How Do I Change a Column Name in Excel?

By Virginia A. Gorg

Excel is part of the Microsoft Office package. An Excel spreadsheet provides you with a way to perform calculations, estimates, track a personal budget or use formulas to perform analysis. In some cases, you may need to rename your columns to better explain your data.


You may keep your rows in the default style (ABC123) or change them to the R1C1 style. These are not your individual column and row headings. You create your individual column and row headings, which are normally descriptions of what is in each column and row, when you make your spreadsheet. You can customize column and row headings but cannot customize column names beyond choosing the ABC123 or R1C1 style.

ABC123 vs. R1C1 Styles

When you open a spreadsheet in Excel, the columns are lettered alphabetically beginning with A, and the rows are numbered beginning with 1. This is the default setting of the Excel spreadsheet. This makes it easy to know where you are in the spreadsheet. The notation of “A1” means are you in the first column and first row. The ABC123 designation can be changed to an alternate style known as the R1C1 style by choosing "Tools" and then "Options." Click the "General" tab and select “R1C1 Reference Style.” The "R" designates the row and "C" designates the column. This can be confusing because in the default style, the first designation is the column and the second designation is the row. B2 (default style) becomes R2C2 in this format.

Create Column and Row Names

When you create a spreadsheet, you can name individual columns and rows to explain your data. (Remember the rows and columns will be ABC123 or R1C1, depending on your preference). Typically, you will begin naming your column headings in A1 and your rows in A2. These are the cells that you can change to designate your column headings. For example, you might name the columns “Last Name,” “First Name,” “Address” and so on. You might name the rows “January,” “February” and so on. As you add or change columns, it may become necessary to rename the column headings. The easiest way to change a column heading in a cell is to click in the cell to make it active, and then type the new column heading. The column title can be a mix of letters and numbers, but if you use all numbers, the column will automatically right-align. To change the column to left-align, choose "Format" then "Cells," click on the "Alignment" tab and then choose "Horizontal (left)." You may also have to change the format to “Text” rather than the default of "General." Alternatively, you may type the new name directly in the "Formula" bar, located just above the column designations.