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How To Freeze the Top Row in Excel

Posted by Jamie on November 8, 2018

If you regularly work with large spreadsheets, you will be familiar with losing headings and categories as you scroll through. Unless you’re very familiar with that spreadsheet, losing these headings can make following the data more difficult than it should be. You can freeze the top row in Excel and the first column to help with that if you like. Here’s how.

The feature is called Freeze Panes and holds the first row and/or the first column in place while you scroll through the spreadsheet. If your spreadsheet isn’t set up for this, it really should be. It makes comparing data so much easier if the headings and sections remain in place.

Freeze the top row in Excel

Freezing the top row in Excel makes it easy to compare data to headings and is something everyone who uses spreadsheets regularly should know. For once, it is actually very straightforward to do once you know how.

  1. Open the Worksheet you want to work on.
  2. Select the View tab and navigate to Freeze Panes.
  3. Select Freeze Top Row.

You should see the top row become bordered with a thin box. Scrolling down the page will keep the top row in place for the entirety of the spreadsheet.

Freeze multiple rows in Excel

If your headings take up more than a single row or you want to compare data in a couple of the top rows to elsewhere in the spreadsheet, you can freeze multiple rows in a similar way.

  1. Select the first cell in the column below the row you want to freeze.
  2. Select the View tab and Freeze Panes.
  3. Select Freeze Panes.

For example, if you want to freeze the top three rows of a Worksheet, you would select the first cell in A4. Once you Freeze Panes, lines A1,2 and 3 would be frozen and you can scroll wherever you need to compare the data.

Freeze a column in Excel

Freezing a column has similar uses in Excel. If your spreadsheet has multiple columns that require scrolling across the page, locking the first column down can help make sense of all that data.

  1. Open the Worksheet you want to work on.
  2. Select the View tab and navigate to Freeze Panes.
  3. Select Freeze First Column.

You use the same tools as freezing rows but make a different selection within the dropdown.

Freeze multiple columns in Excel

If you want to freeze multiple columns in Excel, you do that in the same way as you would freeze multiple rows.

  1. Select the column to the right of the column you want to freeze.
  2. Select the View tab and Freeze Panes.
  3. Select Freeze Panes.

For example, if you wanted to freeze the first three columns, select column D and Freeze Panes. Columns A, B and C will then be frozen. You can also select cell D1 to achieve the same thing.

Freeze columns and rows in Excel

You can also freeze columns and rows in Excel to make short work of data comparison.

  1. Select the cell one row below and one column right of the rows and columns you want to freeze.
  2. Select Freeze Panes and Freeze Panes again.

For example, if you wanted to freeze columns A and B and rows 1 and 2, you would select cell C3. Freeze panes will lock down the first two columns and rows until you unfreeze them.

To unfreeze rows or columns in Excel

If you just need to freeze a row temporarily to compare data, you can unfreeze once you’re done. It does not affect any data or the formatting so it would be as if you had never done it.

  1. Select the View tab and Freeze Panes.
  2. Select Unfreeze Panes.

It doesn’t matter whether you froze the first row, multiple rows, first column or multiple columns, this setting removes it.

Issues with freezing in Excel

If you cannot freeze a row or a column in Excel, it could be that you are in cell editing mode. If you have been writing or modifying a formula, the Freeze Pane selection may be grayed out. Hit Esc to exit cell editing mode and you should be able to select Freeze Pane as normal.

If you are trying to freeze a spreadsheet you didn’t create, it may be protected. That should be identifiable by the little padlock or the fact you may not be able to save it. Select File from the top menu, then Protect Workbook and select Unprotect. You can also do this within a sheet by selecting the Review tab and Unprotect Sheet in the Ribbon.

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