Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Using the COLUMN Function.

Using the COLUMN Function

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated November 26, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Excel includes a nifty little worksheet function that lets you determine the column number of a particular cell reference. Normally columns are designated as A, B, C, and so on, but the COLUMN function returns a numeric value that represents the column. Thus, column A is 1, B is 2, and so on.

The simplest way to use the function is in the following manner:

=COLUMN()

When used in this manner, COLUMN returns the column number of the cell in which the COLUMN function is used. Thus, if cell C5 contained =COLUMN(), then the function would return a value of 3.

You can also include a range reference as a parameter to the COLUMN function, in this manner:

=COLUMN(B4)

This usage would return 2, since column B is the second column in the worksheet. You could also, if desired, specify a range:

=COLUMN(B3:G3)

If you enter this formula in a cell, it still returns 2, since column B is the leftmost cell in the specified range. However, if you select a range of horizontal cells (say, the range of D18:I18) and enter this as an array formula, then D18:I18 will contain 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. In other words, COLUMN returns a horizontal array that reflects the column numbers of each cell in the initial range (B3:G3).

Another way to see how this works is the following formula:

=INDEX(COLUMN(B3:G3),1,3)

This formula returns 4 because you asked for the third element in the array returned by the COLUMN function. That element is the column number for column D, which is the fourth column.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10103) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Using the COLUMN Function.

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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