1. Technology
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Excel COLUMN Function Tutorial

By

COLUMN Function Overview
Excel COLUMN Function

Excel COLUMN Function

© Ted French

COLUMN Function Overview

The COLUMN function can be 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, the columns are numbered left to right with column A being the first column, column B the second column and so on up to column XFD which is the last column.

Therefore, the COLUMN function would return the number 1 for column A, the number 2 for column B, and 16,384 for column XFD.

The COLUMN function can be used in Excel macros and it can also be combined with other functions in carrying out complex calculations.

The COLUMN Function Syntax and Arguments

The syntax for the COLUMN function is:

= COLUMN ( Reference )

Reference - (optional) the cell or range of cells for which you want to return the column number

If the reference argument is omitted the function returns the column number of the cell reference where the function is located.

Examples Using Excel's COLUMN Function to Find Data

The first example omits the Reference argument and returns the column number based on the function's location in the worksheet.

The second example returns the column number of the cell reference entered as the Reference argument for the function.

Example 1 - Returning the Column Number of the Function's Location

  1. Click on cell D1 - this is where the results of the first function will be displayed

  2. Click on the Formulas tab of the ribbon menu

  3. Choose Lookup and Reference from the ribbon to open the function drop down list

  4. Click on COLUMN in the list to bring up the function's dialog box

  5. Since we are not entering a cell reference for the Reference argument, click OK to complete the function and close the dialog box

  6. The number " 4 " appears in cell D1 since the function is located in column D which is the fourth column of the worksheet

  7. When you click on cell D1 the complete function =COLUMN( ) appears in the formula bar above the worksheet

Example 2 - Using the Reference Argument

  1. Click on cell E1 - this is where the results of the second function will be displayed

  2. Click on the Formulas tab of the ribbon menu

  3. Choose Lookup and Reference from the ribbon to open the function drop down list

  4. Click on COLUMN in the list to bring up the function's dialog box

  5. In the dialog box, click on the Reference line

  6. Click on cell B1 in the worksheet to enter the cell reference into the dialog box

  7. Click OK to complete the function and close the dialog box

  8. The number " 2 " appears in cell E1 since the cell B1 is in the second column of the worksheet

  9. When you click on cell E1 the complete function =COLUMN(B1) appears in the formula bar above the worksheet

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.