the Shift + Spacebar keys once selects the entire row.

    For rows containing data, 

    • pressing the Shift + Spacebar keys once selects the section of the row containing the data;
    • pressing the Shift + Spacebar keys a second time selects the entire row.

    Navigating Rows and Columns

    Although using the mouse pointer to click on cells or to use the scroll bars, is always an option for moving around a worksheet, for large worksheets it can be quicker to navigate using the keyboard. Some commonly used key combinations include:

    • Ctrl + Down arrow - jump to the last row of a worksheet;

    • Ctrl + Up arrow - jump to the first row of a worksheet;

    • Ctrl + Right arrow - jump to the last column of a worksheet;

    • Ctrl + Left arrow - jump to the first column of a worksheet;

    Adding Rows Columns to a Worksheet

    The same keyboard key combination can be used for adding both columns and rows to a worksheet:

     Ctrl + Shift + "+"  (plus sign)

     To add one rather than the other:

    • select the entire column to the right of the location for the new column;
    • select the entire row above the location for the new row.

    Note: For keyboards with a Number Pad to the right of the regular keyboard, use the + sign there without the Shift key. The key combination becomes:

    Ctrl + "+"  (plus sign)