The Name Box and Its Many Uses in Excel

What is the Name Box and what would I use it for in Excel?

Excel Name box

 Rawpixel / Unsplash

The Name Box is located next to the formula bar above the worksheet area. Its regular job is to display the cell reference of the active cell, but it is also used to name and identify ranges of selected cells or other objects, select one or more ranges of cells in a worksheet, and navigate to different cells in a worksheet or workbook.

Instructions in this article apply to Excel 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010; Excel for Office 365, Excel for Mac, and Excel Online.

Name and Identify Cell Ranges

When you use the same group of cells in formulas and charts, define a name for the range of cells to identify that range.

To adjust the size of the Name Box, drag the ellipses (the three vertical dots) located between the Name Box and the Formula Bar.

To define a name for a range using the Name Box:

  1. Select a cell in a worksheet, such as B2.

    Screenshot of Excel worksheet with cell B2 selected

    To apply a range name to multiple cells, select a contiguous group of cells.

  2. Type a name, such as TaxRate.

    Screenshot of TaxRate in Name box
  3. Press Enter to apply the range name.

  4. Select the cell in the worksheet to display the range name in the Name Box.

    If the range includes multiple cells, select the entire range to display the range name in the Name Box.

  5. Drag across a range of multiple cells to display the number of columns and rows in the Name Box. For example, select three rows by two columns to display 3R x 2C in the Name Box.

    Screenshot showing 3R x 2C in Name box
  6. After you release the mouse button or Shift key, the Name Box displays the reference for the active cell, which is the first cell selected in the range.

Name Charts and Pictures

When charts and other objects, such as buttons or images, are added to a worksheet, Excel automatically assigns a name. The first chart added is named Chart 1 and the first image is named Picture 1. If your worksheet contains several charts and pictures, give these images descriptive names to make these images easier to find.

To rename charts and pictures:

  1. Select the chart or image.

    Screenshot of selected chart in Excel
  2. Place the cursor in the Name Box and type a new name.

    Screenshot of chart name in Name box
  3. Press Enter to complete the process.

Select Ranges with Names

The Name Box selects or highlight ranges of cells, using either defined names or by entering the cell references. Type the name of a defined range into the Name Box and Excel selects that range in the worksheet.

The Name Box has an associated dropdown list that contains all the names that have been defined for the current worksheet. Select a name from this list and Excel selects the correct range.

The Name Box also selects the correct range before carrying out sorting operations or before using certain functions such as VLOOKUP, which require the use of a selected data range.

Select Ranges With References

Select an individual cell by typing its cell reference into the Name Box and pressing the Enter key, or highlight a contiguous range of cells using the Name Box.

  1. Select the first cell in the range to make it the active cell, such as B3.

    Screenshot of B3 selected
  2. In the Name Box, type the reference for the last cell in the range, such as E6.

    Screenshot of selected range
  3. Press Shift+Enter to highlight all cells in the range, for example B3:E6.

Select Multiple Ranges

Select multiple ranges in a worksheet by typing them into the Name Box. For example:

  • Type D1:D15, F1: F15 into the Name Box to highlight the first fifteen cells in columns D and F.
  • Type A4:F4, A8:F8 to highlight the first six cells in rows four and eight.
  • Type D1: D15, A4:F4 to highlight the first 15 cells in column D and the first six cells in row four.

Select Intersecting Ranges

When you want to select the portion of the two ranges that intersect, separate the identified ranges with a space instead of a comma. For example, type D1: D15 A4:F12 into the Name Box to highlight the range of cells D4:D12, which are the cells common to both ranges.

If names are defined for the ranges, use the named ranges instead of the cell references.

For example, if the range D1:D15 is named test and the range F1:F15 is named test2, type test, test2 in the Name Box to highlight the ranges D1:D15 and F1:F15.

Select Entire Columns or Rows

Select adjacent columns or rows using the Name Box, for example:

  • Type B:D to highlight every cell in columns B, C, and D.
  • Type 2:4 to select every cell in rows 2, 3, and 4.

Navigate the Worksheet

The Name Box also provides a quick way to navigate to a cell or range in a worksheet. This approach saves time when working in large worksheets and eliminates the need to scroll past hundreds of rows or columns.

  1. Place the cursor in the Name Box and type the cell reference, for example Z345.

    Screenshot showing Z345
  2. Press Enter.

  3. The active cell highlight jumps to the cell reference, for example cell Z345.

There's no default keyboard shortcut for placing the cursor (the blinking insertion point) inside the Name Box. Here's a faster method to jump to a cell reference:

  1. Press F5 or Ctrl+G to open the Go To dialog box.

  2. In the Reference text box, type the cell reference or defined name.

  3. Select OK or press Enter key to go to the desired location.