Columns Vs. Rows in Excel

By Keith Evans

New spreadsheet users and those unfamiliar with office software sometimes have difficulty distinguishing between rows and columns in Microsoft Excel. While each cell in a spreadsheet belongs to exactly one row and one column, understanding the difference between these two spreadsheet elements can make spreadsheets more useful.


Rows are the horizontal lines of data in an Excel spreadsheet, stretching from left to right across the computer screen. By default, Excel uses numbers to label each row with row one at the top of the spreadsheet.


Columns are the vertical lines of data that stretch from the top of the spreadsheet to the bottom. By default, Excel uses letters, rather than numbers to label columns. Column “A” is the first column and appears as the left-most column in the spreadsheet.

Cell Location

Each cell in an Excel spreadsheet, the small square that contains data, is in one row and one column. Users can identify individual cells using the column letter and the row number. The upper left-most cell is in column A and row 1, and is identified as cell A1. A cell that is located five rows down in the third column is referred to as cell C5.


Microsoft places limits on the number of rows and columns an Excel spreadsheet may contain. Excel versions 2007 and later can support up to 16,384 columns and 1,048,576 rows.