Sometimes, when you’re teaching, its not about the complexity of the subject. Sometimes its a very simple piece of information that students get the most “mileage” out of.
When I’m teaching students MS Excel, the simplest thing that I teach them about is Named Ranges. Its the simplest thing to talk about, but the uses for ranges go on and on.
Above you see a standard Excel spreadsheet. Adding a range name or two (or ten) can help make it much easier to work with.
A range name can refer to a single cell or a group of cells, here I’ve selected the cell containing the total for the six month period (H11).
Click into the Cell address box (circled in red) and type in the desired name. There are some simple rules about naming ranges; the name can’t start with a number, can’t look like a cell reference (imagine how confusing that would be) and can’t use spaces and special characters (notice I’ve used an underscore to separate words). But after that it is up to you, to make your range name meaningful.
If you are going to add a range name to a group of cells, select them and type the name into the cell address box. The most frequent mistake students make at this point, is that they forget to press the Enter key to confirm the range name.
Now, how do you use these range names?
First, you can quickly jump to your named ranges by using the drop-down menu. When you click on the drop-down menu in the cell address box, you’ll see a list of all the ranges you’ve added to your spreadsheet. Regardless of what sheet they are on. So you can use this to quickly jump to those cells that you work with again and again.
Second, you can replace cell references in a formula with range names. Does =SUM(January) seem easier to read and understand than =SUM(B2:B10)? Then a formula that uses range names will make your spreadsheets easier to read.
Third, you can use range names in conjunction with all sorts of other Excel tools. As an example, try using range names with the Data Validation tool.
In the sample above, a range name provides the source list for a drop-down list.
Resulting in this drop-down list. The list will update as the list of animals changes on Sheet1.
This is a more elegant solution for using drop-down lists, since it means your source lists can be kept on another sheet, and not clutter up the working area. This is something that is impossible to do, without using a range name.
So faster navigation, easy to read formulas and access to more powerful features in Excel. What’s not to love about range names?
Looking to make a powerful spreadsheet or do you want me to make it for you? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org