Identifying Unused Named Ranges

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 13, 2019)

1

Anthony has a number of workbooks that have named ranges defined in them. Over time, the use of these named ranges changes. He wonders if there is a way to check if a named range is still being used or referenced in a workbook. He wants to delete the named ranges that are no longer needed.

The answer to this question is trickier than you might think. The reason is that named ranges can be used in many, many places. The most common place to use them is in the formulas in a workbook. Those are actually easy to locate and, if you desire, to delete. That was covered in a previous ExcelTip: Finding Unused Names.

That isn't all, though. Named ranges can also be referenced in macros, in conditional formatting rules, in a chart, in drop-down lists, and in a number of other objects. They can also be used in other workbooks that reference the current workbook.

Some of these things you might be able to check using a macro, such as charts and conditional formatting rules. If you want to check if a named range is used in a macro, you could export your macros to a text document and then use a different program to search the text document. It becomes almost impossible to track down named ranges used in external workbooks, though.

As you can tell, tracking down whether a named range is "in use" becomes almost near impossible without placing limits on what you will search and where you will search for it.

There's an entirely different type of named-range problem that you can track down and clean up using tools that Excel provides. If you pop up the Name Manger (press Ctrl+F3 to display it), you can use it to find invalid named ranges. (It is impossible for invalid named ranges to be used, because even if they are referenced somewhere, they will return invalid results.)

Within the Name Manager you should see a list of all the names defined within the current workbook. Take a look at both the Value and Refers To column. If any of those have the characters #REF! in them, you can safely delete them—they are no longer valid named ranges.

If you further explore using the Name Manager, you'll want to look at any ranges that have "no value" in the Value column. These are ones that may be pointing to the wrong area of the worksheet.

If you want to expand on what you can do with the Name Manager, you might consider this third-party add-in from Microsoft MVP Jan-Karel Pieterse:

http://www.jkp-ads.com/OfficeMarketPlacenm-en.asp

The add-in is free, and you can use it to display unused names. You can then selectively (or totally) delete the unused names located.

Again, remember that regardless of the approach you use you may end up deleting named ranges that shouldn't have been deleted. You'll only discover this over time, so you may want to make sure you keep a copy of the workbook before you do any cleanup.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3153) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is 2 + 1?

2019-07-13 20:12:48

Sal Veltri

Hi Alan,
I have two items to present to you;
1. I am a subscriber to Excel Tips and find it very informative and useful - Thank you
2. A couple of years back I had a problem with using the Proper function. I was entering a long list of names using the function. I found that several names did not follow the normal rule, mackenzie, i.e. Mackenzie should have been MacKenzie. After extensive searching I found a a function ProperLookup, that uses a lookup table with your names that don't follow the normal rule. If you are not aware of this function or think your readers would benefit from this, send me a note and I will forward it to you.


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