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Playing The Name Game

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2004 by | Filed Under: MS Excel

Playing The Name Game

I’m glad to see that you’ve decided to come along for this little adventure.

I think the best place to start will be with a better understanding of what it means to name ranges of cells in Excel.

Basically, naming a range (or a single cell for that matter) is to give Excel a meaningful word (or words) that you will refer to the selected set of cells by.

Just like we did above with the column titles—only better.

Better because we can then use the name on any worksheet in the workbook—not just the one where the data appears.

OK. So now that we have a basic understanding of what naming is in Excel, I think it’s time we learn how to actually get the naming done.

Once you’ve decided that you want to name a range of cells you really have a couple of different choices.

One method is to use the Name box in the formula bar. Here’s what to do.

  • First, highlight the data to be named.
  • Now click into the Name box.


  • Once you’ve got the cursor in the Name box you’re ready to type in the name of the data. (Make sure that the cell reference that was there is deleted during this process.)
  • And finally, either hit the Enter key or simply click out of the Name box.

Not too bad—easy as can be—with no extra windows to open or close. (That’s always a bonus in my book.)

Another method would involve using the titles already given to the column or row.

  • The first step here is to highlight the data and the column/row title.
  • Now go to the Insert menu, Names submenu, Create choice. (Alt, I then N then C will also work.)
  • A little window for creating names will open.


  • From the list you need to pick where the name is located – i.e. where the column/row title is located. Excel will try to select this for you based on the highlighting you did so you may find it’s ready to go right away.
  • Once you’ve made your selection click OK.

And, once again, that’s it. You’re done. The range has been named and you’re on your way.

I believe that this would be a good time to discuss some restrictions on how you name your ranges. The Office Assistant lists several items, so it’s probably a good idea to list those as he does.

  • The first character of a name must be a letter or an underscore character. Remaining characters in the name can be letters, numbers, periods, and underscore characters.
  • Names cannot be the same as a cell reference, such as Z$100 or R1C1.
  • Spaces are not allowed. Underscore characters and periods may be used as word separators—for example, First.Quarter or Sales_Tax.
  • A name can contain up to 255 characters.
  • Names can contain uppercase and lowercase letters. Microsoft Excel does not distinguish between uppercase and lowercase characters in names. For example, if you have created the name Sales and then create another name called SALES in the same workbook, the second name will replace the first one.

Also, you might be interested to know that the Name box is also a pull down list of all named ranges in the workbook.

So… if you need to get somewhere in a hurry simply pull down the list and select the name of the range you need to see. Instantly you’ll be taken to the location you’re looking for.

Now that you know the facts, don’t sit on the bench—get into the game. It might just take some of the intimidation out of those confusing Excel formulas.

~ April

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