Columns Fundamentals

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Columns Fundamentals

Introduction to Columns

Imagine you have a list of students whose grades you want to organize to be able to easily view and analyze them. When creating the list, you can start with their names. Here is an example:

First Name Last Name
Roland Becker
Chrissy Groans
Robert Farell
Alexa Schwitts

Because these are students, you may also add their courses to the list where you would enter their grades. Here is an example:

  First Name Last Name English History Geography Math Chemistry Physics
1. Roland Becker 10.50 12.00 12.00 16.50 16.75 14.00
2. Chrissy Groans 12.00 14.50 14.00 12.75 12.00 10.50
3. Robert Farell 16.00 15.50 16.50 14.50 14.00 15.50
4. Alexa Schwitts 15.50 14.00 16.00 16.50 13.50 14.25

This type of list is referred to as a sheet or a spreadsheet. To organize its information, this type of list uses vertical arrangements as categories of information. In this case, the categories are First Name, Last Name, English, History, Geography, Math, Chemistry, and Physics. On a spreadsheet, each category arranged vertically is called a column. As you can see from the above list and as we will learn in the next section, each column has a name and borders so it can be identified from the other columns.

Practical Learning: Introducing Columns

  • Open the RTHS1 file

Identifying a Column

To make it easy to create a type of list like the above, Microsoft Excel provides a ready-made arrangement of columns. To easily identify each category of the list, a column is created as a vertical object. On top of each column, there is a (blue) bar called the column header. As seen in the previous lesson, the columns are organized as a row of (blue) bars:


To distinguish each column, it has a name. The name of a column displays in the column header. The name uses one, two, or three letters. The most left column is called, and is labeled, A. The second has a label of B, and so on.

A Microsoft Excel document contains 16,384 columns going from Column A to Column XFD:

Microsoft Excel

When you start a document in Microsoft Excel, the application makes all these columns available. You can use all of them or just a few, but they are always available.

Among the various ways you can use a column, we will see in various sections that you can click it or use the keyboard to get to a column. You can also right-click a column. When you do, an expanded menu would appear:

Column Context-Sensitive Menu

Practical Learning: Checking Columns

  1. To review the columns, click and hold the mouse on the right arrow button of the horizontal scroll bar for a few minutes
  2. Release the mouse and press Ctrl + Home

Columns Selections

At times you will almost want to alter the display of a column or various columns. You have to select that column or the group of columns first. Another reason you may need to select a column or a group of columns is because you would need to take some action on it. Some of these issues will be addressed soon, some others will be reviewed as we move on.

You can select a column or a group of columns using the mouse, the keyboard, or a combination of both:

  • To select a column using the mouse, position the mouse on the column header:

    and click (with the left mouse button) a column header; it would get selected and all small boxes under it
    Selected Column
  • To select a column using the keyboard, click anything under it, then press and hold Ctrl. While Ctrl is down, press the Space bar and release Ctrl.

You can also select more than one column. Selecting columns in a range consists of selecting adjacent columns. To perform this type of selection, you can use either the mouse or a combination of the mouse and the keyboard:

  • To select columns in a range using the mouse, click one column header and hold the mouse down. Then drag in the direction of the range
  • To select a range of columns using the mouse and the keyword, click one column at one end of the desired range. Press and hold Shift. Then click the column at the other end, and release the mouse.

Random selection consists of selecting columns that are not adjacent. For example, this allows you to select columns B, D, and H. To do this, click one column header, press and hold Ctrl. Then click each desired column header. When you have selected the desired columns, release the mouse.

Practical Learning: Selecting Columns

  1. To select a column, click the column header D
  2. To select more than one column, click column header C and hold the mouse down. While the mouse is still down, move it right until column F is selected, then release the mouse
    Selecting Columns
  3. To select columns in another range, click column header B
  4. Press and hold Shift, then click column header E
  5. Release Shift
  6. To select columns at random, click column header H
  7. Press and hold Ctrl
  8. Click column headers B, E, and C
  9. Release Ctrl
  10. Click any box under column header G
  11. To select a column with the keyboard, for example column G, press Ctrl + Space
  12. Press Ctrl + Home