How to Lock Columns

By Alex Burgess

It can be difficult to maneuver around data in a complex spreadsheet when there are too many columns to display within the bounds of your computer screen. You can lock or freeze columns in Microsoft Excel so they remain visible when scrolling through your spreadsheet. This procedure separates the selected columns into a scrollable pane, leaving the remaining columns as viewable items outside the work area as you work on a different section. You can unlock the columns or reverse the locking process at any time.

Things You'll Need

  • Microsoft Excel spreadsheet

Splitting Panes to Lock Columns

Step 1

Split panes to access and scroll through data in both areas of your adapted spreadsheet while keeping columns in the remaining un-split area visible. Open your spreadsheet and choose the position of your locked column and click the next column to the right of its location.

Step 2

Go to the "Window" menu and click the "Split" button. Alternatively, hover your cursor over the vertical scroll bar or the far right of the horizontal scroll bar. Wait for the cursor icon to change into a split pointer or resize pointer. A split pointer is a pair of horizontal parallel lines with an arrow on either side, and a resize pointer is the same icon, but in a vertical position.

Step 3

Drag the split box to the required position when the split pane cursor icon appears, and let go. Double-click the split bar at any point between the panes to undo the split pane operation, or click "Remove Split" in the "Window" menu.

Freezing Panes to Lock Columns

Step 1

Freeze panes to maintain the visibility of column labels visible as you move throughout the document. Choose the column that you want to keep visible, and click the column to the right of its position.

Step 2

Click the "Freeze Panes" button on the "Window" menu to freeze multiple columns. If you want to lock one column, click "Freeze First Column." You can freeze columns on the left side of the spreadsheet only. It is not possible to freeze columns on the right.

Step 3

Click "Unfreeze Panes" on the "Window" menu to reverse the process.

Tips & Warnings

  • To highlight or select multiple adjacent columns, click the first item, hold down the "Shift" key and drag across the required number of columns. For non-adjacent columns, click the first column, hold down the "Ctrl" key and click on the required items.
  • It is not possible to split and freeze frames at the same time. If you attempt to freeze a frame in a previously split pane, the split bar disappears and columns to the left are frozen.