When working with long lists in Microsoft Excel you will probably want to see the top row all the time so you can see the labels. If you start scrolling down the default setting in Excel is to scroll the headers (labels) as well. That way you can’t tell what the column headers are when you are scrolling down. This is where the Freeze Panes functionality steps in. Far to often I see people struggling with this option while actually it is pretty straight forward to use. In this blog post I will show you the use of Freeze Panes to keep you from losing the list headers. (click on the images for larger views)
Here is what we are trying to accomplish. In the picture below you see part of a list which has no formatting. So we want to keep the top row so when we scroll down the header labels will stay visible.
As you know by default Excel will scroll down everything so you will not see your header labels anymore.
There are various options to choose from. By far the easiest one is to create a table out of your list. Click somewhere in your list. Click on the Home tab and click on the Format as Table button.
This will convert your list into a table. Now try scrolling down and see what happens with your headers? Wow the column letters disappear and are replaced by your header labels. How cool and effective is that!. If you don’t want to have the annoying filter arrows just remove the filter by clicking on the Data tab and the Filter button. Right out of the box functionality for you.
I don’t want my list to be a table!
I can hear you say that. Well in that case you can use the Freeze Pane functionality. We remove the format as table functionality and try to accomplish the same with Freeze Panes. Make sure you have placed your cursor somewhere in the list. Now from the View tab click the Freeze Panes button (arrow) and choose Freeze Top Row. Excel will automatically freeze the top row for you.
You can now scroll down and your header labels will stay visible as requested. You can apply the same if you want to keep your first column visible. In that case choose the option Freeze First Column. Ok we are getting there! But here is the next challenge…..
I want it both ways!
Sure you want both ways because that is what Excel users do, scroll right and down. So what we are looking for is the top row frozen and the first column frozen. How to accomplish this.
In the picture above I have selected the first row and the first column just for clarification. You don’t have to select the first column and the top row to get things done. It is the position of the active cell that is important here. To freeze the first row and the first column you have to position your cursor in the correct cel. In this case you should set the active cell to B1 (highlighted yellow in the picture below). Now Excel knows it needs to freeze the top row and the first column.
So it is of to the View tab and the freeze panes button. Click the little arrow and click Freeze Panes. Your first column and top row are now frozen!
Now for the last challenge….
I don’t want the first column frozen but I want the first three columns to freeze and the top row as well. To clarify I have selected the first three columns and the top row again. I have highlighted the applicable active cell that should be activated and after that it is a round trip to the View tab and the Freeze Panes button where you choose the Freeze Panes option.
Rule of thumb here
So basically the rule of thumb here is as follows. You place the active cell right to the column(s) you want to freeze. So if you want the first 7 columns to freeze you place the active cell in column 8. Same applies to your top rows. If you have more rows on top that you would like to see than place the active cell in the number of rows + 1. Example: you have three top rows you would like to see and seven columns you would like to freeze. You place the active cell in column eight and row four. Now you can choose freeze panes and you are set.
Simple as can be. When you had enough of all the freezing just choose unfreeze from the same View tab and Freeze Panes button. You are back to square 1. So nothing to select first just go straight to the View tab and click the Freeze Panes button!
Freeze panes is great functionality in Microsoft Excel. I think this should not be so hard to use. Every now and again I get feedback from my courses where someone has seen the light. Finally I get how this works. That’s what we are aiming for right?