Find Data With Excel's ROW and COLUMN Functions

Excel's ROW function returns the row number of a reference. The COLUMN function returns the column number. The examples in this tutorial show you how to use these ROW and COLUMN functions.

Note: The instructions in this article apply to Excel 2019, Excel 2016, Excel 2013, Excel 2010, Excel 2019 for Mac, Excel 2016 for Mac, Excel for Mac 2011, and Excel Online.

ROW and COLUMN Function Uses

The ROW function is used to:

  • Return the number for a row of a given cell reference.
  • Return the number of the row for the cell where the function is located in the worksheet.
  • Return a series of numbers identifying the numbers of all rows where the function is located, when used in an array formula.

The COLUMN function is used to:

  • Return the number of the column for the cell where the function is located in the worksheet.
  • Return the number for a column of a given cell reference.

In an Excel worksheet, rows are numbered top to bottom with row 1 being the first row. Columns are numbered left to right with column A being the first column.

Therefore, the ROW function would return the number 1 for the first row and 1,048,576 for the last row of a worksheet.

The ROW and COLUMN Functions Syntax and Arguments

Find row and column numbers with Excel's ROW and COLUMN functions
Ted French

A function's syntax refers to the layout of the function and includes the function's name, brackets, and arguments.

The syntax for the ROW function is:

=ROW(Reference)

The syntax for the COLUMN function is:

=COLUMN(Reference)

Reference (optional): The cell or range of cells for which you want to return the row number or column letter.

If the reference argument is omitted, the following happens:

  • The ROW function returns the row number of the cell reference where the function is located (see row 2 in the examples shown above).
  • The COLUMN function returns the column number of the cell reference where the function is located (see row 3 in the examples shown above).

If a range of cell references is entered for the Reference argument, the function returns the row or column number of the first cell in the supplied range (see rows 6 and 7 in the examples shown above).

Example 1 - Omit the Reference Argument With the ROW Function

Omitting the Reference Argument With the ROW Function

The first example (see row 2 in the examples shown above) omits the Reference argument and returns the row number based on the function's location in the worksheet.

As with most Excel functions, the function can be typed directly into the active cell or entered using the function's dialog box.

Follow these steps to type a function into the active cell:

  1. Select cell B2 to make it the active cell.
  2. Type the formula =ROW() into the cell.
  3. Press the Enter key on the keyboard to complete the function.

The number 2 appears in cell B2 since the function is located in the second row of the worksheet.

When you select cell B2, the complete function =ROW() appears in the formula bar above the worksheet.

Example 2 - Use the Reference Argument With the COLUMN Function

Using the Reference Argument With the COLUMN Function

The second example (see row 3 in examples shown above) returns the column letter of the cell reference (F4) entered as the Reference argument for the function.

  1. Select cell B5 to make it the active cell.
  2. Select the Formulas tab.
  3. Choose Lookup and Reference to open the function drop-down list.
  4. Select COLUMN in the list to bring up the Function Arguments dialog box.
  5. In the dialog box, place the cursor in the Reference line.
  6. Select cell F4 in the worksheet to enter the cell reference into the dialog box.
  7. Select OK to complete the function and return to the worksheet.

The number 6 appears in cell B5 since the cell F4 is located in the sixth column (column F) of the worksheet.

When you select cell B5 the complete function =COLUMN(F4) appears in the formula bar above the worksheet.

Since Excel Online does not have the Formulas tab of the ribbon, you can use the following method, which works in all versions of Excel.

Excel Insert Function
  1. Select cell B5 to make it the active cell.
  2. Select the Insert Function button next to the formula bar.
  3. Choose Lookup and Reference from the Category list.
  4. Select Column in the list and select OK.
  5. Select cell F4 in the worksheet to enter the cell reference.
  6. Press the Enter key.

The number 6 appears in cell B5 since the cell F4 is located in the sixth column (column F) of the worksheet.

When you select cell B5 the complete function =COLUMN(F4) appears in the formula bar above the worksheet.