Understanding Scope for Named Ranges

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 4, 2017)

Chuck can easily set up named ranges in a workbook, and Excel allows him to specify whether that named range should apply to the whole workbook or to a single worksheet. He wonders, though, about the pros and cons of limiting the scope of a named range to a single worksheet. That leads to the question of whether it is better than leaving the scope set to the entire workbook.

As Chuck implies, the default for a named range is that it applies to the entire workbook. For most people this is just fine, and it reflects the way that most people work with named ranges. There is no "performance hit" associated with either workbook scope or worksheet scope, so that (fortunately) does not enter into the equation.

So when should you veer from the default and, instead, choose to make a named range applicable to only a worksheet? The obvious answer is when you have a worksheet that you may want to duplicate within a workbook, the worksheet contains named ranges that refer to ranges on that worksheet, and that worksheet contains formulas that utilize those named ranges. When you duplicate the worksheet, you'll want those formulas on the multiple worksheets to still work relative to their worksheets. If the named ranges are limited in scope to the worksheet, then everything should work as expected.

If you duplicate a worksheet that includes named ranges that use the "workbook" scope, and that copy is within the same workbook, Excel makes a change in the copied worksheet. Specifically, to prevent confusion in the workbook namespace, Excel automatically converts the named ranges in the copy to have worksheet scope. The named ranges in the original worksheet remain unchanged and, therefore, retain a workbook scope.

If you duplicate a worksheet that includes named ranges that use the "workbook" scope, and that copy is placed in a different workbook, then Excel only modifies the scope of those ranges if keeping the original scope would cause a conflict with any named ranges already existing in the target workbook.

In all cases, you'll want to double-check any formulas in your worksheets to make sure that they refer to what you expect them to refer to. Conversely, you can change the named range scope to "worksheet" before doing the worksheet copying so that there is less chance of confusion with the duplicated or copied worksheets.

You should note two potential gotchas, though, when using named ranges scoped for a particular worksheet. First, when you start duplicating the worksheet, you make it a bit more difficult for a user to track down potential problems because of identically named ranges on different worksheets. (It just takes a bit more for the user to wrap their head around the limited scope.)

Second, it can make your macros more complex, if those macros access named ranges. If you have such macros, you'll want to test them thoroughly to make sure that they reference the expected ranges. If you don't, the macros may mess up your worksheet data or crash altogether.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (4633) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

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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